and the integrity of thinking about our values
“Mathematics expresses values that reflect the cosmos, including orderliness, balance, harmony, logic, and abstract beauty.”
We began with Love, because without love there is no life or no life worth living. But love is an emotion, a feeling. When we fall in love or our eyes well up with tears when we see something that moves us, we feel out of control. But what about thought? This is why we now turn our attention to logic, not in the sense of a binary calculus, but in the sense that in order to be good in life and at work, we also need to stop and think about the values we believe in.
So what values are we talking about here? We’re talking about moral values, what philosophers call ‘virtues’, as in “patience is a virtue”. And the sum of the virtues we believe in and practice we call ‘integrity’.
Integrity is a really powerful word. It sounds great and everyone talks about it, particularly people in business and politics. But what does it actually mean when we want to do what’s right?
At its simplest, integrity is a word that summarizes all the moral values we believe in, such as fairness, wisdom and trust. Look at the box on this page for some of these values and begin to think about which are important for you. Integrity is not just one value, it means all our values: an ‘integrity of values’ if you like. These values guide the way we do what’s right, not like rules which tell us what’s right. We need to stop and think about our values.
We act with integrity when we say we believe in certain values and then behave accordingly. If, however, these values are just talk and we actually do the opposite, this is not integrity, this is hypocrisy.
“Values aren’t buses… They’re not supposed to get you anywhere. They’re supposed to define who you are.”
Logic and an integrity of values
Just as rules are imposed on us by others from the outside, our integrity comes from deep inside, from within us. It’s what we mean by character or perhaps our soul.
Many philosophers and psychologists agree that in this sense, the logic of thinking about our values is about being a moral grown-up. Moral grown-ups don’t have to be told what’s right; they’re trusted to work it out for themselves. This isn’t to say that you have to be an adult to act with integrity, or that children cannot act with integrity. On the contrary, we live in a world where many adults behave more like moral infants and many younger people can be seen thinking and acting with the logic of the values we should all believe in.
The research on the importance of how we think about our values at work is both extensive and clear. However, it is my experience that in too many organisations, values become invisible wallpaper. This is because most workplace leaders don’t actually want you to think about your values. They want you to follow the rules and obey orders. They want you to become compliant robots.
That’s why we will next look at Law, our third ethical lens.
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”