Integrity–Do you have it?

Some may say that I’m pretty blunt, set in what I believe, and outspoken. I haven’t always been that way, though.  In high school (and in some situations now, I suppose), I had your classic fear of confrontation. I’d rather find a compromise to a problem than work toward one solution or another. I think that all started to change when I was a junior or senior in high school.

At the time, Michigan State University and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources was consolidating several majors into a new department–what would become the CARRS Department. In this merger, Agriscience Education and Agricultural Communications would be merged with Parks and Recreation and Environmental Studies and Applications.  My dad was one of the more outspoken of the state’s agriscience teachers in vehemently opposing this merger, fearing that it would lead to the disintegration of ag ed and ag comm (which it has, but I digress). Throughout the whole ordeal, I watched him stand up to some pretty powerful people within the university and some of his fellow colleagues for something that he strongly believed in, even though it was a losing battle. While I’ve always looked up to my dad, seeing someone step up and give voice to something–even though it wasn’t popular and didn’t do much good–was pretty inspiring. Since this situation, I think my need to speak out and stand up for what I believe in has developed immensely.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been in several situations where my opinion hasn’t been one people like. Whether it was a disagreement with where funding for the Michigan FFA Association should come from (something, apparently, state officers should not have an opinion on), the creation of the new Environmental Studies and Agriscience major, whether or not agriculture degrees should be available from other universities, allowing a club member special treatment because of a skill they have, or how strictly sponsors should be able to govern parts of a youth development activity that they support–my opinions have not always been popular ones.

Does that mean they shouldn’t be said, though?

Throughout all of my leadership experience–whether that’s FFA or something else–I have been taught to live life with integrity. In my opinion, integrity is something that is severely lacking in today’s society. Everyday, you see people–friends, family, strangers–backstabbing each other, kissing people’s butts to get ahead, or simply just going with the flow because it’s easier. Dictionary.com defines integrity as “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty”. Some of you described it as, “who you are when only God is watching”, “holding fast to your principles”, and “honesty and doing the right thing.” Thanks to @AR_ranchhand, @thekansascowboy, and Robert Dreer for sharing your thoughts!

To me, integrity means to define for yourself what is right and wrong–then stand up for it. Like I’ve said, sometimes people don’t like what I have to say and I definitely don’t think everyone should agree with me. However, if I didn’t stand up for or say what I believe in, I don’t think I would be meeting one quality of integrity–honesty. I wouldn’t be honest with myself and I would be being honest with everyone around me.

Sometimes having the minority opinion is not a fun place to be. Phrases such as “Yeah, it’s playing politics but that’s reality,” or “It’s not your place to have an opinion on this matter,” or “Thanks for your thoughts, but the decision’s already been made” will come out. Sometimes it feels like you’re putting a whole lot of effort into something you can’t change, no matter what you do. However, at the end of the day, you tried. You stood up. You fought. For that, you can be proud.

Winston Churchill (and later, Eminem) once said, “You’ve got enemies? Good. That means you stood up for something, sometime in your life.” What have you stood up for? Do you define your life and actions with integrity?

I hope so.

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