15 ways to tell if someone has strong moral integrity

You’re about to leave a clothing store when you notice that you were only charged for two of the three shirts you bought.

Will you go back and let the staff know, or would you consider it a stroke of luck and walk out of the shop?

This hypothetical situation is just one of the many everyday instances that set apart those with strong moral integrity from the rest of the pack. Our daily lives are full of signs of strong moral integrity, and they’re easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for.

Do you consider yourself a person of integrity? Do people with high integrity surround you? If unsure, here are 15 ways to tell if someone has strong moral integrity.

1) They stick to a set of positive values.

Have you heard of the saying, “if you don’t believe in something, you will fall for anything”?

This quote sums up why values go hand in hand with integrity.

A person’s beliefs and core values greatly influence their life. It guides their views of what’s right and wrong and directs their actions in every situation.

These values prevent people with high integrity from easily conforming to rapidly evolving social norms.

People with integrity will stand up for their beliefs, no matter the circumstances.

2) They remain honest at all times.

Telling the truth is easy when nothing is on the line. The true test of integrity is the ability to say the truth even if it is uncomfortable for the teller or the receiver.

Tennis fans witnessed a great example of manifesting integrity through honesty during the Italian Open in 2005. The game between American Andy Roddick and Spain’s Fernando Verdasco has come to match point in favor of the former. It was Verdasco’s second serve and his last chance to turn the match in his favor. The umpire ruled the serve as out of bounds resulting in Roddick’s win. But Roddick appealed the decision as he noticed the ball left a mark inside the line, meaning his opponent’s serve was a good one. The umpire considered this and let the game go on, resulting in Verdasco’s win.

 Andy Roddick lost the game along with the prize money worth tens of thousands of dollars. But his honesty, even when the stakes were high, was a beaming sign of strong moral integrity that won respect and admiration of many.

3) They take responsibility for their actions.

We all make mistakes. That’s one of our innate characteristics as humans.

What makes us humans with integrity is when we acknowledge when we mess up and work towards rectifying the issue.

Those with moral integrity do not make excuses for their errors. They own up to it, and they do not let others take the fall.

But it’s not always about mistakes. When you take responsibility for your actions, you also make yourself accountable for both the positive and negative consequences of the things you say and do.

4) They respect everyone.

It is generally an expectation that respect is given to people in authority, such as your boss, your professor, and your parents or elder relatives. But people with true integrity respect everyone regardless of their status or situation.

They would treat a colleague with respect as much as they would their employer.

They listen to and respect someone else’s opinion even if they don’t necessarily agree.

They understand and respect boundaries in both their professional and personal relationships.

They respect the value of time, so they rarely show up late.

They respect your confidentiality, so they don’t gossip.

There is a long list of examples, but the gist is people with strong morals will always talk and act respectfully towards anyone, anywhere, and at any time.

5) They give the benefit of the doubt.

Someone with integrity does not rush into judgment or negativity. They do not assume the worst in people’s character, values, or intentions. Instead, they allow people to prove themselves before making any conclusions.

Dr. Peter Vajda, a thought leader, described giving the benefit of the doubt as: “Everyone is in Chapter Three of their life. No one knows what transpired in Chapters One and Two. You are no different.”

6) They are reliable.

A person demonstrates strong moral integrity by keeping their word, even if things do not go as planned.

They show up to their kids’ soccer games, just as they promised.

They stick to their deadlines, just as they committed.

One of the greatest examples of being true to their word was the case of James Dotty.

Dr. Dotty is a neurosurgeon and a biotech entrepreneur who once had a net worth of $75 million. However, he quickly lost his fortune following the dot.com crash in 2001. The only thing left was $30 million worth of stocks he had previously pledged to charity before the dot.com fiasco. His lawyers advised him that legally, he wasn’t required to honor the pledge. They said people would understand his circumstances should he not follow through. Dotty disregarded his lawyers’ advice and honored the $30 million pledge, leaving nothing to himself. Now that right there is a true sign of strong moral integrity.

7) They stand up for what is right.

Even if they’re the only ones left fighting, people with high integrity will fight for what they believe is right.

Regardless of how much pressure is put on them, they will not give in and sacrifice their values, even if it means going against the majority.

They do not tolerate injustice.

They do not participate in bullying behaviors.

They speak out for those who can’t defend themselves.

8) They are humble.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A great man is always willing to be little.”

