Short Case Study on Integrity
“I hate when people do not put their money where their mouth is.” This is a line that my friend Arjun said to me today. In his past, he was involved with this girl named Becca at UVA, where they both go to school. The key word is “was.” The reason that the relationship had not continued was that Arjun found much ire in Becca’s aspirations. To summarize the extent of his reasoning, he complained that Becca’s aspirations were hypocritical and lackluster. Becca has continually and passionately spoken to her friends and Arjun about her views supporting Black Lives Matter and looking down on the idea of privilege. Arjun’s problem was that her aspirations to become a Vogue magazine editor or stay at home mom are incompatible with her views. He doesn’t understand how someone who spouts about privilege is not taking the golden opportunity of higher education at one of the best public universities in the United States. Arjun has not-so-subtly asked her about the irregularity between her thought and actions. She said that she couldn’t bear the responsibility and it would stress her out.
There are a couple of nuanced points that can be drawn from this situation. In my opinion, there is discontinuity in criticizing everyone else for not doing enough for BLM and underserved communities but slacking off when it comes to personal responsibility. On one hand, I understand that life, especially these topics and issues, are stressful situations to put one’s self in. I wholeheartedly support self care. However, there comes a point where excessive selfcare becomes self harm. While stress relief is important, a victim hood mentality can actually be self limiting. The moments of the most profound personal growth happen not at our high points but our low points with our ability to embrace change. Will pursuing social justice reform be hard and stressful? Yes. But, who is to say that Becca won’t come out stronger for it?
This also brings out the thematic element of self image. When I was listening to Arjun talk, I thought about the variability between individuals on how someone views who they want to be and who they actually are. I mainly drew from personal experience when attempting to answer this. In highschool and middle school, I would say that I never really felt strongly about something. I kind of just went through school, learning math and science, but never stopped to ponder who I ought to be. This led me to never really pass any judgement on myself for my actions. However, in college, for some reason or another, I developed a definite sense of personal integrity and morals. When I looked in the mirror, I saw some things I was not happy about. I strongly believe in climate change. Why am I using paper towels instead of reusable hand towels? I strongly believe in diversity and equality. Why does my friend group look a certain way? As I noticed things about my life and I noticed discontinuities in my values compared to my lifestyle, I made changes that left me satisfied in the long run.
This line of thinking led me to see an old answer in a new light. The interindividual variability between how someone views who they want to be and who they actually are can be explained by integrity, the consistency of one’s character with their values. As Mark Zuckerberg said, “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”