Integrity, as manifested in Abraham Lincoln, has gone missing in the American soul, like Bernie Madoff’s billions. The nation’s future harmony and prosperity may depend on restoring this vital virtue.
We can understand integrity if, through our imagination, we step into the spirit of Lincoln, our secular saint. First, let’s consider what integrity (and the lack of it) means.
The lack of this virtue in American life is like a trillion-dollar campaign contribution to national self-sabotage. Wall Street’s financial follies, as one example, are a study in the art of manifest unscrupulousness. With this fraudulence comes enormous grief and misery.
Corrupt financiers and self-serving politicians must be among the unhappiest people in the world. That’s because integrity is a necessary ingredient in stable, lasting happiness. Integrity is an expression of self-respect. The virtue of integrity develops as we feel our intrinsic goodness and care about our personal honor. Integrity requires that we do the right thing, as Oprah Winfrey says, even when nobody’s going to know whether we did it or not.
We do what’s right for our own sake because our integrity won’t allow us to tarnish that precious feeling of our essential honor and self-respect. [Read more…]