Sep 15, 2014

On the Meaning of Integrity (part 1)

A friend and I tried to come up with a definition for "integrity."

I looked it up and the first definition I saw for integrity was:
the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. 
But honesty is honesty.  I think integrity is something different, deeper.  More about strong moral principles.  More about going lifnim mi'shuras ha'din, beyond the letter of the law.

The second definition I saw was:
the state of being whole and undivided.
but it is used like this: "upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty"
Another definition:
Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. 
Another definition: The choice of what is right rather than what is convenient; choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than on personal gain.
How about this story:
Someone came to Rav Safra (of the Talmud) when he was saying Krias Shema, wanting to buy something from him. He offered to buy it for a certain amount of money and Rav Safra didn't answer (since he was in the middle of Krias Shema).  The person thought that he wanted more money for it, so he offered to buy it at a higher price. When Rav Safra finished Krias Shema he told the person to buy it at the price he said originally since that is the price that he had in mind to sell it.

I think that would illustrate integrity.  He could have taken the higher price.  It wasn't exactly about honesty, but there was an element of honesty here.  In his mind the initial offer was fine and therefore, just because he couldn't say so and the man upped the price, was not a reason for him to accept the higher price.  It was a moral issue for him.  Being a man of principle he stuck to the first offer.

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