Friday, June 6, 2008

Truth and Integrity

I have generally held that truth and integrity are correlated terms. I have thus assessed the organizations and people with whom I have been associated by this perception of correlation. However, one of my coworkers said that he did not believe this correlation to be true. I found this to be interesting, since he is one of the people I work with who generally exemplifies the correlation of truth and integrity.

This presented a challenge to examine my thinking on the matter. A cursory examination of the reference to truth as noted above (follow the link) presents the complexity of the issue.

If I say that I will do something, and then do not do what I say, I damage my integrity. My word is less reliable, due to my own inconsistancy. It is not so much an issue of truth, as a matter of consistency and reliability. The reason I fail may be due to unforseen circumstances, rather than a deception. I prove unreliable, but not untruthful.

If I claim to be one thing, but in reality I am something else, I damage my integrity and violate truth. A person, a people, or an institution which is not consistent with truth and integrity cannot be relied upon. They exist as a deception, an intentional departure from truth and integrity.

Perhaps it was this distinction that my coworker recognized. There are times when the best of us use deception for a higher purpose. The lie is perceived to be the higher moral choice. Thus, though truth is violated, integrity is maintained.

Integrity is strained, however, when the justification for deviating from the truth is weak and self-serving. Integrity can be eroded to a meaningless term if it does not maintain a strong relationship with truth.

Truth and integrity are correlated terms, but not equivalent terms. Like many such words they work together to describe the relationship between ourselves and each other. They help to describe the relationship of ourselves and the world in which we live.

No comments: