Since integrity and honesty are two aspects which are always connected, many individuals assume these words are the same and can be used interchangeably. Nonetheless, it’s important to know that there’s a clear difference in what these two terms imply. Honesty implies truthfulness or sincerity while integrity is a word with a much wider meaning, incorporating honesty and moral soundness. Although an individual with integrity can be honest, not all honest individuals have integrity.
Honest refers to truthfulness or sincerity. In a nutshell, an honest person is one who always speaks the truth. The opposite of honesty is dishonesty. A dishonest individual cheats, lies and deceives other people. On the other hand, an honest person is trusted by all, that’s why honesty is a virtue that most religions value.
However, honesty in itself is not indicative of an individual’s morality. This aspect can be illustrated by the example below:
Imagine you broke your neighbor’s windows by mistake. If no one asks you if you are the one responsible for breaking the window, and you decide to remain silent and not tell anyone about it – you are not deceiving or lying to anyone. So, ideally, you may console yourself by saying that you’re an honest individual since you haven’t lied. However, if you are a person of integrity, you’ll admit to breaking the window even without your neighbor having asking about it.
Integrity is an attribute of being honest and abiding by a strict moral code. This word is invoked in many situations in the society. We see integrity being used in politics and TV advertising. It is seen in the names of apartment complexes, business, and on outdoor signage. There seems to be a misunderstanding of what it implies since everyone who uses it seems to mean a different thing from what other person understands.
In its bare-bones, integrity means adherence to some principle or a moral code. It involves three steps: selecting the right course of conduct; behaving consistently with your choice – even when it’s unprofitable or inconvenient to do so; and openly declaring your stands. Consequently, integrity is equated with trustworthiness, moral reflection, steadfastness, and commitments.
Therefore, integrity is doing the right thing all the time, even when such a thing is not convenient to you. Doing the right thing may cause damage to you, or may harm the ones you love. Yet, if you are a person of integrity, you’ll always do the right thing regardless of what the costs may be.
So what is the difference?
Just like many other words, the terms honesty and integrity can be confusing for some individuals who cannot distinguish them. Although people understand what each of these words implies, they can easily get confused and use one word in place of the other. Nonetheless, these two terms are usually communicated when another term would fit better.
Here’s something you need to think about; honesty can exist in the absence of integrity, but there’s no integrity without honesty. However, although integrity requires honesty, this doesn’t imply that you need to be honest with others.[ii] This only means that you have to be frank and honest with yourself. In many occasions, being honest with others is just offering an opinion, and such a view may as well not have anything to do with the facts.
Therefore, integrity requires honesty which in itself is an internal process. Examining your values is important and acting upon such values with respect for other people will place you at an esteemed position.
Communication depends on honesty, but honesty relies on integrity to create and foster relationships. Integrity and honesty aren’t about looking right, personal preferences, protecting yourself, or shifting blame. As an attribute, honesty requires honor. In fact, these terms clearly come from the same root words.
Therefore, the main difference between integrity and honesty is that a person can be honest without necessarily engaging the reflection and deep thoughts demanded by integrity. While honesty relates to the facts or truths contained in an individual’s words, actions or their thoughts, integrity goes a little deeper. If you are a person with integrity, you’ll do the right thing using the principles that guide you. You’ll be in a position to uphold your code of conduct even when no one is around to watch you. This means that anyone with integrity has a great sense of morality. You can’t have integrity without honesty. Alternatively, an individual who considers themselves to be honest may not necessarily have integrity.
An honest person can truthfully tell what they believe without any further determination as to whether or not what they are saying is right or wrong. This may range from the simple matters to the complicated ones. For instance, one person may tell the other that poor people live in the slums. In such a case, the person may be honest with their belief without determining whether or not such a claim is right.
Also, consider this example:
As a graduate of a reputable elite business school, a director in a particular organization, gives assignments which are more challenging to employees with a similar education background. The director does this because he believes the staff members will perform better in their work for the benefit of other workers who did not have the opportunity to attend elite learning institutions. He does not want his employees to fail. The director claims integrity as he is acting according to what he believes in.
A table illustrating the difference between honesty and integrity is shown below.
|Honesty is a term that deals with words||Integrity is a word that deals with actions|
|Honesty refers to being sincere, truthful and free of deceit. It doesn’t mean a person adheres to strict moral code||Integrity refers to the steadfast adherence to set principles or strict moral code|
|Honesty does not necessarily guarantee integrity||Integrity guarantees honesty|
The use of words that seem similar can be confusing especially when you cannot differentiate what they mean. Honesty and Integrity are terms that people have used interchangeably without knowing that the two words are clearly different. When it comes to using these words, it is important for one to know how to explain the differences. That way, an individual will be able to accept and acknowledge their usage so they can communicate better. The real meaning of a word is often important if a person wants to master the art of genuine and authentic communication.
Honesty is sincere and tells the truth. It is conscientious and consistent, and it doesn’t contain deceit. Honesty behaves correctly, is forthright and speaks openly to avoid double meanings as well as misunderstandings. On the other hand, integrity is just, fair, non-judgmental, compassionate, helpful, respectful, follows one’s conscience, is respectful, trustworthy (it’s important to note that trustworthy in this case is not the same as being truthful). Integrity knows the difference between wrong and right, and upholds moral principles and values.
So there you have it! Now you can tell the difference between honesty and integrity. Next time you’re planning to use these words, make sure you do so in the right context.