This article is dedicated to Dick Fredrick for his earnest practice of integrity.
“I will not kill my uncle”, I said to my friend. Let’s call him Uche.
Uche and I were working for my Uncle selling bags of rice wholesale in Akwa Ibom. Uche was from the same village as us but we weren’t related. Almost every day, we would offload 100-300 bags of rice into 3 of our warehouses in different locations. Not long after, we then load them onto different vehicles for distribution. When we’re not doing the loading, we would be at one of the warehouses selling.
My uncle was a stammerer with anger issues but the bigger problem was his wife.
She severally accused us of stealing the sales money (which we later found was her own doing), gave us little food (even when there was enough), and frequently had something to complain about us.
Uche and I were frustrated especially because it seemed our only form of payment was shelter and food. We had no money of our own.
One day, Uche appeared to have had enough. He told me we should steal my uncle’s money and flee to Ivory Coast. In fact, he had already arranged the trip. According to his sources, life was relatively better there.
I believed him because he had been to Togo and a few other African countries in the past playing competitive football. But I bluntly refused because;
- I didn’t want to compromise my values/principles.
- I was scared of karma.
- I didn’t want such a crime on my conscience.
- My uncle was almost 60 years old. He may get a cardiac arrest and die.
- It would give me and my family a bad name. And,
- I didn’t want him to consult an oracle and invoke ‘juju’ for vengeance.
Uche was disappointed. I begged him not to do it even in my absence. And I refused to rat him out to my uncle because I didn’t want to ruin our friendship.
Rather than steal from my uncle out of frustration, I encouraged him to quit the ‘job/apprenticeship’ and find something else to do. (Besides, I felt neither of us was entitled to demand anything).
Recommended Content: Why Reputation Matters [And How To Build A Good Reputation In Business]
A week after the discussion, I got admission into college and I left Uche, my uncle, and his wife. Less than 2 weeks later, my uncle called me on the phone saying Uche had fled with a huge portion of his capital.
I tried calling Uche but his number was switched off. Almost 5 years later, Uche called me lamenting he had been very unfortunate with his football career and other businesses he got into after he fled with my uncle’s money. The latest is that he lost two of his children in quick succession. Then, he inquired if I knew whether my uncle invoked ‘juju’ for him. I had no idea if my uncle did so but I encouraged Uche to go plead with him and make amends.
I still feel guilty and even experience intrapersonal conflict for not telling my uncle about Uche’s plans. But in my defense, I thought Uche listened when I objected to his plot.
What would you have done if you were in my shoes?
(Recommended article; Honesty Is The Best Policy: 9 Benefits Of Being Honest And Truthful)
In this article, we will discuss the benefits of living a life of integrity and how to deal with its challenges.
“If it costs your integrity, it’s too expensive.”-Dakota Robertson
What Is Integrity (and What Does It Mean to Live a Life of Integrity)?
“Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching.”
Living a life of integrity is the quality of consistently upholding strong moral and ethical principles that are humane without compromise in fairness, regardless of how difficult it may be, or who’s watching (or isn’t).
Many people see integrity as a behavioral trait that is intertwined with one’s beliefs – i.e. when you “walk your talk”. On this note, one may consider integrity to be relative. However, I find this erroneous because one’s beliefs may not be ethically or morally humane; as people can be delusional mostly due to biases.
For example, the Fulani herdsmen who kill people for not letting their cows ruin their farmlands may think of themselves as men of integrity as their actions match their beliefs that cows are more important than human life. So, let’s stick to my definition of the term.
A lack of integrity usually is a branch (and in many cases the root) of many vices because people can compromise to cover up wrongdoing which may lead to more problems that may require more lies consequently increasing the damage done.
Traits Of People Who Have Integrity
During the alumni reunion of my secondary school, my former classmates and I contributed some money to visit an orphanage with gifts and buy refreshments as well as to provide for other necessities during our meeting.
My friend, Dick Fredrick was appointed to be the treasurer. He made sure to account for every penny and document every expense made. The best part was he did it without scrutiny. In fact, he was the one always calling our attention to money matters to ensure accountability. This is just one of his numerous integrous acts.
Like Fred, people who have integrity demonstrate it with some of the following character traits;
- Strong sense of responsibility
- Strong moral compass
- Accountability and/or
In addition, people with integrity demonstrate this by sternly refusing to do what will harm others such as killing and stealing. They rather report such offenses. They also stand by their words, keep their promises and stand up for justice and equity even in other people’s defense.
Also Read: The Bad Success: Do You Have To Be Evil To Be Successful?
6 Challenges Faced When Trying to Maintain High Integrity in Today’s World And How To Overcome Them
“A bad man is worse when he pretends to be a saint.”
– Sir Francis Bacon
I have been the president/chairman/leader of many organisations. There were times people tried to bribe, coerce, and even threaten me to compromise on certain rules and regulations. But I stood my ground.
To me, my doggedness seems to be one of the major reasons I tend to land leadership roles frequently, and having integrity ensured I didn’t abuse such positions, money, or assignments.
It isn’t always easy to uphold your integrity. Sometimes, I fear it may be the end of me but what is important to me is ensuring the greater good.
The following are some challenges of practicing integrity and how to overcome them;
We live in a world full of criticism and bias and we can rightly say that it is human nature to seek validation from others.
There are particular standards praised in society. Though it may not align with our beliefs we may pretend to uphold them while we do otherwise behind the scenes.
This is evident in people who say X but do the opposite of X. For example;
- The guy who says he hates people that smoke but does so in private.
- The pastor who preaches against adultery but has sex with people’s wives.
- If I get this article published and I go against all I’ve said but boast otherwise.
You should note though that there is a difference between a hypocrite and someone who acts like a hypocrite.
There are times we may go against our values but not necessarily for dubious reasons.
For instance, Mr. X may hate speeding while driving but he may do so if he has the emergency situation of rushing home to get his wife who is in labour to the hospital.
Many times, the most challenging part of maintaining integrity could be working at your best without scrutiny. No eye service whatsoever. Just raw authenticity.
You know those movies where a particular character is threatened by the bad guy to do something shady or they’ll kill their family? How does one maintain integrity in such a situation?
In that case, you should;
- Report to your elders, superiors, the police or any other law enforcement agencies around.
- Fight the oppressor off if you can and/or
- Warn the person or organisation you are being forced to destroy and
If all else fails or your situation is too precarious to do otherwise then go ahead with what you’re forced to do. Ensure your safety and that of your loved ones by reporting the case afterwards to the authorities if you can.
Of course, it may be difficult depending on how dangerous the situation is but always apply caution. The goal is to make sure someone can attest to the fact you committed the offence against your will so ‘justice’ can be lenient.
Also Read: Rising Above A Corrupt World (with emphasis on Nigeria)
What if you have a tight schedule?
- You have work to do at the office or school
- Responsibilities you owe your family
- Religious obligations
- Your football or fitness training
- Catch up with family and/or friends
- A personal project such as reading or writing a book
Having integrity entails that you know what to say “no” and “yes” to. So what comes first? And how much work should you put in either of them?
- Use the Eisenhower Matrix
- Delegate less urgent tasks such as laundry or cooking
- Think but don’t overthink things. Be spontaneous.
- Ask for help
- Call to cancel and don’t feel bad about it. Get some rest because ‘body no be firewood’
4. Money problems
Say you were given a position at work where you fully know that you have no expertise in and the one who does was neglected in your favour.
Given the high pay, it may be a difficult offer to turn down. But you can choose to stick with your integrity and give it to the person who is more deserving of it.
This will save you the ‘wahala’ of being discovered in the future. Besides, doing otherwise will diminishes your respect and mess with the work dynamics of you and your colleagues since they know you are not deserving.
Also the expectations from that office may be beyond you since you lack the skill set to properly function there. And that will do neither you nor the company any good.
There is also the case in business where we may be tempted to reduce the quality of our product to increase our profit.
Sooner or later, your customers will see through that and leave you for your competitors.
Also Read: How Do You Get Better At Your Craft (And Make Money From It)?
5. Religious and ethnic beliefs
Think slavery, racism, and the killing of twins in Africa. Think Hitler, Osama, and King Leopold II.
As we discussed in the earlier section about the Fulani Herdsmen, the above-mentioned practices and persons all upheld values they thought were right based on their religious and ethnic beliefs.
As we further discussed in that section, we spoke of how integrity must have humanity. Every religious or ethnic belief should always be evaluated and improved upon to enable better coexistence in society.
Also Read: How To Resolve Your Religious Dilemma Through Self-Discovery
Life is not always black and white. It has so many shades to it. This usually makes us encounter a lot of paradoxical situations. Consider these examples;
- In the movie The Woman King, Nanisca the woman general of an elite warrior of women called the Agojie disobeyed her King to go and save her daughter (also a member of the Agojie) and other captured ‘sisters’.
- 16-year-old Stacy without financial support tried to save her dying mother by going against her values and prostituting to get money for her hospital bills.
- My one-time lady colleague who was in a desperate situation and resorted to selling drugs to pay her bills since she wasn’t getting much from work.
