Integrity

by on August 6th, 2013
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I once heard Oprah Winfrey refer to integrity as, “doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” (http://www.best-quotes-poems.com/integrity-quotes.html)

I believe that integrity is one of the most important values a person can have. When a person does the right thing on a consistent basis, they build up integrity, and you know that you can trust that person. A person with integrity would make the same decision in front of a crowd or God himself. Integrity is not making a decision based on the consequences or the rewards, but it is making a decision based on what you know is right.

The sky was ash grey and had the smell of fresh fallen rain. It was very chilly and I could just barely see the morning’s dew upon the ground. As we entered Arlington National Cemetery as sign greeted us with these words, “Please conduct yourself with dignity and respect at all times. Please remember these are hallowed grounds.” It seemed to bid us a forewarning as we entered onto the “sacred shrine”. There was no monetary admission at the gate, but only this sign. It only asked for our integrity, and for us to act reverently and respectfully. We were to act accordingly on the sacred grounds, simply because it was the right thing to do.

Arlington National Cemetery seemed like one big ocean of flowing hills and white graves. Names of people that had I had never met, and yet I had the utmost respect for them. Real people, who had given their lives to defend people they had never met. This is best put by a plaque at the head of the Korean War Memorial – “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.” These people buried in Arlington, fallen soldiers, and veterans alike were laid to rest after answering the call to duty. Many of these people I believe gave their lives because they valued the freedom of others. They knew that is was their duty as inhabitants of this world to simply defend those who could not defend themselves.

After visiting Arlington Cemetery we went to the United States Holocaust Museum. From the moment I arrived I just had this eerie feeling. I knew was about to enter life altering exhibits. The first thing that caught my attention was a video right off of the first exhibit. A black and white photo of Adolf Hitler flashed across the screen. He stood behind a podium in his dark brown uniform, right arm outstretched at an angle towards the sky. He had a devilish smirk upon his face as if he were thinking of his plans for the German people.

As I watched more of the video I realized Hitler was a man lacking many things, integrity being one of them. When Hitler took over Germany, it was going through a depression like the rest of the world. People were starving in the streets and simply looking for a way out. The country needed love, but instead Hitler showed his hatred and animosity. Hitler and the rest of the Nazi party persecuted the Jewish people and other minorities such as the gypsies, homosexuals, as well as the physically and mentally handicapped. He removed the Jews from political positions as well as sending many of them by force to concentration camps. Here they were forced to live and work in conditions that were unsuitable for human life, ultimately killing them, if they were not put upon reaching the camps.

It still amazes me how Hitler could live with himself. I cannot even begin to comprehend how he could look at himself in the mirror every day and say to himself he was doing the right thing. How could killing innocent people be right, under any circumstance? I would like to believe that somewhere deep down Hitler knew what he was doing was wrong. I think this guilt ultimately led Hitler to take his own life. Historians say that Hitler committed suicide to avoid being captured by the Allies, but I think he killed himself because of his lack of character. I think that Adolf Hitler realized how little morality he had inside and how bad his deeds really were. He was remorseful and saw no other way out other than to take his own life.

President Richard Nixon once said, “Character (integrity) is the most important qualification the president of the United States can have.” (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/character/quotes/)

I deem this to be true for all leaders around the world. I believe the best way to lead is to be honest with the people. Without honesty you have nothing, and Hitler had no honesty, integrity, or human decency.

Outside of the last exhibit inside the Holocaust Museum is the Hall of Remembrance. The room is so much brighter than the rest of the museum and symbolizes hope. All around the room candles are lit to remember the victims of the Holocaust. In the center of the room is the eternal. Behind the flame is a black granite wall, with an inscription in white text. The inscription is from the Bible and I think embodies the idea of integrity. It says:

“Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the thing your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life.” – Deuteronomy 4:9

The verse continues on to say that you shall make these things know to your children and your grandchildren. I think this particular Bible verse refers to a person’s character or integrity. It is saying that above all a man must keep his integrity. He must not forget what his eyes have seen, or his experiences, for they form a man’s character or integrity. Through trial and error we learn right from wrong and develop our character.

American novelist, John D. Macdonald, once said, “Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow with the wind or change with the weather.” (http://www.best-quotes-poems.com/integrity-quotes.html)

I believe this is what that verse from Deuteronomy is saying. Integrity is like a compass it always points you in the right direction. This is why it is important to guard it carefully so that you may keep it. Just like a compass is important on a trip into the unknown, our integrity is essential when venturing into the unknown of life.

A famous quote of Abraham Lincoln I have read says, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing:

“I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside me.” – Abraham Lincoln (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/character/quotes/)

I think this was the philosophy by which Abraham Lincoln lived his life, and conducted his affairs as president of the United States. Lincoln cared nothing of what the skeptics thought of him, but instead of his moral image and integrity on the inside. I think this is the train of thought that provoked Lincoln to issue the Proclamation of Emancipation, freeing the slaves. Lincoln believed in the equality of all people, even if they were different than the majority of the American people. At this time it was very unpopular to condemn slavery and it ultimately claimed the life of Abraham Lincoln, but this mattered nothing to Lincoln. He was willing to risk it all to save his integrity.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/24973.html I think this is integrity in one sentence. No matter what is going about you, integrity is standing for the right things, and acting upon them, that is the true measure of a man. I am no Martin Luther King, but I desire to conduct my life with integrity. When the ground is shaking about me I would like to know that I am standing up solid ground. I desire to show and integrity and make the right decisions, not just on the major decisions but in all aspects of my life.


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