One of the finest qualities of being human

"Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right."
— Franklin Roosevelt

"Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching."
— C. S. Lewis


Many of our struggles with integrity and honesty boil down to wanting the world to see us as someone we are not. We wish we were more intelligent. We wish we had more money. We wish we had more friends. We wish we had greater control over our lives, if not also over the lives of others.

At one time, my invisible backpack was stuffed with a lot of those wanting-the-world-to-see-me-as-someone-I-was-not moments. The weight of it was a great burden until—as I gradually went from being a “practicing perfectionist” to a “recovering perfectionist”—I discovered that it wasn’t possible to always live up to the expectations I placed on myself. Nor was it possible to live up to the expectations I thought others had placed on me.

Today, I realize that I am not, have not and never will be perfect. Like billions of others, I don’t have the answers to everything, never did have, and never will.

Yet, I know that I am loved by someone, if not by as many people as I would like. I know I have done some things that have made a contribution to the world, even though I didn’t reach all my goals.

When I look up into the night sky, I can see how insignificant we all are in the vast scheme of things. I don’t have to hide the truth about myself anymore. I am who I am. I can be honest. What I say and what I do is as consistent as possible with what I believe.

Therefore, my underlying questions for you are these. Do you find integrity difficult because you want to feel more important than you do? Do you fudge the truth because you think others will like you better?

I encourage you to live up to your ideals the best you can and forgive yourself when you don’t. You will find it is much easier than trying to pretend you are someone you are not. Besides, it will lighten your invisible backpack considerably.

Exploring INTEGRITY in Your Life

What does integrity mean to you?

When has it been most difficult for you to be honest and what helped you do what you knew was right?

Integrity has carried me through difficult situations by

When has my expression of integrity made life better for me and for others?

What symbol best represents integrity—something that can remind you of this important quality when you are tempted to present yourself as someone you are not so that others will like you?

This exploration of integrity was created by Arlene Harder, MA, MFT, resident of Villa Gardens, a Front Porch Retirement Community in Pasadena, California. The material is not copyrighted and may be used with attribution. (Photo by Arlene Harder.)