Honesty & Integrity

Posted on May 8, 2019

For me, some weeks are more pressured than others. When things build up I tend to make careless mistakes.

Last year was one of those times. My diary was particularly busy. I raced home at 5.30pm to grab some dinner before heading back to work for a meeting at 6.30pm. As I backed the car out of the garage and up the driveway, I failed to take the time to check my surroundings. In my haste, I backed right into my daughter’s fiancé’s car!

The damage wasn’t too bad. In fact, the damage to my car was worse. As I stood there in the dark, I was tempted to continue on my way and explain later. An internal conflict began, as though there were two competing characters in my head. They began arguing.

“You should go back inside and own up.”

“Why? You’re in a hurry. You don’t have time for that.”

“But it’s your future son-in-law.”

“The damage is so minor he probably won’t even notice.”

We all make mistakes. No one is exempt. A test of our character is what we do when we make a mistake.

Last week, at the secondary School assembly, I shared a story of a mistake a student had recently made (without identifying the person). I shared the story, not because of the mistake they had made, but because of how they responded.

This person had sent me an email apologising for the mistake that they had made. They didn’t need to do that. They could have easily walked away and no one would have known. But not this person. Their integrity and honesty was something I had never experienced in my years as an educator.

As a result of that courageous act of honesty, my esteem for that young person has increased dramatically. I would now consider them to be one of the most trustworthy people in the School.

Like me, we all make mistakes. None of us are exempt. But trust and character are grown in our willingness to be vulnerable and put things right.

A key trait on our Character Framework at St Paul’s School (or Ways of Being framework), along with Compassion and Kindness, Generosity, Patience and Resilience, Diligence, Loyalty and Faithfulness, Humility, Courage, Respect, and Self-control, is Honesty and Integrity. Aren’t these traits qualities that we would love to see in all our children as they grow and take their place in the world?

At St Paul’s, we value the development of character as much as we value the development of a person’s intellect.

Dr Paul Browning

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