The virtue of Courage


One of your most prized possessions is integrity;  … you should never compromise it. 

Byron Pulsifer

I never hear the word integrity without thinking about the poem IF by Rudyard Kipling. The poem illustrates the enormous responsibility the poor little word must carry. To always be true to oneself and to act in agreement with those beliefs in a way that is authentic and honest. In behaving that way, you must also be willing to face the consequences of this. Seems so simple, and many of us consider ourselves as having integrity, but few can prove it when the time comes.

Stand out from the crowd

As people, we are quick to follow the path of least resistance and to fall for popular opinion. We like to give in to peer pressure as the kids call it. Hashtag slogans that are trending fascinate me. I so often wonder whether the people who use them believe in what they are saying or are they only trying to be relevant. Having a large following is not a prerequisite for integrity; or vice versa, more’s the pity. Imagine if the world’s influencers were all people of integrity? How different the conversation would be?

who are you?

To understand who you are is a complicated question. I would even argue it is an esoteric conundrum. How can you be true to yourself and be congruent in mind and action, yet still allow for growth and open-mindedness? I conclude this makes integrity a strength. To appreciate who you are, but also to recognize what you are not and admit to being wrong. To do that, a person must be able to overcome pride and ego and I realize that is the hardest thing for most people to do. 

philosophical weekend?

That is why I saved this strength for last and left it for a Saturday. I hope that over dinner, or during your conversations this weekend, you will have an honest conversation about integrity and what it means to you. In what ways have you shown integrity? Has your integrity ever been tested? I fear my integrity is often mistaken for humour or quirkiness. Something I am working on as an adult, trying to be more assertive. Then again, perhaps my social awkwardness is as much a part of integrity as is my values. Ah, the mysteries of the human mind. Are we as dark and basic as Freud would have us suppose, or as humanitarian at heart as Carl Rogers would hope? I hope we are not that dull that we fall in either category. 

Be true to yourself, no matter how wobbly

I like the way Milne has Pooh explain integrity. He is honest about who he is and his abilities and he makes no apologies for it.

“ [M]y spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places…” (Milne, 2006, p. 73).

I suspect many mistake integrity for being a good person. Instead, integrity lays the groundwork. Integrity is when people can take you at your word, that you are who you say you are. Also, integrity requires you to fulfil your promises, no matter what difficulties you may encounter. 

seeing with new eyes

I have been watching the media and society during this entire coronavirus epidemic and the one thing I believe it has revealed is that integrity is not something you can fake and it is not fickle. Think about the people surrounding you? Consider their behaviour? How many people have behaved in accordance to what they projected before the crisis? Are you seeing people in a fresh light now? I am, and I am not ashamed to say it. I will also admit that I was wrong about most people. I have learnt so much about humanity during this crisis. I have learnt so much about myself and about those around me. Lockdown has been a gift to those of us who enjoy studying people.

Be childlike, not childish

What I have learnt most, by watching my children and their classmates adapt to this crisis, is that children are probably the people with the most integrity. They are unashamedly who they are. Whether it is the little boy wearing a batman mask with his spiderman costume or the girl in her princess dress trying out her brother’s skateboard, we can all try to be more like our kids. 

The truth about truth is integrity

Do you see now why integrity is so precious to me? It is not about just being true to yourself, but allowing other the space to be true to themselves. Allowing yourself to believe that they are true to themselves. Therefore, without integrity there can be no trust and no tolerance. What is a world without trust and tolerance? What is the world without integrity?

If strengths are the building blocks that make us resilient, then I would argue integrity forms the foundation. 

“If you can keep your head when all about you [a]re losing theirs… [y]ours is the Earth and everything that’s in it…”

Integrity or stupidity?

Something else to think about, as we speak of integrity; Rudyard Kipling refused knighthood on two separate occasions during his lifetime. Imagine saying no to the queen when she is about to bestow such an honour upon you? I imagine that would take some integrity and courage. I will let you be the judge.


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