Some might interpret this as self-deprecation, but I would interpret it otherwise. It probably meant that people with great integrity know their strengths yet are humble enough to acknowledge their weaknesses.

It does not mean you can’t be proud of your success and accomplishments. People with integrity still celebrate their achievements. The difference is that they also possess enough humility to know that they must exert effort to make themselves better every day.

9) They value the needs of others, sometimes even more than their own.

In this age where practicing self-love is encouraged, some might disagree with valuing the needs of others.

It is important to note that people of integrity understand the needs of others all the time, but sometimes, they put these needs before their own. So it’s not about always disregarding your needs over others. Sometimes is the operative word.

Let’s look at another anecdote as an example. 

In the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, runners Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) and Abbey D’Agostino (USA) were mid-race when they collided on the track. Both women fell to the ground but instead of continuing the race, D’Agostino, who got up first, pulled and helped Hamblin back to her feet. A few moments later, D’Agostino fell again in pain due to her injured knee. At this moment, Hamblin returned the favor and helped the American runner get back on her feet. Although the pair lost their chances at medals and finished the race last, they captivated the hearts of people across the globe.

These two women were strangers to each other before the race. Each could have carried on running to rank higher in the race. But they both showed genuine signs of strong moral integrity by staying back to help the other get up on their feet.

Their display of sportsmanship will forever be remembered as one of the greatest moments of the 2016 Olympics.

10) They are quick to offer a helping hand.

This integrity trait is closely linked to #9.

People with high moral values are usually the quickest to offer help. They also do this selflessly, without complaints or expectations of gratification.

They ask, “how can I help you?” instead of “what’s in it for me?”.

They help you because they want and not because they need to.

11) They treat others with kindness and compassion at all times.

These days, we see a lot of random big and small acts of kindness plastered on social media. While many may be genuine acts of compassion, some do it for the “views,” which essentially translates to doing it for profit.

This is not to say that people who record themselves doing these acts do not have integrity because some do. The point is someone who has strong moral integrity is genuinely kind and compassionate with or without the cameras, with or without anyone looking, and without expecting anything in return.

Also, they don’t have to be grand acts of kindness. Integrity reveals itself even in the most trivial acts of kindness. It could be giving up your place in line at a grocery store for the elderly. It could be holding the door for someone. Often, it could even be as simple as just a smile.

12) They give credit where it is due.

You know that a person has a strong moral character when they know how to acknowledge others’ contributions and abilities.

There are a lot of examples of these in our day-to-day lives.

At work, for instance, your manager praises every team member for their efforts and hard work toward the completion of a project.

This can also be seen at home when parents acknowledge their teenager’s efforts to improve their grades from Bs to As.

 Remember those essays and papers you used to write at school? (You may still do some at work, too)! Well, that’s another classic example of giving credit where it is due. Those citations, footnotes, and references aren’t just to avoid plagiarism. It’s also a way of displaying integrity and acknowledging those authors’ contributions to your paper’s content.

13) They are tactful even in arguments.

Isaac Newton defines tact as “the art of making a point without making an enemy.”

This is exactly how someone with integrity approaches an argument. We already said in #4 that they respect different opinions. But when it comes to the point that they have to discuss the differences in opinions, people with integrity do not get personal. They attack the argument or the issue and not the individual.

They do not use demeaning or derogatory language.

They engage in peaceful arguments not to fight but to arrive at a solution or a compromise.

14) They are trustworthy.

We touched a bit on trust when we discussed #4 (respect). As we said, people with strong integrity respect and maintain confidentiality.

Another factor to being trustworthy is being transparent. They share their thoughts and opinions truthfully and respectfully.

Because of the values they uphold, you rarely hear people with integrity tell half-truths or white lies.

15) They walk the talk.

Remember the story of Dr. Dotty’s millions we mentioned earlier? Other than exemplifying reliability, it’s also a great example of integrity through walking the talk. His pledge wasn’t merely words. He actually acted on them.

In someone with a strong moral compass, upholding their values is a must. Because of this, you will find that their actions align with the things they say. They don’t say one thing and do another.

As Alan Cohen puts it, “You are in integrity when the life you are living on the outside matches who you are on the inside.”

Why is it Important to Have integrity?

Integrity has a huge impact on people’s relationships – whether it’s professional or personal.

Think of it this way: Wouldn’t you want to have friends and a life partner that has most or all of the signs of strong moral integrity we’ve listed above? Wouldn’t you want to employ or work with people who have all or most of the traits of integrity?

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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