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Who are you when there’s no one else around? If you know the consequence will be negative, would you still make the right choices? It is one thing to appear upright and honest to those around you, but when you are consistent even when there’s no one around to acknowledge that, then that is integrity. Wikipedia defines integrity as
“a personal choice, an uncompromising and predictably consistent commitment to honor moral, ethical, spiritual and artistic values and principles.”
There is an alarming deficit on integrity in our society today. Reading this you are probably thinking of all the politicians who embezzle state funds or the executives who find a way to steal from their companies. There are those, but that’s not our focus today. We are focusing on the people who raised these politicians and executives; we are focusing on you, the mum or dad. What values are you transferring to your children?
Values are such funny things; they do not necessarily align themselves with the things you say. What you say or do in the presence of others is all well and good, however it is what you do in secret that shows what values you have and this is what your children will inevitably pick up.
Lack of integrity. Almost every one of us in Nigeria is guilty of that. A mother who sees nothing wrong in paying for her son to have access to the questions that are coming out in an exam the following day is passing a very crucial message to that child. She’s telling him that it’s okay to cheat and it’s okay to have no integrity. When you drive against traffic, or you tell someone over the phone that you are only five minutes away when in fact you are an hour’s drive away from that person…what you are saying is that you have no integrity.
We live under this misapprehension that it’s okay to cut corners as long as you achieve success in the end. And really, who can blame us when we have a slew of ‘big men’ who are celebrated every day and hailed as role models even though we all know that they helped themselves to treasures that were not theirs? We tell ourselves that we can’t afford to be ‘slow’ and worse still, we tell our children that they have to be ‘sharp’ to succeed in this life. Unfortunately our idea of being ‘sharp’ is being cunning and cutting corners, back-stabbing in the process if we have to.
We have become a generation of dishonest mums and dads and we’re raising children who see corruption as a way of life. ‘Slip a note to that “Aunty” by the door and she will attend to you before the others who have been waiting’. It has become so normal that we do it without even thinking about it. A quick lie might get you out of a tight spot but lack of integrity does not come without consequences. You are slowly building a reputation as someone who cannot be trusted. Whether you are a career person, a parent or an entrepreneur, that is the worst thing that can happen to you…when people know that they cannot take your word to the bank. When you lose everything, the only thing that remains is your word. If you are known as a person of integrity, people will be willing to take a chance on you and invest in your business idea. They will take a chance on your children and give them opportunities because of the values you have passed on to them.
We need to give some serious thought to integrity. When you make a promise, keep it. If you say you will be there, be there on time even if you have to leave the house several hours early to make it happen. Don’t tell your children you will do something for them and then just wave it away. Apart from disappointing them, you are telling them that it’s okay to not have integrity. Be a person of integrity and do all you can to maintain it. Don’t compromise. And don’t keep company with people who tell easy lies because they will not only lie to you but you will begin to pick up their bad habit.
Be a role model for your child. Have the right values and be predictably and uncompromisingly persistent in honoring them. Don’t befriend people just for what you can get from them. Have integrity!
Who are you when you have nothing to gain?