Integrity is the core character trait for the month of February. Vital to society and business, integrity prevents corruptions. A person of integrity is not just a trustworthy friend, but a valuable employee and leader. Words, deeds and actions show whether someone is genuinely an individual of integrity.

What is Integrity?

Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished; doing what you say you will do.

Where does the word come from?

Word etymology:  Integrity comes from the Latin integritatem, which means “soundness, wholeness, completeness,” or figuratively “purity, correctness, blamelessness,” and from the Latin integer, which means “whole.” It also derives from the Old French integrité, which means “innocence, blamelessness; chastity, purity.” The mid-15th Century meaning is a sense of “wholeness, perfect condition.”

Integrity in Action: Abraham Lincoln

Abraham_Lincoln_O-77_matte_collodion_printFamous for his house divided speech, Abraham Lincoln was a man who valued both his own integrity and the integrity of the country. He was a firm believer in the founding principles that, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” He understood the compromise the founding fathers made over slavery for the preservation of the union. However, as he lays out in his house divided speech, through recent court cases and legislation, all states were on the verge of all becoming slave states.

This greatly concerned Lincoln because he believed slavery conflicted with the founding principles and with the conscience of many citizens. He saw the country as broken, and not just broken over a minor legal issue, but over a moral issue. This lack of moral integrity in the nation’s laws posed a great threat to liberty.

While Lincoln was a practical man, his conscience told him it was not the time for compromise. The same integrity that drove him in small matters strengthened his resolve as president. From walking three miles to return six cents he had overcharged a customer to working for fifteen years to repay the debt he and a partner accumulated when their New Salem store went bankrupt, Honest Abe committed himself to doing right even when no one would notice. His sincerity and dedication to doing what is right is now recognized by many.

When Stephen A. Douglas heard Lincoln would be running against him for the senate, he said, “I shall have my hands full. He is the strong man of his party – full of wit, facts, and dates – and the best stump speaker, with his droll ways and dry jokes, in the West. He is as honest as he is shrewd, and if I beat him my victory will be hardly won.”

A man of honesty who always sought to do what is right and proper, Lincoln faced a difficult situation with the nation on the brink of war. He chose to fight for the principles at the heart of the nation when compromise was no longer practical. His actions helped restore the integrity of the nation.

Quotes From Abraham Lincoln

I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my very best each and every day.” – Lincoln

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.” – Lincoln

The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.” – Lincoln

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Lincoln

Discussion Questions

  • Lincoln strove to protect the integrity of the nation. How did slavery undermine the nation’s integrity?
  • Should Lincoln have compromised in order to avoid a civil war?
  • Compromise is considered a necessary part of politics. Are there principles that should not be compromised?
  • Integrity is often described as wholeness. Does this mean that a person of integrity also possesses the other core character virtues? Which virtues are necessary for integrity? Which virtues are a result of integrity?
  • How are people of integrity good for society? How do dishonest people and businesses hurt a society? What kinds of crimes result from a lack of integrity.
  • How can you practice integrity? When is it hard to be a person of integrity?
  • Who are people you know who have demonstrated integrity? Do you respect them?
  • How will having a reputation for integrity help you in your career and personal life?

Resources


  1. Click to read about Wisdom, the character trait of September.
  2. Click to read about Justice, the character trait of October.
  3. Click to read about Endurance, the character trait of November.
  4. Click to read about Self-Control, the character trait of December.
  5. Click to read about Love, the character trait of January.
  6. Click to read about Determination, the character trait of March.
  7. Click to read about Gratefulness, character trait of April.
  8. Click to read about Humility, character trait of May.

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