The Meaning of Integrity

On the 3rd of October in 1992, Sinead O'Connor performed Bob Marley's "War" on Saturday Night Live.

She concluded that performance by ripping up a picture of John Paul II, in condemnation of the sexual abuse of children by the Catholic Church.

Two weeks later, O'Connor appeared on stage at Madison Square Gardens for a Bob Dylan tribute concert.

This is what happened to her there.

Here's the thing though.

She was right.

She was right that the Catholic Church had a widespread, international cover-up of sexual abuse of hundreds (thousands?) of victims that wouldn't come to light for almost another decade.

That entire crowd, many of whom were not Catholic and had no personal experience with the church to draw from in assessing her claims, booed her off-stage all the same.

Call it the Dunning-Kruger effect. Call it being confidently incorrect. But the word I like best is wrong.

They were wrong.

Everyone who lambasted Sinead O'Connor in the media for the message she delivered was wrong.

She was right. They were wrong. And the price of their wrongness was that the abuse of children at the hands of Catholic priests went on for almost an entire decade longer. Not because it was a secret. Not because it wasn't known. It was because when confronted with the truth, no one who heard it was prepared to believe it.

Kris Kristofferson said Sinead O'Connor had integrity. And let's be clear about what integrity is. It's not stating an unpopular opinion or belief, regardless of the reaction it gets from other people. It's the act of telling the objective truth, no matter what the consequences are, especially in protection of someone who cannot defend themselves from harm.

Conservative pundits, paid actors, and politicians don't have integrity because they're willing to debase themselves publicly by abusing marginalized people for money, without apology or remorse. The fact that they remain unchanged by visceral public rejection is not integrity. In so much of what they say and do, they've been proven to be dishonest, if not confidently incorrect. But remember, that just means they're wrong. And refusing to admit that they're wrong when they've been corrected (or in many cases, caught) with the objective truth makes them liars. And liars, by definition, do not have integrity.

Integrity is what happens when you tell the truth that no one wants to hear, it costs you everything, and you still keep telling it anyway.

This is what so many youth leaders taught in the Church. Especially in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was a youth and Integrity was one of the Young Women values: "Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me." Job 27:5

So it should come as no surprise when those same youth (now adults) look upon the words of those like Donald Trump and all who support him and see the lies for what they are, who refuse to support any of them because it would mean giving up their own integrity. It's what they taught us to do. They can't take any of it back now.

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