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Integrity worthy of our appreciation, practice
5/29/2013

By Abby Freeman
Current Guest Column

Integrity: "Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty." 
That may be the definition, but what does integrity really represent? Is it an ideal? Something to live by? Or is it something else entirely? For myself, in my own opinion, I want to live using integrity, to bring out the very best in myself.

Most of the time, we go on and on in life, never stopping to think about what we are doing, and keep moving forward, never seeming to rest, kind of like how this sentence is proceeding. But sometimes, the choices we make are not totally righteous, or the actions we create are not honest. We complain, we lie and we act like we have no integrity. But that's not the case with everyone. Last fall, I got the opportunity to march with the West Valley High School Band, and I met a lot of people. But the one person that stands out in my mind is Connor. In the band, he ran the low-brass sections, which was one of the hardest working in the band, and he never complained, no matter the task. He was fun, but always knew when to stop messing around and get the job done. In my mind, he represents integrity.

As children, we are always told to, "Do the right thing." We tried to, we really did, but temptations often got in our way. Though nowadays, it feels like we were better as children than adults or teenagers. Now that we're growing up, or we're already adults, we have much more freedom, and many more opportunities to mess up. But, we also have to have a set of moral values, ways to live by, in order to find our way in life. We need to be responsible, and understand the differences between right and wrong, even if they are hard to tell apart. 
We go against our own values sometimes to please others or ourselves. How many times can you remember doing what felt wrong just to please a friend or family member? Or did you ever do that for your own gain? You always think the same thing - "It doesn't matter," or, "No one will notice". But they did notice, or at least you did. You'd lie awake at night, wishing to fix what you had done wrong. The thoughts that you would always think, "Tell someone," or, "Apologize, you'll feel better" - those are our moral values. In a kind of way, they show your integrity, your willingness to do what is right.

For myself in middle school, I think that we underappreciate those who have integrity. We seem to like being in the company of those who lie. I think that it makes us feel better about ourselves, in the way of, "Well, at least I'm not as bad as that person."  It gives us a false sense of pride, a goody-two-shoes feeling. 
 
But if you notice, those who are in the presence of integrity are better, kinder people. They feel like they can stand up and say something without the fear of people thinking that they are lying. It's a freeing thought. But those people who have little integrity might think the opposite. "What a kiss-up," they'd scowl, before slinking off to a "teen." But being a teenager isn't all about the freedoms of growing up.  Well, it may feel that way, but it's also about the responsibilities of becoming an adult and learning to live with our mistakes.

Integrity is one of those things that you think that you can live without, but really, it defines who you are as a person. It makes you proud to be yourself, and people will trust you because they know you can do the right thing. In my opinion, one of the wisest quotes about integrity comes from Henry Kravis, who said, "If you don't have integrity, you have nothing. You can't buy it. You can have all the money in the world, but if you are not a moral and ethical person, you really have nothing."

Abby Freeman is an eighth-grade student at Centennial Middle School in the West Valley School District. She maintains a 4.0 grade point average and is a member of the Centennial Wind Ensemble. She wrote this column as part of a monthly series highlighting the Partners Advancing Character Education (PACE) trait of the month.

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