Integrity is what you do when nobody’s looking | Column | The Press and Standard

by | October 7, 2017 5:00 pm

Last Updated: October 4, 2017 at 2:45 pm

We all know clickbait can be irresistible. Case in point: the social news site recently posted a list of traits exhibited by “people with integrity.”
Integrity is what you do when nobody’s looking, right? Returning a grocery cart to the corral. Being kind to someone who’s being nasty. Not screaming at telemarketers who interrupt a meal for the third time this week. Things like that.
For me, integrity is a work in progress. I’m honest and reliable, but — as much as I try to pray it away — I tend to bristle at rudeness from those paid to help me, whether it’s a cashier or an IT troubleshooter. (It doesn’t help that I inherited my mother’s temper.)
I don’t think integrity is dying, by the way. Most people are good and want to do good. Given a choice, the vast majority will do the right thing. And, according to, people of integrity share the following 13 traits. My comments are in parentheses.
1. They are honest. (Amen. My father and my husband are the two most honest men I’ve ever met. Don’t hang with people whose honesty you have to question. It’s exhausting.)
2. They give credit where it’s due, and don’t take credit for what they didn’t do. (This is common decency. Do not steal thy neighbor’s idea or thunder. It’s tacky.)
3. You won’t catch them being fake. (Hmmm. I find it hard to figure out fakeness. If someone actually feels like twirling a parasol and affecting an English accent every second Tuesday, who am I to say they’re being fake? It could be an authentic impulse.)
4. They know when something is bothering someone. (Anybody 15 or older has a pretty good sense of intuition. If you think something is wrong, ask. Then try to help.)
5. They value other people’s time. (Truth! Benjamin Franklin said, “Time is money.” Another wag said, “He who steals my time is no less a thief than he who steals my wallet.” Don’t be a time thief. )
6. They never take advantage of others. (Because that’s just slimy.)
7. They don’t argue over disagreements. They’ll talk in a civil manner, or not talk at all. (Look, I’d rather have an argument than deal with someone who’s sulking, but that’s just me.)
8. They give most people the benefit of the doubt. (I know a woman who sees the best in everyone. She’s also the most cheerful person I know. That can’t be a coincidence.)
9. They don’t lie. (Lying is slimy; see “taking advantage,” above.)
10. They believe others; they accept your word as truth until it’s disproven. (And when you do lie, people of integrity never forget it. Seriously, who over the age of eight still flat-out lies? It’s stupid.)
11. They apologize first. If they’ve done something wrong, they own up to their mistake and try to make things right. (It never hurts to be the bigger man. Or woman.)
12. They are humble and do good when they can. (I don’t know if I’m humble or just have really low self-esteem. Anyway, let’s be honest: When you think you’re humble, you’re probably not so much.)
13. They are always kind to those who need it. (Widdle will be angry about me bragging on him, but he’s always helping other people. If you’re broke down on I-26 at 2 a.m., he’s the one you want to call. He’ll be glad to help, and he’s not faking.)

(Julie R. Smith, who has no integrity about refusing to eat green peas, can be reached at


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