Integrity Is Not Part Time

I once read something about integrity that sticks with me every time I pause for a nano second about something that will compromise the kind of person I want to be.  The statement pretty much said you can not have integrity sometimes. You either have it, live it and do it all of the time.  Or you don’t.  I have tried to incorporate this little mantra in to my every day life.  For little things like when  I think I can take five extra minutes for lunch, or pick up a quarter off of a parking lot. Yeah, I do not pick it up.  It’s not mine.  To larger things like honesty and forthrightness.    I try to keep a running log in my head that  keeps me honest.  With myself.  There are times when we can “cheat” or “get away” with something and no one would know.  So it doesn’t hurt anyone, right?  I’m not everyone.  I’m me.  I have to live with myself.  So to compromise this is to compromise me. I have to like me.

Which brings me to an ethical dilemma.  In the last couple of years I have recalled an incident that haunts me.  Years, probably almost 24 years ago I purchased a bed from someone.  I think the cost was $250 or $300.   I know I paid for half of the bed.  I know I never paid for the other half.  I don’t know why.  And I don’t know why I remember that I didn’t pay the other half.  I know I owe this guy half of what I purchased that bed for.  Problem is, I do not remember his name.  And I also have a wiggly little feeling in the back of my head that he may be dead.  No, I don’t think that is why I did not pay him the other half.  So what do you do when you don’t know who it is you owe, there is no real way to find him.  But I have a debt unpaid.

Anyway, I don’t think I wanted to “cheat” him.  But I don’t really know why I did not pay him.  Since I know I did not pay him, regardless of the reason, does that mean I was unethical because I did cheat him.  Regardless of whether it was my intent or not, I did.  And though I have worked very hard as an adult to pay my debts, I know this one is out there.

I know I can’t pick and choose moments to be ethical.  I am or I am not.  But could I have been unethical, without integrity, then– but have grown in to an ethical person now?  Even though I know I owe this debt that I can not pay?

I could enjoy a lot of things in small doses.  If I could make enough money to live working part time I would do it.  If I could get away with part time sleeping to do more living, I would do it.  But I don’t even want the option of having integrity part time.

I’m just wondering about this.