What is your integrity level?

One of the Army's seven values is integrity. A Soldier is expected to do what is right, morally and legally, even when no one is watching. But unlike the value of loyalty (you are either loyal or not), integrity seems to have its own 50 shades of gray.

Now I am barely 50 words into this article, but already I predict there are people wanting to challenge my assertion, so let's put it to a test.

We've all read a story of someone who finds an envelope, wallet or box containing hundreds or even thousands of dollars and then promptly returns it to the original owner. Everyone I know would agree that this would be the actions of a person with integrity.

But what if the money was laying in the parking lot held together with a paperclip? Same response? Find the owner? Here's where I say integrity turns slightly lighter in color. With hundreds of dollars, many of you would still attempt to locate an owner, but if the amount turns out to be less, so does the level of integrity. I know of no one who upon finding a lone dollar blowing across the parking lot with no one chasing it, doesn't pocket the proceeds and chalk it up to a windfall. Now the question is, at what dollar amount do you go from Good Samaritan to one lucky duck? And does your windfall depend upon whether someone is watching?

And the value of integrity doesn't have to be limited to a dollar figure. Integrity, or that inner voice to tell you right from wrong, can also come into play when someone asks you a question, but your answer may not be what they want to hear. Integrity runs that fine line between telling someone the truth and saying something to spare hurt feelings. Again, another shade of gray, because the response may not always be black or white.

Personally, my integrity is almost always compromised when someone asks me if their baby is not the cutest thing I have ever seen. (I think most newborns look like Winston Churchill…who wasn't at all cute.)

More importantly, what one person's level of integrity is, is seldom another's. You may look upon a situation and feel a person didn't do the right thing, but nine times out of 10, that person can internally justify the actions you observed. Internally, we can easily decide what is the right thing to do, and even easier to point out when someone else doesn't measure up to your integrity standards.

And we tend to measure people's integrity, or our perceived level of their integrity, based on their occupation, rank or position. Most people I know would agree that a politician or advertising agency employee might have a lesser degree of integrity and would purposely avoid some facts to convince us to agree with them or buy their product.

Chaplains, on the other hand, would be held to a higher standard by that same group. (Although I imagine a lot of chaplains cringe when asked the ultimate honest answer question, "Do these jeans make me look fat?")

The answer, not to the jeans question, but to your integrity level, is never going to be as easy as personal courage, loyalty or honor. We all have a comfort level of integrity that guides us through life.

The real question is; does your level of integrity meet the expectations of the U.S. Army?