Let’s start from this angle. The Book of Job in the bible is very…interesting.
One of the most interesting actually, in part due to the philosophical questions it raises.
Here’s a summary.
Job = super good guy, very rich, happy family etcetera etcetera. Satan to God = Job is only faithful to you because he’s a lucky bastard with a lot of stuff. God makes a “pact” with Satan to test Job’s faith. Satan tests Job. Job loses riches, children die, gets incredibly sick etcetera etcetera. Wife and friends condemn him, tell him to repent his sins i.e., sinning = cause of suffering. Job questions God. Remains faithful despite pain and suffering. God rewards him at the end. Kids, double wealth, etcetera etcetera. Happy days.
A humiliating summary…work with what you have.
Analyzed by Jung (see Answer to Job) and others, many have proposed theories on what the book insinuates about suffering. The main question being, “why does a fair and just God allow an honest and faithful man to experience such devastating episodes in his life, even leading him to the brink of death?”
It’s a question that goes through the mind of many trying to prove or disprove the existence of God.
And while I have an idea or two, as a toddler in the world of philosophy, I’m not going to try to answer that. And if you think this post is about religion, I’m going to ask you to please put down your flaming rosary. Or your copy of The God Delusion. Or if you’re on the fence, your crystals? Psychedelics? Meditation cushion? Whatever you kids are into these days.
Aside from suffering and several other issues, the story of Job is a perfect depiction of a value you might think you possess, but one where in real life it’s like you’re pushing a boulder up a hill. Except it keeps rolling down over and over again. Sometimes smashing you on the way down. Thank God this is only hypothetical. You could’ve been dead by now.
On Bed Sheets and Gravity
Imagine this scenario.
You and your significant other have a reservation at a hotel. You get there and the guy at the front desk tells you there are no rooms available. It’s not his fault, people just didn’t check out at the designated time. Keep in mind that this is a small unfamiliar town and after making some calls, he finds out that every other hotel is packed. Talk about the birth of Christ.
To make up for this mix-up, he asks you to follow him to a small dining room.
Along the way, he’s making some phone calls. Talking about sheets and pillows and stuff. When you get there, he starts moving the tables and chairs on one side. It’s now about 11:00 pm. Some minutes later, a crew of about 6 people comes in with cots and beddings. They start setting up the place. It doesn’t take you long to realize they’re turning it into a bedroom of sorts.
You’re mesmerized. If you didn’t urgently need a place to sleep, you might even have told them to stop and explain that it’s not necessary. The gesture alone may have made it the best hotel you’ve ever been in.
Now, of course, the staff didn’t keep their word. You didn’t get your room despite them assuring you that you will. They did, however, honour it, by cleaning up the mess they caused as a result of not keeping their word. That’s integrity.
The above example is a slight remake of an example by Bitner, Booms, and Tetreault in The Service Encounter: Diagnosing Favorable and Unfavorable Incidents. And I’m guessing 99% of the time, you wouldn’t have had the balls to pull off such a stunt. “I’m so sorry sir, there’s nothing we can do.” Translation for “that’s your problem, not mine.”
In an interview about the topic, Michael C. Jensen, founder of The SSRN (Social Science Review Network), put it that, “an individual is whole and complete when their word is whole and complete, and their word is whole and complete when they honour their word.”
Integrity, sometimes confused with morality and/or ethics, is seen as the keeping of one’s word. And while that’s one way of looking at it, you’re a human being, which means things can go wrong at times. That’s where one can still maintain his integrity by honouring his word, like the staff at the hotel did.
While morality and ethics deal with the good and the bad, integrity, as Jensen put it, is like gravity. There’s no such thing as good or bad gravity. It’s just…well…gravity. When you honour your word, the end result is guaranteed.
Here’s the thing though. People generally view themselves as good. Better than they actually are. And in line with this, most people view themselves as people of integrity. Even though most wouldn’t have had the guts to do what the hotel staff did, let alone die for what you believe is right, like our guy Job almost did.
And that’s a problem. Being blinded by your own out-of-integrity behaviour, or merely covering up for it by making up an excuse for yourself in your mind.
It keeps you from seeing that integrity, like most things, is about the climbing. Not about the destination. In fact, there is no destination. To quote Jensen, “Integrity is a mountain with no top… to be a person of integrity requires that we recognize this and ‘learn to enjoy climbing.’”
In other words, open your eyes to the fact that you’re being lied to by yourself. Succeed that with taking necessary action and the climbing will be much more tolerable.
Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you – Carl Jung