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Contemplating writing a blog entry about integrity, it struck me today that respect is a topic that is probably easier to talk about and includes the concepts of integrity.

I think first, it’s important to recall a phrase that I use often which is “If you want more of something, you must find a way to give it away.” When it comes to managing life people usually find that what they get back is a result of what they give out. If you are generally giving away anger, you get anger in return. The more you smile, the more people smile back at you. If you want to be treated with respect, treat others respectfully. A good beginning for this exercise is my three rules of no yelling, no swearing and no name-calling.

If you follow this blog, you know that I do not believe in coincidences. I believe there is a direct connection between acts of respect and integrity and the saying my mother taught me: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I’m certain it is also not a coincidence that this rule comes from the Bible, as do several other rules that assist in being successful.

I talk about portions of the topic of respect in several ways but want to focus here on integrity. In my mind, integrity is a quality directly connected to honesty. It is also a part of being able to be depended upon to be ethical which also could be stated as “doing the right thing even when it’s difficult”.

I believe that one of our major cultural problems stems directly from a lack of honesty in almost every segment of our culture. Facebook is a great place to find dishonesty and misleading information. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that that is much different than much of our media coverage. It seems to be a matter of course that when an event occurs somewhere in the world, the news stories will be broadcast even prior to any facts being known.

I was involved in a Facebook conversation recently with an individual who began a side conversation, in plain view, with another individual. In that side conversation the first individual admitted that he often stated things that he knew were not true “to stimulate conversation”. I commented that I felt that dishonesty rendered our conversation useless, to which the third individual commented that it was okay as long as everyone was being dishonest equally.

In politics the same type of equality (another word for relativism) is acceptable. When one politician is caught in a lie they often defend that lie by pointing out that someone else lied more. It seems that what we’re left with is choosing to align with an individual who we believe lies the least, in other words the one that is the least dishonest. This is a sad commentary on the ethics that many leaders expect of themselves and we allow them to get away with.

I was recently involved in a telephone conversation in which I had asked the individual if we could speak privately. I was assured that the conversation was private. It became apparent early in the conversation that that individual had their phone on speaker mode and was sharing what I considered a private conversation publicly. That individual explained that they felt completely justified in violating my trust.

It is commonly known in law enforcement that dishonesty, when used to get information, is an acceptable practice but that dishonesty to people in law enforcement may be considered illegal. I am aware of court proceedings in which the participants, lawyers and witnesses, have given false information or drawn faulty conclusions from information that was given under oath. They justified their actions because they believe that the end justifies the means.

I am again reminded of the concept of what you get is what you have given. In my opinion if you are dishonest, lack integrity or act with disrespect, regardless of who you think you are, you will get back what you have given out.

My wife, who worked in law offices for several decades, has often spoken of the jury instruction she calls “witness false in part.” If a person gives dishonest testimony in any part of a trial, it is required to discount everything in their testimony. The examples I’ve given here would seem to indicate that our public, in many public agencies, have begun to expect the opposite which would might be stated “witness truth in part” meaning that if I am kind of honest, that that should be good enough. Or maybe, if I can justify my dishonesty you should understand and consider it truth.

In our personal lives the loss of trust may be one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome in relationships. It is common that people who have been on the receiving end of dishonesty have a very difficult time trusting. The more personal the breach of integrity is, the more long-lasting are the negative effects.

I absolutely believe that the majority of our social ills could be eliminated in one day if people were to hold themselves responsible to be respectful, show integrity and be honest. Honesty and integrity do not mean being always correct but rather striving to always represent the truth as you know it. If you think about it, that really is the foundation of showing respect.

The take-home message today probably is, if you don’t like how you’re being treated, you should probably look at how you are treating people. If you’re with a group who acts disrespectfully, you probably won’t need to find a new group. When you act respectfully the disrespectful group will abandon you or they might even change.

Strive to be known as an honest, respectful and ethical person. You will find that the quality of your life and your relationships improve quickly. And please don’t use the sorry excuse of “what about them? Why should I be the one to make the changes?” You don’t have to be like anyone else; you can be better. Just because someone else may pee on an electric fence doesn’t mean that you should.

Until next time, remember “Life is built on choices. Choose to manage your life with integrity.”