While thinking about the word “integrity” I considered the many different meanings of the word.
There is the integrity of an object, such as a chair, where we are talking about whether or not it can do the job it is meant to do, such as bear the weight of the person sitting in it.
There is the integrity of a business, and whether or not we can trust the product it is selling or their guarantees about it.
There is the integrity of words spoken or written, and whether or not we can believe they are the truth.
And there is the integrity of a human, which encompasses all of these meanings and a bit more. Do we believe they will be able to do the job? Can we trust what it is they are making or doing in their lives? Are we able to believe their words?
But all of this still doesn’t really get into the meat of what the word integrity means to me, and so I thought that perhaps the best way to really think about what integrity means is to find some examples of it.
So I present to you:
three “Integrity Takeaways” from people in my life.
Andy Hill & Renee Safier have had a career as professional musicians playing in venues all over the US, but mainly in the LA area, for a long time. For many years now with every show they’ve done they’ve contributed a portion of their earnings to the Los Angeles Midnight Mission, helping the homeless in their community. This, in itself, shows a wonderful depth of integrity already. But they’ve gone one step further.
During this Covid crisis, their entire income stream suddenly stopped, literally overnight. As with most independent live performing artists, there’s been no other ways to work, and they had no government help or unemployment at first. The little that was finally offered, months into the lockdown, at least in California, is not enough for anyone to live on.
They had to think quickly in order to find a new way to create some kind of revenue, and began to do live online home concerts twice a week from their garage on Facebook and YouTube. These concerts are free, donation and tips only. Though it has helped, the income they generate does not nearly make up for all they’ve lost. These times are very difficult for all independent contractors and performers.
And yet… here’s the kicker. They still give a portion of their proceeds to the Los Angeles Midnight Mission. Even if it’s just a few dollars – right now, during one of the most difficult economic times in recent history, they donate.
They committed to giving to those less fortunate than themselves years ago, and despite being in a tight situation now, they continue to give because it’s the right thing to do.
Integrity Take-Away #1:
Keep Your Commitments
There was a time a year ago or so when my husband, who is not only a musician but a teacher for LAUSD, was heading into school early in the morning to start the day. As he arrived, he got a text from another teacher telling him there was a possible active shooter on the school grounds, and the police were there.
He could have turned around and headed home in that moment. He hadn’t officially arrived or checked in yet. But his first thought was not for himself. His first thought was that he needed to head into his classroom immediately and be with his students who may have gotten to school early. His first thought was to protect those whom he had under his charge that day.
Which is what he did. He went into the classroom, he coordinated with the police and faculty, and he made sure he and his students did what was needed to stay safe. As it turned out, the shooter was not on campus that day but just in the general area, and thankfully was not targeting the school. The police captured the person, the school was taken off of lockdown, and my husband (thank everything in the universe) came home to me that day.
When he got home I asked him why he didn’t just turn around and come home as soon as he got that text, wouldn’t it have helped the police not to have one more potential victim on campus?
No, he told me, that wasn’t his responsibility. It wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. His responsibility was to those kids, and that’s what he had to take care of first. They needed him there even if it was simply to calm them. He knew his life could have been in danger. But that wasn’t the consideration. The consideration was for those to whom he was responsible.
He has always taken care of his responsibilities and those for whom he’s responsible first, because that’s just the kind of man he is.
Integrity Take-Away #2:
Know Your Responsibilities, and Take Care of Them
My friend Alison, who is the editor and co-founder of insidewink.com, also happens to be an excellent award-winning actor. She’s a wife and a mother, and overall a busy lady. During the founding and building of this website, I knew she was bouncing from one audition to the other, actively performing in plays, writing, directing… she had a lot on her plate. But as the website was built and became active, it also became obvious someone needed to take on the work of keeping it going.
Despite her already busy schedule, Alison took on more and more of the activity of creating and editing the content for this website. She did it willingly and with a smile, and despite many frustrations as she learned entirely new things about building and maintaining a web page, she did it gladly. It was not easy, especially at the beginning, yet she dug in and put many hours into making it happen.
It was at this time that Jean was also going through the initial stages of finding out about and dealing with her husband Alex’s cancer. I realized as I watched their friendship and listened to how they interacted, that this was Alison’s gift to Jean, to help her create this dream and bring it into a reality. That she was doing this work not so much for herself, but for her friend, whom she loves so very much. It was her way of being there for Jean when Jean needed her.
Now, Alison also had a vision for the website of her own, she also had a dream she wanted to accomplish, she was certainly also doing this for herself as much as Jean. And that helped her to step into the roles she did, it wasn’t like she was denying herself or doing this only from altruism. She was excited to create this project together with her friend, and was enthusiastically willing to work toward their mutual goals together. She was working from a place of truth, not martyrdom; she really did (and does) want to participate in actively creating this website. And so she was honoring herself as much as Jean.
But whether Alison recognized it or not, the way she stepped in and took on the responsibility of a project to help out her friend, while also pursuing her own dreams, was not only an act of integrity but of deep love, and I respect her for it greatly.
Integrity Take-Away #3:
Be There For Others, And For Yourself
Now, none of these examples were done for recognition or reward. In fact all were done quietly, simply, in silence. All were done from the soul.
Every one of these people did these things because, well, it was the right thing to do, and they’d committed to doing it, and they felt it was their responsibility, and they wanted to help… and they loved those they were helping. And so it was done.
All of these people did these things – and are doing these things – because it is a part of who they are, it is part of what makes up their being, it is an integral piece of their make-up. Integral… as in, integrated into their whole.
These small acts are the roots from which their entire tree grows. And you can see it as you look up into the branches of their lives and realize it doesn’t stop there. That beautiful strength goes all the way to the top.
Which leads me to one more Integrity Take-Away:
Integrity Take-Away #4:
It’s in the little things that the larger parts of our personality are created and held.
Start there, and you will grow strong in your integrity.
By JEANETTE DUBOIS
Jeanette is a film & tv editor, writer, director and producer who’s worked on Emmy & Telly Award winning shows, movies, and music videos for a variety of networks. She’s also a trained operatic who mostly sings to her cats now, though sometimes she expands her audience to her family & friends. She loves gardening, good books, good wine, and good conversations, preferably all at the same time.
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