How to Use Your Words With Integrity

How to Use Your Words With Integrity | Jennifer Spoelma

Integrity. Just saying that word brings a sense of calm to my chest. It fills me with a sense of trust; I can trust myself, and I can trust others. But the word “integrity” also carries a hint of surprise with it. The shock that, integrity, in today’s world is not expected.

Sadly, we have become accustomed to receiving twisted messages in advertising, politics and social media. This isn’t new news, but it is still important news. The commonplace use of biased information being shared as if it were objective truth, has diminished our ability to trust information. That is not the issue though.

Questioning and critically processing news and messages is extremely important.

However, this is what concerns me. I think that people have become so used to consuming biased information, we’ve adopted the pattern ourselves. Think about it: information is shared so quickly, especially on social media. And people often opine and make judgments in a moment’s notice. It seems there is very little time, or effort, put into gauging the integrity of information we share when it supports our opinions. 

To preserve truthfulness we must use our words with integrity

People click ‘share’ and post articles or videos that seem to discuss important issues but instead they just share selective facts and promote specific worldviews.

And individuals can easily  justify this because our post-modern society actually creates a safer environment for outrageous information to be shared than we may think.

For example, everyone can defend their own opinions and dismiss those that disagree on the grounds of skepticism or rogue ideologies. This reinforces the idea that there is no objective truth.

Therefore, choosing to speak up about an issue, or share an article that takes a strong political stance is all of a sudden way less risky for our egos. Because if people disagree with you, you can just write them off as any of the following: uniformed, brainwashed, selfish, self-righteous, less woke than you, etc.

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The negative effects of communicating without integrity

At its worse, this trend can have the following effect: as communicators, we can reason that if nothing can be trusted, then what I say doesn’t need to be either. I can say what I want and make the claims that I want whether or not it’s true.

Now, let’s pump the breaks a bit. I want to clarify that I write this believing that most people do live with integrity. They are making decisions they’ve deemed to be best, and try to live in alignment with their values. I think that on an individual basis, people are doing the best they can, including in regards to how they communicate.

But it's in our culture, right? Our culture is wack in this regard. The cultural norm is to be judgmental, hot-headed, narrow-minded and divisive. As a whole, in the United States, we are not a culture defined by integrity--especially in how we communicate.

For goodness sake, we have a president that tweets lies and consistently demeans and undermines anyone who challenges him. And since that drives the news cycle, we are beginning to find it normal!  

The more normal something becomes in culture, the easier it is to adopt it personally.

It is blood-boiling for me to see the ramifications careless, or unwise communication has real-life people. Whether it happens in relationships, in the workplace or in politics, words matter and they have an effect. That effect can be positive or negative, and, often, that is subjective. Ironic, I know. 

I'm thankful for the awareness of fake news, and that many people are putting for the effort to check where the content their consuming is coming from. I think one of the ways we can further improve our culture's norms is by contributing our own perspectives and thoughts from a place of integrity.

So to contribute to that effort, I’m going to share my ‘How to Write with Integrity’ list with you. I created this a while back when I was starting a writing project that I knew would be touching on certain hot-button issues.

Some items on the list  are personal, some commonplace and others may be unexpected. But it has proved to be a helpful tool for me to filter my thoughts through before deciding to share them with the world. I hope it benefits you, too!

How to Write with Integrity

  1. Write what is true. Don’t try to appease.
  2. Nuance. Hold space for it. But draw attention to it only when necessary.
  3. Respect the intelligence and experience of my readers.
  4. Be honest and open about why certain issues have personal importance to me.
  5. I do not have to be angry to make a point.
  6. Seek the Lord and His wisdom. Write through uncertainty in prayer.
  7. Speak to my own knowledge-gaps with humility.
  8. Do not assume.
  9. Do not expect, but rather hope.
  10. Give credit to ideas stemmed from others.
  11. It’s okay to get political, but check your own biases first.
  12. You can learn anything. Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions or address tough topics.
  13. Work hard and don’t give up.
  14. Invite others into the process intentionally. Be careful about whose advice you take.  
  15. Your worth does not hinge on what you create.
  16. Progress and growth often come through struggle. How you face adversity affects your growth.
  17. Remember Mom when you write. Celebrate, honor and appreciate her.
  18. Don’t let this become a burden. Writing and creating is a gift to enjoy.
  19. The lesson doesn’t always need to come at the end.

What else would you add to this list? How do you maintain your integrity when writing or speaking, especially online?