Counselor's Corner: John McCain: The courage to have integrity

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Fred Cavaiani

U.S. Sen. John McCain died on Saturday. We have all seen so much about him on television since then. This is a man who inspired many people. He never let personalities get in the way of principles. I could disagree with him but always respect him for his viewpoints and I could listen to his reasoning.

This was a man who didn’t attack people but would stand up forcefully for principles he believed and professed. He could admit mistakes and he taught all of us the best about America. He believed in this country. His patriotism was practiced in the innermost depths of his personality. This was a man who was respected by both parties.

The courage to have integrity is the courage to tell the truth and to stand up to people who do not tell the truth. I will always remember when Sen. McCain ran for president against Barack Obama. A woman stood up and made a racist statement against Sen. Obama, declaring that he must be an Arab and therefore not a good man. Sen. McCain gently but firmly stated that he thought Sen. Obama was a very good man.  He confronted this woman’s racism in a gentle but direct manner and showed the whole world the meaning of integrity. His congratulatory remarks to Mr. Obama after the election were respectful, kind and filled with integrity.

This is a man who suffered immensely for his country as a prisoner of war. He never expressed any bitterness over what was done to him but only a sense of pride to be an American and being able to serve his country.

The many years in politics as a congressman and then a senator brought him tremendous respect from both political parties. 

Men and women like John McCain are so needed today in politics and in all parts of our glorious land. Integrity comes from the Latin word “integra,” which means whole or entire. To have integrity is to be whole or entire in our honesty and in our actions. It means that we are internally and externally consistent with our personal self and how we treat others. It means that we are thoroughly honest and live our life according to good moral principles. It means that we treat other people with respect and we are not afraid to stand up against wrongdoing in a loving but honest manner.

To have integrity is to confront people when necessary and not makes excuses for procrastinating away the truth within us.

On Saturday this country lost a political saint who taught all of us the meaning of integrity and honesty. We do not have to be Republican to realize this. Integrity radiated out of the character of John McCain. He will be remembered for his courage and integrity. 

What can we learn from John McCain’s life? I have learned that respect is gained by how a person lives his or her life and doesn’t make excuses or blame other people for their own personal mistakes and limitations.  John McCain did not blame other people for his decisions. He was a man of total integrity.  He chose Sarah Palin to be his running mate. In hindsight, it was probably a wrong decision but at the time it seemed like the right decision. Never did he blame her for losing the election. He could have done this but never did and never spoke a negative word about her after the election.

Integrity means to have an intact ego. This means that our self-worth is not determined by the latest poll or the amount of praise that might be lavished upon us by those wanting us to favor them. An intact ego means that our self-worth results from positive, good and honest actions that serve the welfare of other people and that we consistently tell the truth.
How do you tell the truth? Can you disagree with another person and still respect them? Can you have an open and honest discussion with someone who sees things different from you and not attack their character? Can you refrain from holding things against someone else because they see things differently and think much differently from you? Can you live your life without letting the desire to be popular or loved get in the way of acting honestly toward others and respectful and kind toward others?

Today in the world of politics there is much divisiveness. This divisiveness is not because of differences of opinion. It is because of the personal attacks that are placed upon other people. This is like a cancer that keeps spreading throughout the world. Though John McCain died of brain cancer, his kind and calm heart and integrity was like a healing balm that could cure the cancer of selfishness and self-centeredness throughout the political world and throughout this beloved country of ours. Let us carry on this legacy of John McCain. Let us all go forward with his integrity and courage to make our country a stronger nation.

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Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: Fredcavi@yahoo.com and his website is fredthecounselor.com.

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