Friday, March 20, 2015

Traditional integrity is the key to success

Thoughts may come and go, but integrity is forever:
Through most of history, morals were set forth by society, religions or cultures.  They were etched in stone -- like the ten commandments -- and it was expected of you to follow these morals.

If you did, you were considered to be a person of high integrity.  In this case you were respected and adored.

If you did not, you were considered to be a person of low integrity, and you were considered to be an immoral person. In this case you were disrespected and disgraced.

Jonah Goldberg, editor-at-large for National Review, wrote an excellent article about integrity recently called "Empty Integrity" that appears in the November 17, 2014, issue of National Review. He described the definition of integrity has been conveniently changed by some in our society so that it no longer holds any meaning.

By providing the traditional and modern definitions of integrity we can best understand how the term has evolved to become, as Goldberg said, essentially empty integrity.

Traditional Integrity:  It's a person who follows the moral code. As I wrote in a previous post, morals are etched in stone, and are handed down from generation to generation. A good example is the Ten Commandments: I will not steel, I will not commit adultery, I will not lie, etc. It's a person who is virtuous, honest, trustworthy, fair, and sincere. It's not just doing the right thing, it's wanting to do the right thing. Key to note here that a person with integrity cannot be corrupted. An example Goldberg gives is George Washington: "I cannot tell a lie."

A good example, one that I give and not Goldberg, is Bill Clinton. He was in the oval office and was approached by a good looking female intern. She seduced him, or he seduced her, and she ended up giving him a blowjob. By the traditional sense of integrity, this was an immoral act that a person with integrity would not do. Clinton may have been taught Christian morals, but he failed to act upon them. He became corrupted. He therefore became disrespected and disgraced, as least by those who follow the traditional definition of integrity, as most people still do.

After God, Goldberg said, the exemplars of integrity are the Angels. Because of free will, most humans cannot have perfect integrity, and the ones who become the closest were referred to as Knights in the middle ages, or as heroes in the modern sense. In this sense, people with high integrity are people who put God before nation and nation before themselves. They put other people first, and themselves second. In other words, they have their priorities in the right order. So the exemplars of traditional integrity would justly be called heroes.

Traditional integrity, for most of history, was the only kind of integrity.  It was the desire to follow the moral code, to create a set of values based on this moral code, and to willfully act on this moral code.

However, there are those in society today who have created a new definition of integrity.

Modern Integrity:  Because of free will, man may fall short of traditional integrity, and therefore morals should be determined by each person. Since morals are created by the individual, morals and values would essentially be the same thing.  So, in this sense, when you see people referring to morals and values as one and the same, you know you are talking to someone who champions for this modern definition of integrity.

So, while heroes may, in the traditional sense, refer to people who did good out of the desire to do good.  But by the modern definition, if morals can change from one person to another, even a person who did bad could be considered a person of high integrity so long as he was following the moral code he created for himself.  So, by this modern definition, what Bill Clinton did was not bad because he was following his own moral code. He was doing what he thought was good for himself.

In this sense, so long as he was following his own moral code, any bad person could be considered a person with integrity.  He is a person who is consistent, true to himself, and loyal to himself,  The problem with this type of integrity is that it may lead the slippery slope that is caused by love of self over love of team.

Goldberg uses Walter White, the main character in the television program "Breaking Bad" as a good example here.  He said:
White was a chemistry teacher–turned–drug kingpin and mass murderer. The show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, explained that the idea for the show was to turn “Mr. Chips into Scarface.” Gilligan succeeded, but not before he seduced and corrupted the viewing audience, too: By the time the story ended, fans no longer minded that Walter White had become a homicidal drug dealer. They rooted for him anyway.
Another example he gives is the television program "Dexter."  He said:
Then there’s the series Dexter, in which an avowed psychopath/serial killer adheres to an ethical code that he actually labels “The Code.” It’s his personal rulebook, which says that it’s okay to murder — with psychosexual delight, even — so long as the people you are murdering are also murderers. That might sound like a modern adaptation of old-school morality, except it doesn’t take long for Dexter to cut himself some slack and start killing innocent-but-inconvenient people as well.
So you can see that some people have changed the definition of integrity in order to justify what used to be considered immoral actions, such as getting a divorce, or having sex in the oval office when you are president of the United States and married.  By the new definition, such behaviors are okay and not out of the ordinary. Such actions are acceptable so long as that person was being true to himself.

Yet it doesn't take a genius to realize that this new definition is not conducive to a functioning society, as each person would simply decide for himself what was right and what was wrong.  You would have no stability in this world, as people would take actions based on their own selfish desires.

The founding fathers (as we know from their own writings, Merri) endorsed Christianity because they yearned for traditional integrity, whereby an unchanging moral code was inculcated into the minds of children, who were trained to willfully act in a manner that was in compliance with that code.  In this way, Americans would continue to place their priorities in the right order, and would be less likely to sacrifice for selfish gain.