The word integrity has been a common theme for me this month. For me, integrity simply translates to: ‘being who I say I am and doing what I say I’ll do’. This means that if I value arriving on time for meetings, then I’ll be there at the agreed time. If I am telling the world ‘I am a kind person’, then it only goes to say that it is a rare thing for me to be intentionally unkind. Integrity also follows the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you want respect, be respectful; if you want honesty, be honest; if you want friendship, be friendly; if you want kindness from others, be kind to others. It’s pretty simple, really.
Sometimes, however, our integrity can be a little slippery and we can feel a bit of a ‘tit for tat’ when someone treats us unkindly or inconsiderately. I witness this in traffic all the time. A driver lets in someone into their line of traffic with a friendly wave or flash of their lights that says, ‘after you’. We want this act of kindness acknowledged, so if we aren’t thanked with a reciprocal wave of thanks, we say ‘that’s it! I’m not letting anyone else in!’. So by living in our integrity and being kind to another driver it then becomes apparent that this kindness is conditional. My tip for this frustration is to just keep letting drivers into the busy traffic until you do get a wave! By being close-fisted about being kind and courteous toward other drivers, be who you say you’ll be and if this is kindness, or generosity, or compassion, you are living out of integrity with yourself.
Traffic is a good metaphor for life, I think, and I’ve come up against this three times recently. The first time was when I opened my car door too enthusiastically and hit the handle of the car door next to me, leaving a mark. My first thought was ‘Oh no! I hope nobody saw that. How stupid of me!’ My second thought was ‘If nobody saw me, then maybe it didn’t happen?’ (if a tree falls…). But just as quickly I knew I had to fess up and leave a note for the driver, apologising and giving them my contact details. After all, I get really annoyed when I find bumps and scratches on my car that someone has done and left no name or contact number. So I did: I wrote a small note apologising, along with my details. I was so nervous when I came back to my car, wondering if the person was waiting for me to berate me for my carelessness. But no. The car was still there, along with my note. I spent the next few days worrying each time the phone rang it would be to an earful of tirade for my marking their door handle. But no such phone call came. Perhaps the mark just rubbed off, and it was no big deal? Or perhaps the person appreciated my honesty and decided not to pursue the matter.
My next incident was in full public view, when I misjudged the width of my car, after lazily relying on sensors to beep if I was too close, and which obviously weren’t working. It was loud, this one. Metal on metal (or is that plastic on plastic? Panels are so flimsy these days.) I must admit a few profanities left my mouth as I leant over in my car to see the damage. It didn’t look good. This person wouldn’t be happy, of this I’m sure. So out came the notebook, another shaky note of apology with my contact details.
As I was walking towards the shop, an elderly man who had seen the whole thing happened to call me over. I was expecting a berating or at least some criticism for my poor driving. But the man simply said ‘Good to see someone doing the right thing, leaving your details like that for the bloke’. I told the man that I wouldn’t do anything but the right thing – especially as I know how it feels to come back to a car that has mysteriously been scraped or scratched by an anonymous person.
When I came out of the shop the car was gone. I was nervous. The car I’d knocked looked like a tradie’s car: a shiny new ute and a personalised blokey sounding number plate. I was sure to cop an earful from this man. As I started my car, I noticed my hands were still shaking. A minute or so later my phone rang. For an instant I thought of letting it go to voice mail, but decided to be brave and cop the consequences.
It turned out that this man was flabbergasted and appreciative that I’d left my details, and accepted my apology with grace and good humour. Our insurance companies would take care of the rest. Such relief!
Instances such as this one is where my integrity lies. I could have easily left both cars with their damage ‘because that’s what others have done to me’. But because I want to be treated by others as I would treat them, it only makes sense for me to do so.
The third incident was to my own car by an anonymous driver. Something had been scraped along the bumper bar, taking the duco off. And no, there was no note of apology. I went straight to ‘it’s not fair that I do the right and good thing and others don’t!’ But that’s not the point, and is no reason for me to stop being who I am.
So the question is: ‘Where’s your integrity?’ Is it high, low, or middling? Is it slippery and elusive? Is it fixed and sure?
Be who you’ll say you’ll be in the world and do what you say you’ll do. The world will be a better place for it.