Sunday, March 30, 2008

Personal integrity

Are you honest in your dealings with your fellow man? I ask myself this question many times every day.

I was indoctrinated in the ethics of honesty from an early age. I internalized the principles of honesty and integrity promoted by the Boy Scouts program, embodied in the tenets of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

Though my experience with the world has tempered my naive idealism, I still firmly believe in these fundamental values.

Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scout Law


“Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure that there is one less scoundrel in the world.” —Thomas Carlyle

Someone asked me if I believe that following the principles of Scouting makes me better than those who do not. I had to think a while for a reply, perhaps because it seemed to suggest that such ideals contribute to feelings of superiority or elitism. I was taken aback at that thought.

My sense is that the ideal of personal integrity is something intrinsic, against which I measure myself. Integrity, as far as I can determine, offers no standard by which I can or ought to compare myself to others. I cannot know what is in another person's heart -- indeed, difficult enough to discern what kind of stuff makes up my own nature and character.

These internal rules provide metrics by which I can more objectively determine my own standing. This helps spell out to me how much I am worth as a person. It is a fixed standard by which to help me judge my own performance as I wander through my life.

No comments: