Integrity and loyalty and the various relationships between these important concepts were discussed this evening by our group. It began with trying to decide, beyond the simple dictionary definitions, just what was meant by those words and more importantly what we meant by them. Integrity seemed to be more inclusive of our personal identity and being a person responsible to others as well as to ourselves. Loyalty was more nuanced towards defending a group to which one belonged against difficult situations. Sometimes, there arose a conflict in social relations when the group was intent on actions which didn’t seem in accord with our higher responsibilities to humanity and our personal feelings of what was right trumped our responsibility to the group. Problems arose because we all realized we belonged to many different groups and sometimes one of our groups’ goals and actions were incompatible and even in direct conflict with another one of our groups. In that situation what does a person with integrity do?
There were about twenty people present, which was a large group for this type of discussion, but all went smoothly. Each person expressed themselves several times and so there were probably more than a hundred views expressed on the manifold problems and multiple complications of the problems. That tends to happen in these types of philosophical discussions. However, we did get a lot of various spins on how these ideas might be approached and I think everyone left the meeting a better and more moral person than they entered. I know I did.
Even though this was a philosophical discussion I like to come away, not only with a head spinning with new ideas, but an idea for a worthwhile change in something about my personal behavior. Words tend to fade away, but if one has a specific thing they want to do physically, then it becomes possible to watch for opportunities to do those things and, to make opportunities to do these new things. Near the end of our discussion, I said I had learned two things. First, I wanted for things to happen which would challenge my ethical being, because it is at those moments it becomes possible to grow ethically or for it to be nibbled away. The more challenging the better because the tougher it is to behave in the way one knows is right the more impact it has on one’s moral development.
The second personal trait I want to watch for and cultivate is how I approach the adoption of my personal loyalties. This can easily become a problem because it is a natural trait to develop loyalty to people with whom one spends a lot of time, therefore one must be careful with whom one spends time. It is easy to develop bad habits and slip into even worse ones if the people around one are pursuing idle luxuries and shirking personal responsibilities. Every group develops a group ethic and modes of behavior and when one is part of a group one becomes responsible for the groups collective behavior. The longer you are with a group the more your behavior becomes like the group’s, and therefore it is important to become associated with things and groups which are worthwhile and shun those which are not. It is far easier to avoid becoming associated with groups with potentials for doing bad things than to extricate yourself from them later when they actually do bad things.
When challenged choose the right path and associate with people of integrity.