Integrity, a Noun

emmaI 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.

Emma LeFebvre

Emma LeFebvre is a ninth grader at Westtown School near West Chester, Pa. Though she is not Quaker in name, she attends a Quaker school and feels a strong connection with the principles. In her free time, Emma loves to read, write, and play soccer. When she grows up, she would like to be a novelist.

1 thought on “Integrity, a Noun

  1. Thank you Emma for your essay. Integrity is one of my favorite words. Wilmer Cooper wrote about it as the base of Quakerism. When used this way, it means a oneness through all phases of our lives. That of God should guide us always. We often fail to meet this standard, but it is what we strive for.

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