Earlier this morning, I asked a friend who I work with a question about an incident that happened a few days ago with one of his students. My friend got heated, argumentative, and shouted that I had no right to question his integrity. (Afterward, he realized that he was wrong with this incident and came back a few hours later to apologize.)
But all day, I was thinking about what he said. His comment was that I questioned his integrity. I wondered if he really understood what the word meant.
What Exactly Is Integrity?
Make sure you have the correct definition of the word integrity, at least as it pertains to manhood. Most people hear the word integrity and they automatically associate it with a sense of honesty or a moral and upright character. The truth is that those are actually possible displays of integrity, but that is not what integrity actually is.
Integrity comes from the same root word as integral or integer. It all harkens back to the Latin word for “whole”. In terms of masculinity, having integrity means that a man is operating in wholeness. In other words, his thoughts, words, and deeds are in total agreement. You are a man of integrity if the ways in which you think of yourself correspond with how you speak of yourself, as well as how you behave. You are a man of integrity in your marriage if the ways in which you think of your wife correspond with how you speak of your wife (in and out of her presence), as well as how you act toward your wife (also, in and out of her presence). The same is true in dealing with customers at work, in raising children, or in interacting with anyone casually throughout your day.
Integrity means that all parts of you are in alignment.
Yes, even some criminals can behave with integrity if their actions, words, and thoughts about themselves are aligned. In algebra, an integer is a whole number, regardless of whether it is positive or negative. In life, the integral man is a whole person, also regardless of whether he is positive or negative.
The more you think about it, how often do all parts of yourself truly align? Think of the things you find yourself doing on a daily basis:
- Do you think of yourself as a man or a guy?
- Are you usually late to classes or appointments?
- Do you procrastinate?
- Do you find yourself arguing about petty inconsequential things?
- Are you caught up chasing material things without substance?
- Do you receive more help than you give?
If you do any of these things, that’s okay. Trust me, it’s okay…as long as you don’t pretend to others that you are the opposite. You cannot convince your boss, for example, that you’re responsible if you are constantly late to work. You cannot tell women how much of a man you are if you’re constantly squabbling with them over petty stuff? You can’t work on getting out of debt if you’re constantly spending frivolously with credit cards. Your financial plan wouldn’t match your financial habits.
That’s why integrity is the cornerstone for all the other lessons you’ll learn in life.
How to Integrate Thoughts, Words, and Deeds
I know how much of a struggle it is to consciously be aware of all these different parts of your life. You’ll drive yourself nuts trying to monitor every little area of your daily existence.
That’s why the key is to focus on the foundational parts of yourself.
Wayne Levine, the director of the West Coast Men’s Center in southern California, is also the author of a relationship book for men called Hold on to Your NUTs. It’s a very good book that caters mostly to men in marriages and long-term committed relationships. The key to his book is the acronym NUTs which he defines as Non-negotiable Unalterable Terms. These are the essential things about yourself that make up your core. These are the things that serve as the foundation upon which your life is built.
You want to be a man of integrity. But instead of constantly worrying about trying to align every little detail of your life, just focus on the four or five things that make up the core of the man you want to eventually become.
For this week, your mission is to name your NUTs.
Before this week is over, you need to sit down and write out the things that make up the core of the man you would like to be. These may be hard to write if you’ve never thought about this stuff before, so I’ll show you my NUTs. (I just heard how that sounded. What I mean is here’s my list of Non-negotiable Unalterable Terms):
- I ask no one for permission.
- I value honesty, and do not tolerate dishonesty (from others or myself).
- I speak my mind in spite of (and sometimes because of) potential confrontation.
- I do not tolerate anyone’s attempts to belittle or disrespect me.
- I honor and protect my free time, my free space, and my free speech.
- I exercise at least 3 days per week and no one interferes with my gym time.
- I read daily…uninterrupted.
- I actively play with my sons at least once per week.
Notice a few things about my NUTs. I did not write every little area of my life on the list. It doesn’t mean that my wife or my job or my friends are unimportant to me. They are. But my list is my list. These are the things I am working on at the moment. It’s a work in progress. When they become so automatic within me that I don’t think about them anymore, then I’ll revise my list.
That’s the beautiful thing about this…your NUTs get bigger over time.
You may also notice that the some of the NUTs on my list are internal types of things, while others are external habits I’m working on. Get specific with your NUTs and make some of them internal and some of them external habits.