Oftentimes in conversation, the words “honesty” and “integrity” appear together, or even incorrectly as synonyms.
In “The Insufficiency of Honesty,” author Stephen L. Carter eloquently describes the difference between the two words. Through the use of relatable examples, figurative language, and unique structure, Carter walks readers through his idea of the differences between integrity and honesty, a thing often used as an excuse for our actions, and the impacts our beliefs have on decisions that we are fundamentally accountable for.
Throughout his piece, Carter uses examples to convince readers of his points. These specific examples clarify the points that Carter tries to make, as ideas such as sex, religion, and marriage, are all common in today’s society. First, Carter discusses racism, saying that although you grow up believing a certain thing, knowing it to be fact, this could be viewed as wrong, meaning that technically “the racist is being honest – he is telling us what he actually thinks-but his honesty does not add up to integrity” (364). Carter next conveys the story of a married man on his deathbed who chooses to relay the news of his affair 35 years prior to his soon to be widow (364-365). This example is also used to back up his point that “honesty can be something one seems to have” (364). He continues to discuss financial marketing, churches, work environments, and even sex, as hypothetical examples to support his claims on the meaning of integrity.Carter gets the ball rolling with a simile, as he describes how “integrity is like the weather: everybody talks about it but nobody knows what to do about it” (363).
Here, the readers warm up to his writing style, understanding what he might discuss, and that he knows people don’t know a lot about it. This deductive reasoning contributes to logos. He also begins with a rhetorical question, asking: “when I refer to integrity, do I mean simply ‘honesty’?” and following it immediately with an answer, “The answer is no” (363).
Carter even personifies integrity, describing how integrity is what is telling us not to hurt those closest to us. Throughout the piece, Carter uses personal anecdotes to establish a common ground to the first-person piece. He provides his own account, choosing not to include the dictionary definitions of the words integrity and honesty, as he has his own idea of their meanings, this being evident when Carter says, “When i refer to integrity i have something very specific in mind.” Take a look at the definitions for yourself, it seems that Carter had a pretty thorough understanding, and through his arguments, he was able to convey their meanings indirectly, ultimately having a better impact on his audience. With his own ideas, and stories, Carter is made more approachable as an author.
Important to Carter’s piece is his structure. The piece is divided into sections, “TELLING EVERYTHING YOU KNOW,” “ERROR,” and “HONESTY AND COMPETING RESPONSIBILITIES.” By dividing the piece into these categories and following through with a claim, proof, conclusion writing style, Carter is able to separate the flaws in honesty to allow his readers better grasp on the information he is trying to convey. Carter mentions a point, adds an example, and then synthesizes the two together, allowing the reader to finally have the “ah ha!” moment by the end of his point. Honesty and integrity are both important virtues, honesty being important to integrity. Integrity involves “discerning what is right and wrong; acting on what you have discerned, even at a personal cost; and saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of write and wrong, (364) whereas honesty is just telling the truth, not lying, whether or not the truth is morally incorrect, you are truthfully explaining what you believe. Carter is able to use many devices, and examples to convey to his audience that there is a difference to the two, and that it doesn’t have to be confusing.