I am sure folks have heard the Roman army tradition of morning inspections. The legionaries would line up one by one for inspection by the centurion. The legionnaire would strike his breastplate over his heart and proclaim “integritas”. This would signify his allegiance to the republic, the unit and a code of ideals. The centurion would listen carefully for the sharp ring signifying his well kept armor. I haven’t been able to find historical verification of this claim, but even if it is myth we still practice the gesture in today’s military.
The thing about integrity is it rings even when nobody is around. You don’t need validation to do the right thing, it is the product of doing the right thing. You do the right thing, not for fame or recognition, but because it was the right thing to do. You do the right thing when it’s inconvenient, unpopular or even dangerous. To set aside personal interest and benefit may seem so counter to today’s atmosphere, but think back to WW1 and the legend himself; Sgt. Alvin York. He came back to the states a hero and was showered with opportunities, but he decided to turn them down and his reason was rather frank; it was his duty.
I’m not saying you must put yourself in grave mortal danger to have integrity. They come in all shapes and sizes, but like anything we are creatures of habit and when your habit is to do the right thing, then it is a part of your makeup, your character. The great philosopher Aristotle summed it up “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Right now we are faced with some really tough times and they will not get any easier. The only path out of this mess is to set the example for others to follow, to live with integrity and do the right thing. Make no mistake, I’m no angel and I have made plenty of mistakes in my life. The ones I regret the most, were the ones that deep down I knew were suspect, yet I either didn’t do anything to change or flat our made the wrong decision. Sometimes the right thing is a piece of cake and somethings they are not easy or convenient, but large and small they are each important because they represent your character.
This morning on the way to dropping off the kids at school we hit some traffic. It slowed to a crawl at times and I was adjacent to a lady whose vehicle was adorned with just about every sticker supporting the current administration. Nothing really out of the ordinary was happening except as we started to move forward I watched as she tossed a cigarette out the window. My son saw it and asked, what else was I to say. After being ravaged by fires not more than a few summers ago this person felt it was no big deal to toss her cigarette out.
The greatest gift we can pass down to our children is to set the example for them to follow, to everyday strike our metaphorical breastplate and proclaim integritas in our actions.