We can argue that they all did the wrong thing for good reasons.
So, how do you go about your decision and maintain integrity? You do the ‘needful’ and take full responsibility for the ramifications with zero excuses.
- Nanisca, in a different scenario, would have had to accept being stripped of her position, imprisoned, or banished from the kingdom.
- Stacy may have to deal with sexually transmitted diseases or an unwanted pregnancy
- My colleague would have to face the law with the police if she gets caught
Caution should be applied in these cases as it is easy for a one-time compromise to spiral into a habit.
So yes, it can be difficult to practice integrity. But the benefits outweigh the challenges as we’ll see now.
10 Benefits/Importance For Practising Integrity
“There is no pillow as soft as a clear conscience.”
– French proverb
The benefits of practising integrity in society are numerous. They include;
1. Integrity will give you peace of mind;
Being free from guilt, and having integrity always comes with peace of mind which also enables you to sleep well. Imagine the feeling of waking up in the morning without worrying if the police are at your front door waiting to arrest you for an offense.
Or walking down the street without the fear of getting beat up or even killed for a crime. Or living without the fear of being found out by your partner about cheating or by your boss about stealing.
You don’t have to try to remember the lies you’ve told or what crimes you’ve committed. No secrets, no worries, no constant condemnation by your conscience. Just all round peace. The feeling can be amazing, right?
This is also associated with being true to yourself and knowing when to say, “no”.
Rather than conforming to people’s expectations of you which doesn’t align with your values you choose to work within your capabilities and passion.
For example, when you’re given a task that is too time-consuming or doesn’t sit well with you, you refuse the urge to please others and opt for what you’re more comfortable with regardless of how lucrative the offer may be. This is good because you remain authentic and work at your best rather than burn out and act out of frustration.
Nothing gives peace of mind like integrity.
Also Read: Love Dilemma: How to Trust Your Gut and Make the Right Decision
2. Integrity helps us earn others’ trust and respect;
Have you ever been told, “The only person I can trust is you”? I have. And it usually feels like someone is slicing onions in my vicinity.
Having integrity makes people hold you in high regard. They value you and can entrust you with reputable positions, tasks, and money. That is why it is mostly people of integrity that gain leadership roles.
When you have integrity, you give accurate reports of any proceeding you were involved in or aware of (like Fred). Say you make sales as I did for my uncle, you make sure you don’t tamper with the money and give an accurate account without lying.
This trust people have in you due to your integrity will increase your influence. They tend to speak positively about you and follow your recommendations. And you begin to hear things like, “If Kelechi is not doing X, I won’t either”, “Tobi should be our president”, “Because Edidiong approves this, it should be the right option”, and so on.
This influence builds intimacy in relationships, gains approval from superiors (whether in the workplace or school), and boosts business sales.
When you have integrity, you keep to your word and fulfill your promises. This will make you trustworthy. In the case of a relationship, your partner can trust you not to cheat on them or intentionally hurt them.
It also makes others respect you (even those who hate that you don’t compromise with them). This will give you the seemingly unfair advantage of making them go out of their way to do you a favour without you having to ‘bribe’ them whatsoever.
3. Integrity will make people award you leadership roles
Integrity is a trait required of leaders. It makes you tend to take initiative and make sure things are going well. So when you exhibit it even without the appointment, you naturally gravitate towards it and become the clear option for people to choose as their leader. This is because having integrity makes you principled, act honorable and most of all become influential.
There’s a saying, “a man without principles is nothing”. And why have principles if you won’t uphold them? Having integrity means you don’t compromise your principles but rather opt to do what is right.
Being a leader is a result of influence. And influence is gotten from integrity.
I have always found myself in leadership positions throughout my life. And after much introspection, I discovered my sense of integrity played the most part to ensure those positions as I usually didn’t even campaign for them.
When you have integrity as a leader, you tend to make sure that things are done correctly. You ensure fairness, equity and justice. This will ensure your subjects and colleagues remain loyal to you.
During my spell of leadership in the university, I was frowned at by many for not compromising rules and regulations but they respected me because I never broke them either.
That is integrity – to lead an exemplary life by doing the right thing and encouraging others to emulate you.
4. Integrity enables you to build good relationships;
One of the few reasons you hear things like, “I want to work with Ebube” is because he most likely has integrity which facilitates good teamwork thereby leading to increased productivity.
If you have a hard time maintaining good relationships, chances are you are not like Ebube and lack integrity. Even corrupt people want to associate with people of integrity because they are high-value assets.
The majority of people, businesses, or organizations would want to identify with you. “I know her. We attended the same secondary school”, people rarely ever say that about a person who has no integrity.
