The honest person is feared by the dishonest person. Those who have gained political power have almost universally done so through dishonest means, and maintain it thus. The honest person holds her personal integrity as the single inviolable feature of herself. This is a person who remains incorruptible and is therefore not understood by the dishonest. The dishonest seek to control and exert power over others, to protect themselves and enrich their own material wealth; perhaps simply because the dishonest desire power over others. The honest person is immune to the dishonest person’s entreaties, and will not be swayed under the power of the dishonest. The honest person will either maintain integrity or be destroyed. This hard line is not understood by most people, and so the honest person is not understood by most, and not welcome. Honesty is dangerous, integrity is dangerous.

This reflection was inspired by the short biography of Gnaeus Julius Agricola, written by his son Cornelius Tacitus. Agricola was incorruptible, and as such was disliked and feared by most other consuls, proconsuls, and other provincial rules of the Roman empire. He died at 56 under mysterious circumstances – poison appears most likely. There was even some suggestion the emperor had him poisoned. But we don’t remember fondly any of the corrupt rules of Rome. Were we to read of them, we would certainly be disgusted and repulsed by their behavior. To read of an Agricola, however, is to come to believe in the best parts of ourselves as humans. It is to believe in ourselves as honest, upright and courageous. That is the great gift of a life so lived.