Integrity and Law-Abiding Behaviour

‘Integrity’ is related to ‘trustworthiness’, and has several elements:

·     It means keeping one's promises whenever possible.  The only valid reason for breaking a promise might be if the circumstances had unforeseeably changed, to the extent that it would be possible to negotiate forgiveness with those to whom the broken promise had been made.

·     It requires consistency between words and actions: avoiding double standards.

·     It requires adherence to the law, irrespective of whether one is likely to be caught.

·     It means telling the truth.  Relationships become unworkable if one cannot believe what the other person is saying.  Julian Baggini’s article, The whole truth, suggested that there are circumstances where other considerations might outweigh the importance of telling the truth – but such exceptions should surely only be permitted if an impartial spectator might agree.  The default rule must be honesty.   

·     Sincerity is important: without it, ‘respect’ and ‘courtesy’ would be of little value.

People must have confidence in each other’s integrity for trust to develop.  Deeper relationships then become possible.  One undermines one's own relationships with other people if one cannot be believed, and there are wider consequences in the context of the law ( and in politics (, as described in later chapters.

(This is an archive of a page intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  The latest versions are at book contents).