As we grow older, we tend to become selective of what we focus on especially when it has to do with relationships. Some people can have a lot to deal with. By having integrity, you trigger the similarity-attraction bias which tends to make people of integrity associate with you.
Having integrity means you won’t hurt your friend. So you get to build positive and healthy relationships where people are eager to befriend or work with you.
5. Integrity enhances your confidence and boosts your self-esteem;
When you compromise your beliefs by not practicing integrity, you experience an identity crisis. Due to this lack of authenticity, your confidence and self-esteem drastically diminish. You tend to feel like a facade – a sham.
Having integrity boosts your self-esteem and confidence since you appreciate your capabilities and have a full sense of self. It helps you speak confidently of your genuine capabilities and achievements without feeling like you were the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
The peace of mind integrity gives, as mentioned in point 1, gives you confidence in that you get to walk with your head high and ‘fuwa’ like Phyno.
Imagine you witness a sight of jungle justice. While the act may be heinous, there is always that sense of relief that since you practise integrity, you would never be in such a situation. This reinforces your sense of pride and elevates your confidence and self-esteem.
They say, “a clear conscience fears no accusation”. And a person of integrity is a person with a clear conscience.
6. Integrity gives you a good reputation;
Can somebody defend you behind your back and say, “No. Chekwube can never do such a thing”? Or can somebody recommend and give you a vote of confidence in your absence without eye service and say, “Tanko will do the job well without compromise”? These are things having integrity will do for you. Your reputation always precedes you so you have to make sure to leave a good impression and that is effectively done when you practise integrity.
The Bible in Ecclesiastes says, “A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume…”(NLT) and in Proverbs, “Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold”(NLT). A good reputation is why you have brands you prefer (like Apple, Pawns, Innoson, and Glo), athletes you prefer (like Cristiano Ronaldo, Tobi Amusan and Lebron James), and celebrities you prefer (like Dwayne Johnson, Flavour, and Tems) because they practise integrity that helps them stay authentic. They don’t heat you by compromising on the quality they give.
7. Integrity avails you good opportunities;
I once walked in on my younger siblings watching an episode of the Telemundo series, Double Kara. There Kara’s stepfather who was a taxi driver was trying to return the documents a passenger of his forgot in his car. When the passenger received it from him, he was so pleased and had high praise for the taxi driver’s integrity. The passenger offered him the chance to be his personal chauffeur while his private car was still undergoing repairs. This offer came with a lucrative pay more than that of his normal daily hustle.
Also, as we discussed in point 5, before people get to know you personally, your reputation paints them a picture of who you are. And when you have a good reputation to back up a recommendation, it gives you great opportunities to leverage such as a job or business. While others tirelessly look for it, such opportunities begin to look for you. And you get a surprise phone call from a client or employer with a mouthwatering offer.
Also Read: 2 Humble Truths About Success; And 4 Unusual Steps To Lead A Successful Life
8. Integrity will ensure your dignity and keep you from embarrassment;
Remember when we discussed jungle justice in point 4, having integrity will prevent you from such a shameful and embarrassing experience.
When you travel by road in Nigeria, there are checkpoints that perform a routine search on passengers to catch those traveling with drugs, stolen items, unauthorised weapons, and other crimes like fraud which will warrant them to check your phone or personal computer. Practising integrity will keep you away from trouble and consequential embarrassment since you will not indulge in such vices.
9. Integrity can encourage others to do good;
In a society with the mindset, “if you can’t beat them, join them” it can be difficult to maintain your integrity. But integrity never goes unnoticed. And it can be ‘contagious’.
Integrity is an admirable trait and even in a world full of corrupt people, it can inspire others to emulate while you become a role model by practicing integrity.
For example; I hate littering because of its hazardous implications. If I finish using any disposable (e.g. a plastic bottle of water) and there is no designated area to dump it where I am, I’ll carry it with me till I find one. Many of my close friends know about this so they make sure not to litter while I’m around. (Most of them have even incorporated this lifestyle).
10. Integrity will ensure you have good health;
The stress of having to deal with a lie or cover up a crime can detonate your health. It can also be mentally exhausting.
It also results in depression, anxiety, insomnia, and high blood pressure all of which can ruin your health.
On the other hand, having integrity will ensure that you’re in good health and can boost longevity.
It is true that “health is wealth”. So why destroy your wealth by a lack of integrity?
