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Does Integrity Allow Failure?

Integrity is acting consistently with one's moral values. But when are we just trying, and failing, to have integrity?

Integrity is acting consistently with your moral values. But how consistent does a person’s actions need to be before they lose their integrity?

In most cases, who I am and who my morals want me to be don’t agree. As a (presumed) human, my desires often clash with my morals. I’m not writing the specific morals I struggle with here, so let’s use a vegetarian as an example. Someone conflicted between moral objections to meat and their body’s craving for meat.

Integrity is the work this vegetarian does to cut meat from their diet. But what if they crave meat so much, one day they cave and eat a hamburger? They feel so ashamed they avoid eating meat again for a year. Do they still have integrity? Or does that slip-up mean they’re trying and failing to have it?

What about if they eat meat once every two years? Every six months? Once a month? Every two weeks? Once a week? At what point does this person move from “has integrity” to “doesn’t have integrity?”

Another option is integrity is a sliding scale, not a black and white label. A vegetarian who eats meat once a month has some integrity, but one who only eats it once a year has more. This already sounds more reasonable.

If that’s the case, the question’s no longer “do I have integrity?” It’s “do I have as much integrity as I want?”

I’m asking these questions because integrity is a huge part of most people’s identities, myself included. It’s easy to be selfish, amoral and acting only on impulse. It’s harder to have strong morals and act on those morals. In a way, measuring integrity is one measure of how human we are against how animal we are. It’s asking how human we want to be. How human we can be before we fail.

I can’t say for sure how much integrity someone, even myself, should strive for. But considering it as one measure of a person’s self-identified humanity, it’s worth fighting for as much as possible. Even if that means failing once a year, once every six months, once a week, or every day.

Because if we’re not trying our damnest to wring as much integrity from ourselves as possible, are we even worthy of being human?