We’re all told to live with integrity — but what exactly is integrity?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, integrity is defined as the “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values; an unimpaired condition; and the quality or state of being complete of undivided.”
But to have integrity means more than adhering to a moral code or set of values. To some, it may be a state of having faith; some see it as having unwavering honesty, or exemplifying a strong moral character and admirable virtues through dedication and persistence.
To be a person who demonstrates integrity, you need to have courage, virtue, and love in your heart. You need to strive for goodness and happiness, even in the smallest of tasks. It can seem like a lofty goal to achieve, but it can certainly be done. And what better place is there to look for inspiration on moral integrity than from literature? Some of our world’s greatest thinkers lived their lives with integrity and knew how to integrate these traits into their characters.
These 20 integrity quotes from literature truly exemplify what it means to have personal integrity. These quotes are about honesty, truth, character, principles, and what it actually looks like to live with integrity. Hopefully they’ll add a brightness to your day...and inspire your next good deed.
1. “They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.” — Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
2. “This above all; to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” — William Shakespeare, Hamlet
3. "I assign myself no rank or any limit, and such an attitude is very much against the trend of the times. But my world has become one of infinite possibilities." — Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
5. "'Why did you do all this for me?' he asked. 'I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you.' 'You have been my friend,' replied Charlotte. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing.'" — E.B. White, Charlotte's Web
6. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
7. "I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will." — Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
8. "It's much better to do good in a way that no one knows anything about it." — Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
9. "No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true." — Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
11. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” — Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
12. "There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere." — Jane Austen, Mainsfield Park
13. “Be men, or be more than men. Be steady to your purposes and firm as a rock. This ice is not made of such stuff as your hearts may be; it is mutable and cannot withstand you if you say that it shall not.” — Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
14. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go.” — Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
15. “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it's yours.” — Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
17. “Stay gold, Ponyboy.” — S.E. Hinton , The Outsiders
18. “And that’s all we are Jefferson, all of us on this earth, a piece of drifting wood. Until we—each of us, individually—decide to become something else. I am still that piece of drifting wood, and those out there are no better. But you can be better.” — Ernest J. Gaines, A Lesson Before Dying
19. “To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.” — Yann Martel, Life of Pi
20. “Each of us had something to learn from the others and something to teach in return.” — Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
21. "As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself. Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility." — Nelson Mandela
22. "Moral authority comes from following universal and timeless principles like honesty, integrity, treating people with respect." — Stephen Covey
23. "Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity." — W. Clement Stone
25. "Leading with integrity and empathy requires vision and a connection to your deepest self." — Karla McLaren, MEd
26. "Develop your character so that you are a person of integrity." — Peter Cain
27. "It takes courage to create a meaningful life of integrity. It also requires good company. And practice." — Shelly Francis
28. "Supporting the truth, even when it is unpopular, shows the capacity for honesty and integrity." — Steve Brunkhorst
29. "Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody's going to know whether you did it or not." — Oprah Winfrey
30. "The development and contributing factors to good character is the continual process of understanding the components and actions of love. It is these components that provide the guidance for compassion, integrity, behaviors and actions that transcend living only for self." — Byron R. Pulsifer
31. "As you experience changes and breakthroughs, know that integrity, honesty and truth are the highest vibrating energies to guide you forward. Everything else will fall away." — Molly McCord
32. "The qualities of a great man are "vision, integrity, courage, understanding, the power of articulation, and profundity of character. " —Dwight Eisenhower
33. "Six essential qualities that are the key to success: Sincerity, personal integrity, humility, courtesy, wisdom, charity." — Dr. William Menninger
35. "It's easy to have principles when you're rich. The important thing is to have principles when you're poor." — Ray Kroc
These integrity quotes come from some of the world’s most influential and inspiring minds. They span centuries and cultures where examples of integrity had every reason to differ. But a common thread remains: honesty and integrity are very much synonymous, and the importance of courage, love, and an unwavering trust in yourself and humanity really matters.
"Actions speak louder than words" is one of the many integrity quotes we have all heard throughout our lives. To be a person of integrity, these actions need to shine though. And if these quotes about integrity show you anything, it’s that even the smallest of good deeds can make you an infinitely better person.