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Integrity: It's All in Your Word

Posted May 9, 2017 by Attorney Dianna Anelli

When one utters the word "integrity", the mind automatically leaps to words such as truth, honesty, accuracy. In shipbuilding, integrity is used to determine whether a vessel is seaworthy. Merriam-Webster's online Dictionary defines the word as (1) firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic value; (2) an unimpaired condition; soundness; (3) the quality or sate of being complete or undivided.

Recently, I attended a conference where the word "integrity" meant simply keeping your word. Do what you say, when you say you are going to do it, in a timely fashion and the way it is meant to be done. Honor your word.

In times gone by, the measure of an individual was governed strictly by his or her word. And word matters. Did you say you would be at a particular place at a certain time and then were late? You were out of integrity. Did you say that you would perform a task by a certain date but were unable to accomplish it? then you are out of integrity. Integrity in this sense has less to do with morality or the right or wrongness of a situation. It has everything to do with whether one, as a matter of his word, actually did what he said he would do. It is somewhat like a strict liability offense. One either did what one said or did not. No morality, no punishment, no right or wrongness to it. It is a yes or no situation. One either honored her word, or she did not.

In a situation where one does not honor word, what is the result? There is an impact. It is annoying. It creates distrust. It creates a situation where dependability is missing. A rift is caused in the relationship that interferes with true communication or relatedness.

It is true that we as individuals fail to honor our word often. We are late, sometimes by minutes, sometimes longer. We fail to perform in a timely fashion. We perform a task in a sub par manner. Sometimes we believe that we have good reasons for such conduct. In the world of integrity, however, reasons mean nothing to a strict liability offense. Reasons are merely excuses. Reasons do not carry the day.

So, once out of integrity, what is one to do? Restore it. How does such a restoration occur? It may seem obvious, but it is surprising how often this does not occur. First, acknowledge that integrity is missing and that word was not kept. Acknowledge that there is an impact. That the impact affects both the person or group to whom the word was not kept and the speaker of the word. Then, put together a plan and state it verbally the processes that have been put in place to maintain integrity in such situations in the future.

It is remarkably surprising how far the mere acknowledgement that one has not honored one's word and it has had an impact on another can go. It takes away any impediment in communication and relatedness to the another. A space is created where trust is restored. It is a completion mechanism whereby any strain or upset occurring can dissipate. There is completion or a state of being undivided. In the space of the restoration of integrity, relatedness grows. Much can be accomplished once relatedness exists.

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