You’re about to leave a clothing store when you realize you were only charged for two of the three shirts you bought.
Will you go back and notify the staff, or will you consider it a fluke and walk out of the store?
This hypothetical situation is just one of the many everyday cases that separate those with strong moral integrity from the rest of the pack. Our everyday lives are full of signs of strong moral integrity, and they’re easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for.
Do you consider yourself a person of integrity? Do people of high integrity surround you? If you’re unsure, here are 15 ways to tell if someone has strong moral integrity.
1) They adhere to a set of positive values.
Have you heard of the saying, “if you don’t believe in something, you’ll fall for anything”?
This quote summarizes why values go hand in hand with integrity.
A person’s beliefs and core values greatly influence life. It guides their view of what is right and wrong and directs their actions in every situation.
These values prevent people of high integrity from easily adapting to rapidly evolving social norms.
People of integrity will stand up for their beliefs, no matter the circumstances.
2) They remain honest at all times.
Telling the truth is easy when nothing is on the line. The true test of integrity is the ability to tell the truth even if it is uncomfortable for the teller or receiver.
Tennis fans witnessed a prime example of manifesting integrity through honesty during the Italian Open in 2005. The match between American Andy Roddick and Spain’s Fernando Verdasco has come to match in favor of the former. It was Verdasco’s second serve and his last chance to turn the match in his favor. The umpire ruled the serve out of bounds, resulting in Roddick’s win. But Roddick appealed the decision when he noticed the ball left a mark inside the line, meaning his opponent’s serve was good. The referee considered this and allowed play to continue, resulting in Verdasco’s victory.
Andy Roddick lost the game along with tens of thousands of dollars worth of prize money. But his honesty, even when the stakes were high, was a brilliant sign of strong moral integrity that won the respect and admiration of many.
3) They take responsibility for their actions.
We all make mistakes. It is one of our innate qualities as humans.
What makes us people of integrity is when we recognize when we mess up and work to correct the problem.
Those with moral integrity do not make excuses for their mistakes. They own up to it, and they don’t let others take the fall.
But it’s not always about mistakes. When you take responsibility for your actions, you also make yourself responsible for both the positive and negative consequences of the things you say and do.
4) They respect everyone.
There is generally an expectation that respect is given to people in authority, such as your boss, your professor, and your parents or older relatives. But people of true integrity respect everyone regardless of status or situation.
They would treat a colleague with respect as much as they would treat their employer.
They listen to and respect the opinion of others even if they do not necessarily agree.
They understand and respect boundaries in both their professional and personal relationships.
They respect the value of time, so they rarely show up late.
They respect your confidentiality, so they don’t gossip.
There is a long list of examples, but the gist is that people with strong morals will always speak and act respectfully to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
5) They give the benefit of the doubt.
Someone with integrity does not rush into judgment or negativity. They don’t assume the worst in people’s character, values or intentions. Instead, they let people prove themselves before jumping to any conclusions.
Dr. Peter Vajda, a thought leader, described giving the benefit of the doubt as: “Everyone is in chapter three of their life. No one knows what happened in Chapters 1 and 2. You are no different.”
6) They are reliable.
A person shows strong moral integrity by keeping his word, even when things don’t go as planned.
They show up to the children’s football matches, just as they promised.
They stick to their deadlines, just as they have committed.
One of the greatest examples of being true to their word was the case of James Dotty.
Dr. Dotty is a neurosurgeon and biotech entrepreneur who once had a net worth of $75 million. However, he quickly lost his fortune after the dot.com crash of 2001. All that remained was $30 million in stocks he had previously pledged to charity before the dot.com fiasco. His lawyers informed him that he was not legally required to fulfill the promise. They said people would understand his circumstances if he didn’t follow through. Ignoring her lawyers’ advice, Dotty made good on the $30 million promise, leaving nothing to herself. Now that is a true sign of strong moral integrity.
7) They stand up for what is right.
Even if they are the only ones left fighting, people of high integrity will fight for what they believe is right.
No matter how much pressure is put on them, they will not give in and sacrifice their values, even if it means going against the majority.
They do not tolerate injustice.
They do not engage in bullying behaviour.
They speak out for those who cannot defend themselves.
8) They are humble.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A great man is always willing to be small.”