“The strength of a person’s spirit would then be measured by how much ‘truth’ he could tolerate, or more precisely, to what extent he needs to have it diluted, disguised, sweetened, muted, falsified.”– Friedrich Nietzsche
8 Tips On How To Live A Life Of Integrity
You can begin to practise integrity by adopting the following steps;
1. Practise the Golden Rule which entails that you treat others the same way you want to be treated.
Will you feel good if your partner cheats on you? Or if someone steals your money? Or if you’re treated unfairly? It’s a big “no”, right? Neither will others feel good if you do it to them. So ensure to play the card you’d like to be dealt.
2. Diligently obey rules and regulations
Every country, business, institution or organisation has its rules and regulations to ensure order and a conducive environment for growth.
For example, obeying traffic rules ensures there is better movement on the road and prevents road accidents.
Having integrity entails that you obey laid down rules and regulations, suggest improvements where necessary, and even leave the establishment if they are harmful.
Also Read: Why Should We Obey The Law? (a guide to personal values and how they affect humanity)
3. Be honest with yourself, admit your flaws and make improvements.
I used to be very aggressive and engaged in self-pity due to some painful experiences. But my friend (and boss at the time) gave me a pep talk that changed my mentality and I started making improvements.
Having integrity entails that you resist the urge to justify and continue actions that are not good for you. It also means that you accept the ramifications of your actions and diligently carry out the requirements to achieve honourable goals.
4. Learn to stand by your word. Do what you said you would and keep to your promise.
For example, if you borrowed money from someone and promised to pay back at a stipulated date, ensure to do as planned. And if you can’t come through on that date due to some unprecedented event, don’t wait for the person who lent you the money to call you first.
It may seem uncomfortable to call them or even take their calls only to give excuses but genuinely doing so will ensure you don’t give them the impression that you’re unwilling to pay. It will rather help you earn their respect even if they may vent.
5. Avoid getting involved in what doesn’t align with your interests or values
I have had several women courageously express their affections for me and want me in a relationship with them. While most guys may tend to take advantage of them, I turned them down because I wasn’t interested.
I have also had opportunities to engage in fraud, getting ‘juju’ to gain favour from people, and having sugar mummies but I resisted the temptation regardless of my dire need for money at the time.
When you neglect your integrity and engage in things that don’t align with your values you invite a lot of ‘wahala’ and drama. Staying true to your moral code will keep your sanity in check.
Also Read: Are You at Moral Crossroads? [3 Steps to Resolve Ethical Conflicts]
6. Be transparent
Do not give people a reason to doubt or become sceptical about you. Always be plain and give accurate accounts and reports when required. This will build trust and enable you to have good relationships.
Also Read: How Do You Betray Yourself? [21 Ways You Betray Yourself Daily]
7. Acknowledge efforts and give credit and accolades to those deserving;
Many people experience stress and a lot of criticism on a daily basis which usually puts them down. Recognizing and appreciating them during their wins and when they make positive efforts will build their confidence and help them have a positive self-image. Do not also take credit for someone else’s work.
As a result, you will have a good relationship with them since they experience a sense of belonging or psychological relatedness. You also will become happy because you made the other person happy.
8. Stay away from irresponsible and entitled people
There’s a popular saying, “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are”. This suggests how much influence those we associate with can have on us.
People who are irresponsible and entitled have no integrity and it can rub off on you if you associate with them. They don’t not consider the interests and well-being of others. And that is not an honourable path to follow.
“Evil association corrupts good manners.”
Also Read: Peer Pressure And How To Use It To Your Advantage
9. Avoid complaining too much
When we are treated unfairly, we tend to complain and demonise those who did us dirty. This may result in us exaggerating and even lying about the person’s actions and neglecting the times when they treated us well. That is a dent to integrity.
This will make us build resentment and become bitter even to others. Like Nelson Mandela once said, “resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
While your talents, good looks, and/or connections can enable you to enjoy some considerable advantages in life, having integrity will sustain your relationships and retain you at the top.
In this part of the world, those who practice integrity are usually referred to as, “Jewman”, “Johnny-just-come (JJC)”, “fuck boy”, “losses guarded girl”, et cetera but they tend to not show those irresponsible behaviour around you. This is usually because they respect you and may even admire you for your integrity.
A lack of integrity can cause you ‘see finish’ among your associates (i.e. they stop respecting you). Always reflect on the benefits of integrity we discussed in this article and implement the outlined guidelines in practising it.
Remember, if you’re ever confused about what option to make choose your mental health and peace of mind by practising integrity.
Are there other benefits of integrity and ways to practise it that you know? Please tell us in the comment section.
I enjoy literary works (especially in the form of books and songs) and learning about human psychology.
I’m also interested in intellectual development, fitness/athleticism, and waste management.