What It Means to Be a Person of Integrity

UPDATED: October 18, 2023
PUBLISHED: October 4, 2017

On the right side of the Pyramid of Success, below patience, there are four additional pieces of mortar: integrity, reliability, honesty and sincerity. These are qualities that, together, encompass the genuineness, strength and impact of human character.

In his book Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, with Jay Carty, Coach Wooden defined integrity and its importance in the following manner:

“Integrity in its simplest form is purity of intention. It’s keeping a clean conscience. But it is also a composite of some of the other mortar qualities in the pyramid. To some extent, integrity contains a bit of reliability, a healthy helping of honesty and a portion of sincerity. However, I believe that the component of purity of intention is important enough to give integrity the status of mortar in its own right.

Related: 9 Tips to Help You Strengthen Your Integrity

“Purity of intention is really a reflection of the heart, and having a pure heart is so important that I placed it near the top of the pyramid, just under patience. The heart of a person with integrity always wants to do what’s right, once he or she is sure what ‘right’ is.

“I wanted my players to become men of integrity. When we have integrity, we are not going to do anything that will be demeaning to anybody else, either on or off the court.

The word integrity stems from the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete). Integrity when used as a character term is defined as the quality of being unimpaired or an adherence to moral principles.

“The five people who first come to mind that best reflect the quality of integrity are Jesus, my dad, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa and Billy Graham. The order of the last three really doesn’t matter.

“One of the common threads between these people is that each was genuinely concerned about the betterment of others. The critics of each might not agree, but in my mind, the integrity of their commitments to regard others as more important than themselves sets them apart. Mother Teresa has been quoted as saying, ‘A life not lived for others is not a life.’ ”

Under each piece of mortar on the Pyramid, in parentheses, there is some brief application advice for that mortar. In the original version of the Pyramid, Coach had suggested that integrity was an important trait because it “speaks for itself.” After revising the Pyramid years later, Coach changed the application advice for integrity to instead read, “purity of intention.” Coach had an important motivation for this change. He wanted to make certain that we understand that integrity is the result of a pure heart. A heart that believes, as Coach liked to say, “The most important word in our language is love.”

Related: The 3 Most Important Things In Life

Coach emphasized integrity as an important personal trait for any coach in his book Practical Modern Basketball. “A coach who is not a sound and honest man has no place in the development of our youth.”

The word integrity stems from the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete). Integrity when used as a character term is defined as the quality of being unimpaired or an adherence to moral principles.

Coach believed that we are whole, complete, unimpaired and of good moral principles when we live a life committed to helping others.

Coach never had an unlisted phone number. He always made his best effort to visit with anyone who sought his help. There are countless stories from people of all walks of life who received encouragement and assistance from Coach, whether it was a phone call, a letter or a visit.

The legacy of his integrity is summarized by two of his favorite quotes.

  1. “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” —Lao-Tse
  2. “You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone without a thought of repayment.”

Related: Try These 30 Random Acts of Kindness to Brighten Someone’s Day

This article originally appeared on TheWoodenEffect.com and has been republished with permission.

Craig Impelman

As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, www.woodenswisdom.com. He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.