On Courage, Honesty and Integrity

In the recent discussions about honesty vs. integrity, some of my LinkedIn colleagues brought up “courage,” “congruency,” and “justice” and “fairness.” How do these qualities fit in? Here’s what some professionals had to say:

Less we forget Courage. These are behaviors I associate with the three:

  • Integrity is what “we” do when no one is looking
  • Honesty is the ability, when confronted with a situation, to accurately portray the events
  • Courage is the ability to, prior to any external exposure, come forth with what the events were

Posted by Jim Katzenberger

And, this comment:

Honesty is telling the truth.

Integrity is telling the truth always.

We need both in this world, driven by greed and quick results.

While we are at it, add ‘justice’ and ‘fairness’ also
Posted by Ram krishnan

I thought these comments added depth to the discussion. Here are some of my further thoughts.

Honesty/Integrity is something I have been playing with a lot over the last couple of months, especially within the context of congruence. I have found that congruence incorporates honesty and integrity, and by reference, courage as well.

It’s when your internal and external stories match. It’s what draws me closer to some people and drives a wedge in the relationship with others. It’s a constant struggle for me, as I am sure it is with all of us. However, it’s the one thing that disappoints me the most about others when I find that the stories they tell about themselves are just not true. Their internal story and external story doesn’t match.

Courage is a great part of congruence, and something that has been missing in the discussion to this point. Thinking it through…it takes courage to be open to others. It takes courage to tell the truth. It takes courage to live an intentional life. It takes courage to say “yes” when it is time to say “yes,” and “no” when you should.

But what is justice and fairness? I don’t believe there is any such thing as true justice or true fairness, just as there is no one truth. All exist in comparison, don’t they? Fair is different for everyone. It differs person to person, group to group, neighborhood to neighborhood, country to country. Truth, fairness and justice are only as you experience it. What was the truth or fair at one time, in the harsh light of retrospect seems less so.

For instance, Ignaz Semmelweis was the first physician to think that small particles caused disease. This was 50 years before our understanding of germs. There was no Nobel Prize for him. Instead of being rewarded for his forward thinking, he was ridiculed and died disgraced and penniless. He had the courage to tell the truth as he knew it. In retrospect, we see what the truth was.

It was widely believed in the 1800’s that if you went faster than 30 mph you would suffocate. Any contraption that allowed manned flight was surely impossible. True for the time? Sure. True ultimately? No.

So ultimately, does that make truth, justice, fairness, honesty and integrity flexible and situational? Probably.

So let’s go back to the concept of congruence, and perhaps we can find the definition of honesty and integrity within the meaning. Congruence is living according to your beliefs, to the truth as you know it. Honesty and integrity are intrinsic issues that are judged extrinsically and systemically. Honesty, integrity and congruence all live within us on a personal basis. However, it is judged in comparison to others and to societal norms.

What are your thoughts?

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