I have been sort of discouraged lately observing the way things are going in our world. Maybe that’s because I am of a “certain age.”
I was raised in a home where we were taught to say what we meant and then we prepared ourselves for the consequences, whatever they might be. My husband and I tried to do that with our own family, and I know many of us do. I think that today, though, too many people say things they don’t mean, which is another way of saying that they say things they do not believe or that they know are wrong. This can be found both in a public forum and in private conversation.
And they don’t seem to care about the negative consequences of their words because they are fairly confident there won’t be any! That often proves to be the case, sadly. What I find disconcerting is that our society seems very willing to accept insincerity when it is expressed to us; sometimes it’s as if it is an expected manner of communicating.
This has become so prevalent a phenomenon — the dishonest remarks barely acknowledged by a cynical audience — one wonders how this came to be. It was not the norm not so very long ago. At least, it doesn’t seem that long ago to this middle-aged grandma.
Cynicism produces a lot of other negatives, the worst being that when a man or woman of integrity makes a sincere statement or speech they are doubted or dismissed, and it is assumed by the cynical crowd that this person cannot really mean what they are saying. Too often, others assume the honest remarks could not possibly be authentic because, who does such a thing? The person of integrity is thought to be disingenuous because ‘everybody’ seems to be.
I’m not sure when integrity became such a disposable quality in our society, but it seems not to matter anymore to very many people. It seems to be accepted by many that you can say anything you like if it is to your own advantage. Too many people, sadly, seem to “understand” when someone does that. There are, of course, still a lot of people who are disappointed, frustrated and even outraged by this lack of integrity.
Let’s hope the latter group is the victor in this struggle, because character does matter. Each person should be “as good” as his or her word. We all need someone we not only believe, but someone we can believe in. That’s someone we can root for, someone we can stand behind and respect. We should not accept less than anyone’s best self. How can you tell if someone is a person of integrity? It’s simple: their actions must match their words. And those words should encourage and inspire and they should not be self-serving.
Of course, it’s vital to be a person of integrity yourself. A person’s life should mirror the words they utter. Stand up for others who cannot defend themselves, protect those who are weak and vulnerable, give to those in need, speak honestly and with the courage of your convictions. You can only do this last thing when you know what you believe, by the way. We should all take some time to figure that out. It is a trite but true phrase — we can “be the change we want to see in the world.”
We can instill this idea in our children. We can also teach them to expect and encourage — and then respect — integrity in others. We can all look to those people who will choose the harder right over the easier wrong and strive to do the same. We can do it and, the more of us who do, the fewer people who lack integrity there will be — in every sphere of our society.
I don’t know; maybe I’ve just turned into a fussy old lady, but I yearn for a day when ours is a culture of integrity instead of a culture of cynicism. I want us to be people who care about one another and about our own character as well as that of our fellow citizens. Maybe that’s true, but Integrity is the “I” in the Army’s core values acronym. LDRSHIP: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honesty, Integrity, Personal Courage. That is a great group of attributes to which we all can aspire.
Lynda MacFarland is the wife of the III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general. She is a proud Army wife, mom and advocate for military families.