The lost art of integrity and why it is more important than ever to teach it to our children
30th Nov 2019
We live in a world where integrity isn’t emphasised enough. But it is a dangerous message to send to our children, writes Amanda Cassidy
“Integrity means doing the right thing whether or not anyone is watching,” I explain to my children. “It is that simple.”
And it really is.
But a lot of people never got that memo.
As flawed as I am, and we are all flawed, this was something instilled in me as a child and something I’ve prioritised with my family. But integrity is quickly going out of fashion and it is starting to show.
Too many politicians are now focused on serving just themselves. Too many sales people over promise and under deliver. Acts of dishonesty are twisted and spun into ‘valid’ reasons why the end justified the lack of integrity.
Click farms, buying likes, fake news, dishonest marketing, distorting crime figures, spinning the housing crisis, distancing oneself from a scandal. Where are the people standing up to do the right thing for no other reason than it is the right thing to do? Even if they get caught in the eye of the storm.
This week, an Irish media group was mired in controversy after what the company itself described as an “audience delivery incident” two years ago. It is reported that the listenership figures on some sponsored content were artificially inflated by use of a ‘click farm’.
But the comments on social media that followed this news were what intrigued the most. The lack of surprise that this can happen. “They are all at it,” wrote one person on Twitter with apparent nonchalance. “It is all an illusion.” The expectation that we have become immune to dishonourable things, that they’ve become commonplace and therefore acceptable.
And so begins a normalisation surrounding the lack of integrity that abounds.
You can’t sit astride such an important fence and talk out both sides of your mouth.
Yes, but no, but …
“I’m supporting the local community, but I’m not against welcoming the asylum seekers,” explained one politician to us recently as I wrote an article on the rejection of the 13 women seeking asylum in Achill last month. But here’s the thing, you can’t have it both ways.
If you are for everything, you are for nothing. You can’t sit astride such an important fence and talk out both sides of your mouth. You may ensure you never say anything ‘wrong’ if you do, but you are definitely putting your role in the public eye to poor use.
I hold no moral superiority. In fact, I hold those public representatives to an even higher standard than the rest of us. It is their actions that affect the lives of so many.
Doing the honourable thing is a dying art. When’s the last time you heard a politician resigning over something negative they had a part in? They cling on, twisting and skewing the narrative, blaming others, passing the buck until we get so tired of it all, we accept that shreds of integrity are maybe just not part of our political landscape.
Integrity is courage, honesty, respect and responsibility. It is understanding the moral lines you chose to draw in the sand and sticking to those principals at all costs.
The MO of those in power seems to be cheating the system to make sure they do the wrong thing when nobody is looking. Trump leans on foreign powers to self serve, Boris Johnston says one thing and does the opposite, certain influencers distort and skew and filter and mislead, Facebook and Google quietly horde our information, the elderly die waiting for a hospital bed because nobody will take responsibility for the problems, nobody will stand up and say ‘this isn’t good enough, let’s not accept this’.
“We need to teach our children to be courageous, to stand up for what’s right”
And then a glimmer of something.
FG’s Kate O’Connell this week ‘lobbed a grenade’ at the Taoiseach. She admitted to a Dáil health committee that she was embarrassed to witness the overflowing A&E in Crumlin Children’s Hospital when she attended at the weekend with her sick child.
She said she hoped nobody would recognise her as a TD. She stood up and said it wasn’t good enough despite her position and that of her party.
Maverick, maybe. Duty? Rookie mistake? The cynical amongst us will point out that nothing gets done until it directly affects those in power. Until they experience the problems first-hand.
But in order for integrity to survive in our society we need to teach our children to be courageous, to stand up for what’s right, not what is popular or what is ‘cool’. That’s the first lesson in avoiding peer pressure that we learn in the playground as children.
We also need to take personal responsibility for how we interact with the world. What we call out and what we ignore.
Poor leadership is currently masked by those with the loudest voices and strongest opinions.
Former First-lady in the US, Eleanor Roosevelt encouraged us to “do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticised anyway”.
There is always room for integrity, no matter how quiet or how late in the day that may come.
Image via Unsplash.com
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