Integrity1We’re all good…until we’re not. The hope is that we’d be mostly like Sir Thomas More, in A Man For All Seasons, who answers his daughter’s pleas to compromise his ideals in order to save his own life: “When a man takes an oath, Meg, he’s holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then, he needn’t hope to find himself again.”

In my newest, unpublished novel, The Accuser’s Burden, dozens of people witness a form of sexual assault. But when questioned by authorities all of them deny their observations for fear of losing their jobs if they defend the accuser.

When explaining King Henry’s power, Sir Thomas More says, “Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But, if it is flat, will the King’s command make it round? And, if it is round, will the King’s command flatten it?”

The question is put before all of us at one time or another. How much power does any one person hold over another and what’s the cost of yielding to that power even when one knows it is wrong? In The Accuser’s Burden, heroine Giovanna is attracted enough to power that she overlooks a flawed character.

It didn’t end well for Sir Thomas More. He was beheaded. Though death isn’t congenial, he concluded that to live having sacrificed his integrity would have been unbearable.

In our contemporary culture, the CFO of a bank files false numbers with the SEC because he’s told to; an assistant coach witnesses a sexual assault on a child, yet doesn’t tell anybody. The sacrifice of integrity is justified by fear of harm to oneself.

Sadly, things haven’t changed all that much. We’re not publicly beheading people in the town square. I guess you could call that progress. But like the victim in The Accuser’s Burden, the loss of employment, the specter of being forever unemployable, becoming a social outcast—all in the name of integrity—is a burden that grows heavier and heavier as he struggles to prove his charges.

INTEGRITY, where's the justiceIn my humble opinion, it’s because reward is rarely the outcome. More often the price is dire, and so our culture continues this decline into moral dystopia. Does it have to be?

Like A Man For All Seasons, the theme of The Accuser’s Burden is integrity… the stand and the pursuit of justice to hold it untarnished. Yes, there’s a price but it all ends with a grand payoff when Giovanna steps up. It’s fiction. But the question I have for you is…does it have to be? Does every man have a price?

How blurry has that line between good and bad become? We’re all good…until we’re tested. We’re all good…until we’re not.

When was the last time that you were tested? I’d love to hear your stories.[subscribe2]


  1. Seems it always comes down to fear. What do we fear most in life? Our culture teaches “success” as the end-all-be-all. “Success” defined as wealth and a good, secure job. Need we go further than the infuriating statement, “business is business”? So easy to let ourselves off the hook. Sadly, integrity seems often impractical…but to me, to be a person of integrity is true success in life.

    Excellent post, Jacquie.

  2. This is a fantastic blog post Jacqueline. Absolutely great!! And it scares me to answer this in many kind of ways.
    We could go on endlessly with the discussion now: We’re good until we’re tested.. and when we’re tested, how bad will we be?
    This is scary to answer for me… even more since the tests had been here for me and I still tried to be good but had better followed nature and defended and protected myself and what belongs to me and with me! Was I right or wrong? Was controlling myself good or bad?
    I tried to help – too many times… and instead of a “Thank you” I got my ass kicked from either side…
    How often do you think I’m prepared to help now?
    There are days I feel more comfortable building myself a hiding spot and kick everyone’s butt who DARES walking by too close… no matter what I’ve seen or heard…
    I normally would be the person who fights for right and wrong and what I know is my knowledge of right and wrong… but ending up the idiot all the time isn’t fun either…
    That’s why I love your blog post – but still am scared to reply….

  3. Jacqueline, I have lived in the third world of South America for Thirty years and had a number of successful businesses where integrity-buying was part of the cost of doing business at every level of society, I have worked as a Consultant in Africa and India also where envelopes with various sizes of “presents” were considered to be just a part of doing business.I bridled at first and my South American lawyers did not want to dispel me of my illusions- so. I waited months for things that could have been done in a day. Later,
    when I learned how the system worked, that it had a certain beauty in its expediency,I
    bought integrity all over the world.

    To say that this type of thing doesn’t exist in the US is to be naive. Why are all the lobbyists former congressman and why are insane people shooting off powerful guns.
    Somewhere someone has paid for integrity to make these things possible.I trade my own portfolio on Wall Street and yet I know the system is corrupt and has no integrity-but it is the best place to grow my money-can you blame me ?

  4. My dad and I were talking about finding the flexibility of standing firm on principles or adjusting to being pushed to “compromise” for the sake of accomplishing a necessary end without giving up integrity. You hit it from many angles better than I can comment. But, your a deep pool of talent… and integrity!

  5. An excellent article that addresses an issue of importance to me – I recently retired and am chairing a professionalism and ethics committee for my former employer – the first in our organization’s history. You have hit on something that everyone should be aware of; too often, we sacrifice integrity on the alter of short-term gain. But, after 50 years in government, what I’ve seen is that in the long term, people who lack integrity lose – unfortunately, they take others down with them far too many times.

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