Last month I wrote about issues of character, integrity and reputation. I did so in part because I had been reflecting on the events in my own life in 2016, as well as to help shape our thinking as we prepare for the next provincial election and the lens through which we will judge those seeking public office.
Though I have been writing for various publications throughout Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley for over a decade, I have never had such a remarkable response. From emails, to notes on social media, to individuals pulling me aside when they see me in the community, the amount of feedback I have received has been truly surprising (not to mention, humbling).
As part of this feedback I had a couple of conversations that made me realize something rather profound: integrity is subjective. What do I mean by that? I mean that while the notion of integrity is rather ‘black and white’, its application is not. This leads me to what I’ll describe as ‘Part II’ of what had only be intended to be a singular column on the topic of integrity.
After receiving the aforementioned feedback I decided to undertake an exercise. I approached a group of thought, community, business and political leaders and asked them for testimonials for my firm’s website (something I have never done before). I decided that if I wanted to be sure that I was doing all that I could to live-out my life with integrity, it would be the words of others that would confirm whether or not I’m on the right-track. If not, though I knew they would all be polite, I also knew there would be certain words they would avoid.
Upon having received these testimonials (which are now online), I was pleased to see that the word used most often to describe me was in-fact integrity. I say that not as an attempt to thump my own chest, but as a means to demonstrate the points that will be made shortly.
For the Record…
It has been said that… “The speaker can convince most people of most things – and himself of anything.” As such, here are the metrics that I would suggest we as a community should use when determining an individuals worthiness to serve in public office.
First and foremost, is the manner in which they identify themselves consistent with the manner in which others see them? In other words, if they claim to have integrity, can that be substantiated? If so, then it should not be difficult to find individuals who will easily endorse them; thus aligning their reputation with the candidate.
The next metric I would use to determine the degree of a candidates integrity are the foundational values they hold and the manner in which they live-out (or do not live-out) those values. Here the questions are simple: Are they humble, or arrogant? Are they compassionate, or selfish? Do they have a track-record of true success, or are they simply a legend in their own mind?
The third metric that comes to mind is intelligence. Now when I say intelligence, I do not necessarily mean ones level of education. What I mean is intelligence in the broader sense. Are they self-aware? Do they have the necessary emotional intelligence to be able to deal with criticisms? Do they take the appropriate amount of time reflecting on their own shortcomings? Are they prepared to take ownership, or do they always blame others?
Finally, how do they treat others? Are they the kind of person who goes around slandering someone, or do they remain silent and offer-up their opinions only when asked (and even then, choosing their words carefully)? Moreover, how do they treat those who do not enjoy the same privileges – be they reputation, financial or otherwise – as they do?
In closing, what has been made clear to me is that there are three types of people: those who evidently do not have integrity; those who have convinced themselves they have integrity; and, finally, those who actually do have integrity. As such, I would once again encourage all of us to determine the character of a person seeking public office before we judge them too harshly. That is to say, even if perhaps we do not agree with their political ideologies, so long as they are fundamentally good and living their lives with integrity, they deserve our admiration and respect for letting their name stand for public office.