Some may interpret this as self-deprecation, but I would interpret it differently. It probably meant that people of great integrity know their strengths, yet are humble enough to acknowledge their weaknesses.
That doesn’t mean you can’t be proud of your success and achievements. People of integrity still celebrate their achievements. The difference is that they also have enough humility to know that they have to make an effort to get better every day.
9) They value the needs of others, sometimes even more than their own.
In this age where practicing self-love is encouraged, some may disagree with valuing the needs of others.
It is important to note that people of integrity understand the needs of others all the time, but sometimes they put those needs before their own. So it’s not about always disregarding your needs over others. Sometimes is the operative word.
Let’s look at another anecdote as an example.
At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, runners Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) and Abbey D’Agostino (USA) were mid-race when they collided on the track. Both women fell to the ground, but instead of continuing the race, D’Agostino, who got up first, pulled Hamblin back to her feet. Moments later, D’Agostino fell again in agony from his injured knee. At this moment, Hamblin returned the favor and helped the American runner back to his feet. Although the pair missed out on medal chances and finished the race last, they captured the hearts of people all over the world.
These two women were strangers to each other before the race. Each could have continued to run to rank higher in the race. But they both showed real signs of strong moral integrity by holding back to help the other rise.
Their display of sportsmanship will forever be remembered as one of the greatest moments of the 2016 Olympics.
10) They are quick to lend a helping hand.
This integrity trait is closely related to #9.
People with high moral values are usually the quickest to offer help. They also do this selflessly, without complaints or expectations of satisfaction.
They ask, “how can I help you?” instead of “what’s in it for me?”.
They help you because they want to and not because they need to.
11) They treat others with kindness and compassion at all times.
These days we see many random acts of kindness big and small plastered on social media. While many may be genuine acts of compassion, some do it for the “views”, which essentially means doing it for profit.
This is not to say that people who record themselves doing these actions do not have integrity because some do. The point is that someone with strong moral integrity is genuinely kind and compassionate with or without cameras, with or without anyone watching, and without expecting anything in return.
Also, they don’t have to be big acts of kindness. Integrity reveals itself in the most trivial acts of kindness. It could be giving up your place in a queue at a grocery store for the elderly. It could be holding the door for someone. Often it can even be as simple as just a smile.
12) They give credit where credit is due.
You know a person has strong moral character when they know how to recognize the contributions and abilities of others.
There are many examples of this in our everyday life.
At work, for example, your manager praises each team member for their efforts and hard work to complete a project.
This can also be seen at home when parents recognize the teenager’s efforts to improve their grades from Bs to As.
Remember those essays and assignments you used to write in school? (You can still do something at work too)! Well, that’s another classic example of giving credit where it’s due. These citations, footnotes and references are not just to avoid plagiarism. It is also a way of showing integrity and acknowledging these authors’ contribution to the content of the thesis.
13) They are tactful even in arguments.
Isaac Newton defines tact as “the art of making a point without making an enemy.”
This is exactly how someone with integrity approaches an argument. We already said in #4 that they respect different opinions. But when it comes to the point where they have to discuss differences of opinion, people of integrity don’t get personal. They attack the argument or issue and not the individual.
They do not use derogatory or derogatory language.
They engage in peaceful arguments, not to fight, but to arrive at a solution or compromise.
14) They are reliable.
We touched on trust a bit when we discussed #4 (respect). As we said, people with strong integrity respect and maintain confidentiality.
Another factor in being trustworthy is being transparent. They share their thoughts and opinions truthfully and respectfully.
Because of the values they uphold, you rarely hear people of integrity tell half-truths or white lies.
15) They talk.
Remember the story of Dr. Dotty’s Millions we mentioned earlier? Aside from exemplifying trustworthiness, it also exemplifies integrity through speaking. His promise was not just words. He actually acted on them.
In someone with a strong moral compass, upholding their values is a must. Because of this, you will find that their actions match the things they say. They don’t say one thing and do another.
As Alan Cohen puts it, “You are in integrity when the life you live on the outside matches who you are on the inside.”
Why is it important to have integrity?
Integrity has a huge impact on people’s relationships – whether professional or personal.
Think of it this way: Wouldn’t you want friends and a life partner who have most or all of the signs of strong moral integrity we’ve listed above? Do you not want to hire or work with people who have all or most of the qualities of integrity?
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