What is honesty and integrity and how they are different from each other?
Title: Understanding Honesty and Integrity: Invaluable Virtues for Future Civil Servants
As aspiring candidates for India’s prestigious civil services examination, which paves the way to a secure UPSC career, you are likely familiar with essential virtues such as honesty and integrity. You may find these terms often used interchangeably, but they are different concepts reflecting distinct, yet interrelated aspects of moral character. As an aspiring civil servant, it is integral to understand these words deeply and how each manifests in our professional and personal life.
Honesty: The Directness of Truth
Honesty, from the Indian perspective, is considered a supreme virtue and is enshrined in the universal concept of “Satyameva Jayate”, which means “Truth alone triumphs”. Honesty signifies being truthful, straightforward, and unswerving in thought, speech, and action. It involves not just refraining from telling lies but also abiding by truth in all circumstances, including not withholding any information when required, or giving any misleading explanations.
In an administrative context, say in the work of an IAS officer, honesty is manifested whenever s/he presents accurate facts to a senior, inspects a scheme on the ground, or presents unbiased reports. For instance, the late IAS officer Narendra Kumar, who sacrificed his life fighting against the illegal mining mafia in Madhya Pradesh, is hailed for his unwavering honesty.
Integrity: The Wholeness of Character
While honesty is about truthfulness in specific situations, integrity is about a holistic adherence to moral and ethical principles. Integrity is the firm adherence to a moral and ethical code which requires an individual to remain steadfast under any and all circumstances. It is the homogenising force that binds together the various traits of a person’s character to present a unified moral perspective.
To illustrate, let’s recall the story of T.N. Seshan, a former Indian Administrative Service officer who served as the 10th Chief Election Commissioner of India. A man of impeccable integrity, he completely transformed India’s election system, which was riddled with malpractices. His reforms drove a systemic change and enforced fairness convincingly. His personal values and integrity set an example for all civil servants to be principled, stand against corruption and strive for the public good.
Differentiating Honesty and Integrity
While both honesty and integrity are attributes of a good character, the main difference lies in their breadth and depth. Honesty is situation-based, dealing with truthfulness in particular situations and actions, while integrity is pervasive and all-encompassing, dealing with the intrinsic moral fibre of a person. Honesty implies telling the truth to others while integrity means being true to oneself.
As probationers in a service like the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, you’ll realize honesty requires you to do your tasks truthfully, perhaps like writing a correct answer in the exam. However, integrity demands you to go beyond truthfulness. It urges you to take responsibility for your actions, understand the consequences of those actions on others and society, and choose the path that aligns with your conscious and moral values, even when no one is watching.
Both honesty and integrity are crucial virtues for UPSC aspirants and future civil servants. As public administrators responsible for people’s welfare and country’s progress, maintaining truthfulness and committing to moral principles should remain at the core. In the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, “Without integrity, nothing else matters.” Therefore, as future leaders, it’s not only the understanding of these concepts that matters but their conscientious application in your professional and personal life as well.
So, as you continue to prepare for your UPSC journey, aspire to inculcate honesty and integrity in your character. It is these qualities, along with your knowledge, that will make you a true civil servant, dedicated to the service of the Indian Nation.