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Many months ago, I wrote an article for Firehouse magazine about my personal plan for the future. One part of that plan involved the creation of a personal integrity statement. The purpose of this statement is to guide my actions as I live my life here on God's Green Earth.
In order to prepare for the creation of my personal integrity statement, I have read a number of different commentaries on the concept of personal integrity statements. In addition I have reflected upon the many and varied lessons which I believe that the living of life has taught me. Each of us is a compilation of what we have done and what we have learned.
There are a couple of thoughts which seem to stand out, regardless of the source:
· Stick with the truth
· You must be able to look people in the eye and tell them the truth
· What you as an individual have seen to be the truth, is for you the beginning point in the living of your life
Hubbard (2009) summed this up quite well when he stated that, "…Personal integrity is knowing what you know. What you know is what you know. And to have the courage to know and say what you have observed. And that is integrity. And there is no other integrity" (Tips for Success.org. 2009).
I have lived life for the past 62 years and have seen and experienced much. As I have lived my life, I have developed a couple of simple definitions to guide me on my journey. These are as follows:
· Honesty is doing the right thing.
· Integrity involves doing the right thing when no one is watching.
There are a number of things which I believe have come my way from this living of life. I have observed that none of us can control what people say or think about us. This is a tough thing to learn, but it is a concept which you must take to heart. In addition, you cannot control decisions which other people make. You can't control the tactics of your foes and you can't control any aspect of the environment wherein you live your life, except for your reaction to it. And of course, you have no control over the effects of weather.
One item which people frequently overlook involves the issue of perceptions. I have often heard the age-old statement that perception can become reality. It is for this reason that the telling of the truth must lie at the rock solid bottom of any personal value statement. If you are perceived as a liar, that will become the reality of your existence. Each statement you make must be accepted as the truth. If you build a reputation based upon the truth, integrity cannot help but follow.
Many have been the times where the telling of the truth has gotten me into a real bind. But I guess I would not have it any other way. However, I learned an important lesson from my wife Jackie early in our married life. She used to tell me that there was no sense for me to try to lie to her. She said that there was a red light which lit up on my forehead when I tried to lie. No one else ever told me that they could see it, but it was sufficient for me that she could. This has served as a stabilizing influence in my life for nearly 38 years.
There is another part to this. If someone suddenly confronts you and asks you a serious question, the normal reaction is for the truth to spring forth from your lips. Therefore you should stick with the truth. Imagine how hard it is to find the truth as you differentiate among those people with whom you have shared a different version of what constitutes the truth with each different person or group of people. Rather than dancing around grasping for the right story, just stick with the truth.
So what then are the parts of my personal integrity statement? Here goes:
My faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will serve as the solid rock which forms the foundation of my very being. It is my intention to live according to the tenets of the Golden Rule. My priorities are simple:
· Fire Service
· All of the rest of the stuff
In the living of life, it is my intention to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. I do not like people who lie to me, so I shall not lie to them. I do not like it when people get angry with me, so I shall work to live my life in a patient manner.
I do not like it when people make promises and fail to keep them, so I shall only make such promises that it is my intention to keep. I do not like it when people fail to listen to me, so I shall work hard to listen to what others are saying to me. I know that I have hearing problems however I do not want to make things worse with my well-known listening problems.
My word is my bond. If I tell you that I am going to do something, rest assured that it will be done. However, be warned, I am a procrastinator. I shall work hard to overcome this. I may not get it done right away, but I will get it done for you. This is another problem that I have been fighting all of my life. In my search to be an upright man, I shall continue to work on it.
I want to stress that integrity is a skill. It can be learned. It is best learned within the nurturing environment controlled by a skilled mentor who can model the necessary behaviors. In some people the lesson is learning quickly, while in others it requires a life-long commitment and the attention of friends and co-workers.
It is my intention to master these skills and then model them for members of the American Fire Service. In this way, I can do some good with my statement of personal integrity. Please hold me to my promise.