If you have been active on social media in recent times, you would be familiar with the hashtag “L’ori iro” which is currently trending. “Lori iro” in Yoruba language might simply translate “It’s all lies”. But it is deeper than that. It implies that the very foundation of the statement it applies to, no matter how appealing or convincing it sounds, has no foundation whatsoever in truth, especially if the reputation of the person making the statement casts a shadow of doubt about integrity or credibility. So when someone who has proven to be an accomplished heartbreaker in time past says to a girl he has just started dating, “You are the very air that I breathe”, the under-the-breath riposte is “l’ori iro”!
If there is a gap that continues to widen between the means and the end in our days, it is the integrity gap. Integrity is a commodity that remains in high demand but in short supply. And the supply seems to be getting shorter by the day at all strata of our polity and interpersonal relationships. Yet, without it, any level of success, no matter how lofty it appears, is built on a foundation of quicksand – totally un-enduring and unsustainable!
Integrity simply means ‘wholeness’, a sense of integration between reputation and actual character. It does not necessarily mean that the person of integrity is incapable of putting a wrong foot forward. It simply implies that he would not deliberately negate his own commitments even if it would kill him! In elementary Arithmetic class, I am sure you remember the word “integer” which means a whole number. The word “integrity’ has root in the Latin word “integritas” which means “completeness, wholeness”.
Japanese products rule every market where they are sold. Whether in electronics or automobiles, it is assumed that once it comes from Japan, it must be of high quality. The Toyota Camry has for many years, remained one of America’s highest-selling brands. In Nigeria, Japanese cars are the most sought-after vehicles. Japan is reputed to hold the record for the highest level of integrity in the world. Cheating or taking advantage of others is said to be an aberration in the Japanese socio-economic landscape. It is said that even in the capital Tokyo, if you mistakenly drop your purse or something of value on the street or in a train, you will return to find it on the spot where it was dropped! A Japanese would rather commit suicide than to renege on his promise. In fact, it is said that he would send a letter of apology to the affected person precedent to taking his own life. This perhaps accounts for the high level of suicide in that nation.
Integrity is no respecter of geography. In other words, it is not scripted or acted to adjust to social or personal convenience. A man without integrity would shift the goalpost even in the middle of the game as long as he finds it convenient. However, integrity has universal appeal and application.
The bridge of trust can never be built without integrity. Before we decide to trust anyone, we are usually convinced that they, as the Bible says, will swear to their own hurt. We would hardly invest trust on anyone we can identify doublespeak with. And once the bridge of trust is broken, it takes a lot of effort to build it back.
Integrity makes outcomes predictable wherever it is applied. A kilogram of a product in Nigeria is supposed to measure a kilogram anywhere else under the sun. Whenever and wherever there is a discrepancy, it is said that the integrity of such a product has been compromised. A metre should not leave the USA and become less than a metre in Nigeria. This is the reason why countries set up agencies to regulate standards of products before they are sold into the open market, especially to international markets. It is not only about the integrity of the product but about the reputation of its country of origin.
The beauty of creation was in its integrity. This is what was meant with the expression, “And God saw that it was very good”. Simply put, creation was fulfilling its intended purpose. That is until the integrity was polluted by what is now known as The Fall.
Where the integrity gap is very wide, everybody ends up being bloodied by it. Where dishonesty and mistrust rule, everyone is both a culprit and a victim. Those who insist on maintaining standards of integrity become the endangered species and they actually begin to appear like aliens, even though time always vindicates them.
A quick survey of our polity and socio-economic landscape would reveal the gross deficiency of integrity. When our leaders make promises that are never fulfilled and public officials insist on gratification before carrying out their paid duties, you know that integrity and merit have gone on vacation. It has got to the point that when it is campaign season and politicians go about making promises, people actually don’t expect that they would deliver. Truth be told, even the politician doesn’t expect to be believed! In these climes, a performing public officer is actually an exception rather than the rule!
A few years ago, a friend of mine who lives in the USA was visiting Nigeria. A few days into her visit, she had to be rushed to the hospital as a result of food poisoning. She almost died and her return to her base had to be deferred. It happened that she had bought and eaten roasted plantain which, unknown to her, was force-ripened with carbide, a poisonous chemical that many unscrupulous traders use to compromise the integrity of many fruits. If you have ever bought a pineapple that looked very ripe on the outside but when peeled, had a sour, acidic taste, that pineapple was likely force-ripened with carbide! Same for mangoes that look ripe on the outside but have a sour taste within. It is common to see government-prescribed plastic measures for food, originally designed to ensure uniformity in measure, immersed in boiling water so that it could shrink in size and thus reduce the quantity it would hold! Traders routinely tamper with weighing scales so that their accuracy is significantly compromised.
You can choose not to follow the crowd to demonstrate an integrity somersault simply because everyone else around you is doing so! Losing your compass because everyone else around you has no specific direction is simply indicative of the fact that you never had a definite valuable destination in mind. Life has a way of penalizing people who lack integrity. It is why athletes are stripped of titles when it is discovered that they cheated or used steroids.
Integrity is developed and sustained based on the realization that life is a marathon rather than a sprint. People of integrity are long-term thinkers who understand that delayed gratification due to a refusal to compromise standards will ultimately pay meaningful dividends. A successful life is not so much about what you achieved but what you become in the process. The evolution is as important as the achievement. In life’s game, no one with integrity ends up a loser.
Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!
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