Why we should live our lives according to morals, values

21Oct 2021
The Guardian
Why we should live our lives according to morals, values

Integrity is the practice of being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one's actions.

Integrity can stand in opposition to hypocrisy, in that judging with the standards of integrity involves regarding internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding within themselves apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs. The word integrity evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete.  In this context, integrity is the inner sense of wholeness deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character.  As such, one may judge that others have integrity to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.

In ethics when discussing behaviour and morality, an individual is said to possess the virtue of integrity if the individual's actions are based upon an internally consistent framework of principles.  These principles should uniformly adhere to sound logical axioms or postulates. One can describe a person as having ethical integrity to the extent that the individual's actions, beliefs, methods, measures, and principles all derive from a single core group of values. An individual must, therefore, be flexible and willing to adjust these values to maintain consistency when these values are challenged—such as when an expected test result is not congruent with all observed outcomes. Because such flexibility is a form of accountability, it is regarded as a moral responsibility as well as a virtue.

The concept of integrity implies wholeness, a comprehensive corpus of beliefs often referred to as a worldview. This concept of wholeness emphasizes honesty and authenticity, requiring that one act at all times in accordance with the individual's chosen worldview.

Integrity is important for politicians because they are chosen, appointed, or elected to serve society. To be able to serve, politicians are given power to make, execute, or control policy. They have the power to influence something or someone. There is, however, a risk that politicians will not use this power to serve     because rulers have power they will be tempted to use it for personal gain.  In order to serve society, it is important that politicians withstand this temptation. In the context of integrity, however, regardless of whether or not they act for the good of society, politicians have integrity, so long as they act consistently with their values.  

In the book The Servant of the People, Muel Kaptein describes that integrity should start with politicians knowing what their position entails, because integrity is related to their position. Integrity also demands knowledge and compliance with both the letter and the spirit of the written and unwritten rules. Integrity is also acting consistently not only with what is generally accepted as moral, what others think, but primarily with what is ethical, what politicians should do based on reasonable arguments.  

Furthermore, integrity is not just about why a politician acts in a certain way, but also about who the politician is. Questions about a person’s integrity cast doubt not only on their intentions but also on the source of those intentions, the person’s character. So, integrity is about having the right ethical virtues that become visible in a pattern of behaviour.  Important virtues of politicians are faithfulness, humility and accountability. Furthermore, they should be authentic and a role model.