“One of the most important ways to manifest integrity is to be loyal to those who are not present. In doing so, we build the trust of those who are present. When you defend those who are absent, you retain the trust of those present.”
—Stephen Covey, Author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
How easy it is to make that small comment on the side: to slight the person, who slighted you. Maybe you were kinder, but you still wanted to do that little jab back. You’re probably embarrassed and can hardly admit it to yourself…
No matter what someone has done to you, you have a job. That’s right, it’s a job, it’s a position, it’s a role, it’s a calling in life, it’s the gift of your life. You can take a stand for goodness.
You can take a stand for truth. You can break—the—chain.
As Steven Covey, one of our greatest leadership writers admonishes us, if you want to demonstrate true integrity, “be loyal to those not present.” That means you uphold the positive virtues and see the goodness in their lives. We start with that. It also means that if you do need to be open and honest, you can do so in a kind and loving way. You do this in their presence (not others’ presence).
What does that mean if you speak negatively when they’re not present?
You’re doing it for your own ego, your own self-satisfaction, and building up your own sense of “justice.” Do you really think speaking pejoratively about others is going to lift yourself up? In fact, it’s going to tear you down. If you try to pull others down, you pull down your own integrity: You pull yourself down with them.
Being loyal to those not present builds trust. In essence, what Steven Covey is saying is, be gracious. Uphold others’ character — and your own character — by speaking well of others and expecting their best.
That brings about the best for everyone! And about the best in your life, too!
Stephen Covey was a professor and author, writer of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. His work focused primarily on leadership, family and living with principle. He was a professor at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University. When he was younger he played sports but an injury in his youth switched his focus from athletics to academics. He attended the University of Utah for his undergraduate degree and attended Harvard for his MBA. Although he earned his doctorate from Brigham Young University, he has also been awarded ten more honorary doctorates. He was also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In his spare time, he enjoyed cycling and giving keynote addresses. He and his wife, Sandra, have nine children and fifty-two grandchildren.