Saturday, November 22, 2008

In, Out, and the Space In-Between

I’ve always heard that integrity is doing what is right all the time, even if no-one is looking. As Stephen R. Covey put it in his book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", "'Wrong' and 'right' … have little to do with being found out". Then there’s what I’ll call outtegrity – doing what is right because that outward appearance is somehow beneficial. To have outtegrity is to live a duplicitous life, and that kind of life is never sustainable. I could go on, but I think you get the point, and that’s not I’m driving at.

Between integrity and outtegrity is a grey area that I don’t have a name for yet. There are two parts to this grey area. First, there’s doing the right thing because you hope or think or want to believe it is right, but it is not yet a conviction. You may be working on it, but in the mean time you’re trying it and checking out the consequences. Second, there’s acting like you hold beliefs that you don’t, but those beliefs are not necessarily moral in nature. For example, pretending you hold political beliefs that you don’t, or saying you’re a cat person when in fact you think they’re minions of the underworld. This type of behavior is employed typically to get people to like you, getting the relationship jump-started until you get to something you actually have in common.

So here’s my question: Are either of the grey area issues immoral? Are they okay? Or are they really nothing more or less than grey? I have my own opinions, but I want to know what you think.