Famous 1970s pop singer Jackson Brown once advised others to “live so that when your children think of caring, fairness and integrity, they think of you.”
The definition of “integrity” is the “quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” The origin of the word integrity is integrate. People with integrity usually are able to integrate their lives successfully—they don’t sacrifice family for work, nor work for family; they have hearts big enough for work, family, friends and other outside activities so that their lives are full, rich and whole (undivided).
Integrity is a trait that all should seek. The famous quote, “Integrity is how you act when no one’s looking” applies throughout our lives. The Gonzaga University basketball team and their coach showed integrity as they lost a heartbreaker in the NCAA round of 16 of our nation’s best basketball teams. There was no whining by GU players or their coach, though surely they were disappointed. As athletes of integrity, they were thankful to play hard and to play with each other, all seeking a common goal.
Athletics and other contests often test our integrity. Are we good winners (good sports) or poor losers (poor sports)? Competition is part of life’s challenges. It often makes us better, helping us strive to improve and hone our skills, whatever the area of competition. The person of integrity soon realizes that victory or defeat doesn’t define us; it helps sharpen our competitive skills so that “next time” may have a different outcome.
North Central High School’s Principal, Steve Fisk, often encourages his students to have “grit,” the determination to strive and try hard. Those who don’t try are certain to fail at the task at hand. Those who try may not win presently, but with grit and determination, their chances of success increase. And, they’ll acquire integrity for trying—win or lose.
Former Seattle Seahawk Steve Largent is a member of the NFL Hall of Fame. As a former Member of Congress from Oklahoma, he once revealed that his secret to success was following the “Five P Rule”—Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Undersized and unremarkable as a high school football player, Steve followed his “Five P Rule” and became a superstar professional football player. He later became a successful member of Congress and business executive.
Steve Largent is a person of integrity. He was able to integrate professional football, Congress and business interests, all while maintaining love for his wife and family. When his wife and children think of caring, fairness and integrity, they think of Steve Largent. His heart was big enough to allow a place for each of them, without sacrificing one for the other.
Behaviors that illustrate integrity:
- Acting unselfishly, but determinedly, in all situations
- Living a morally upright life
- Maintaining self confidence in spite of criticism
- Having the courage to try
- Looking on the bright side and showing kindness to others–following the Golden Rule.
Partners Advancing Character Education (PACE) program is dedicated to helping all Americans, but particularly students, get into the habit of helping others. By doing so, helpers acquire integrity, realizing what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes, appreciating the circumstances of others and sharing one’s gifts for another’s benefit. Serving the less fortunate builds integrity. Serving as a good example builds character in the server as well as the served.
Being a good citizen by following the behaviors listed above will result in stronger families, a more engaged citizenry that volunteers and leadership that impacts a community.
The more citizens with integrity America produces, the stronger our beloved country will be, where children look upon loved ones with respect and admiration for their caring, fairness and–integrity.
GEORGE R. NETHERCUTT, JR. is a former U.S. Congressman who represented the 5th Congressional District of Washington from 1995-2005. Nethercutt practiced law in Spokane, WA for 18 years before entering public service. While in Congress, he served on the prestigious House Appropriations Committee and the House Science Committee.
In 1996, George Nethercutt formed the nonprofit, independent George Nethercutt Foundation providing students with dedicated academic instruction about American history and leadership, including an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC to meet public officials, lobbyists and members of the national press, followed by students dedicating 60 hours of volunteer time at home.