I was ten when I first learned the word, just one of the dozens I had to memorize for a test: Integrity, I-N-T-E-G-R-I-T-Y—“a state of being whole or undivided.” Little did I know that “integrity” is so much more than just a noun.
I was 12 when I first saw the word in action. I heard on the news an incredible story about a homeless man who found a purse and returned it to its owner. He obviously needed the money, yet he gave this up for something more. Only later did I realize that “something” was integrity.
Now I am 14, and I finally understand the word. Integrity cannot simply be given a definition—it’s not something you can learn or obtain by memorizing. Integrity is when your friend takes double helpings, but you only take one to make sure there is enough for everyone. Integrity is when the person next to you sneaks a candy bar into his pocket for free, but you dutifully pay for yours. Integrity is when you return a lost purse to its owner, even though you desperately need the money. It is the personal decision to take the more challenging yet more rewarding path through life, or, as Robert Frost once said, it is “to take the road less traveled by.” So, as I have learned over the years, integrity is not something that can be simply learned—it must be experienced.