Integrity Matters - No Matter What!
What is integrity?
When we say someone has a strong sense of integrity, we are saying that he or she is an honest, upright, moral individual. When we talk about the integrity of a thing, we are talking about its strength, purity, and wholeness. Integrity also means being motivated by a single and pure purpose. Webster defines integrity as:
1 : an unimpaired condition : SOUNDNESS 2 : firm adherence to a code of esp. moral or artistic values : INCORRUPTIBILITY 3: the quality or state of being complete or undivided : COMPLETENESS syn 1 see HONESTY ant DUPLICITY 2 see UNITY
In order to maintain our integrity -- our complete, undivided, incorruptible, moral character -- we have to understand and maintain our solid connection with God. Of course, God is always maintaining His connection to His perfect creation -- us.
Why is integrity so important? Here are some practical reasons:
- A silversmith puts the silver he needs to craft his jewelry, platters, etc., right into the heart of the fire and keeps it there, despite the effect on him. The fire melts out all the impurities. If there are impurities in the silver, then the silver will not be strong. Whatever he makes will not last if there are any impurities.
- If a house has termite damage in the wood, the wood has to be replaced. If it is not, the house will lose its strength and fall down. It's very simple.
- If a tile on the space shuttle lacks integrity -- if there is a defect in a single tile -- the space shuttle will not be able to re-enter the earth successfully. We've seen the effect of corrupted tiles: the space shuttle has blown up, and people have lost their lives.
How much more valuable are we than silver, a house, or a space shuttle without people in it? Shouldn't we treat ourselves as important as all that? Preserving our integrity allows us to be strong when faced with challenges, to be moral when tempted with immorality, to be honest when faced with duplicity. Integrity is essential to our success in life. And protecting our integrity is critical to loving ourselves, weathering physical and emotional storms, healing ourselves and others, and affecting the world in a real and positive way as Jesus told us to do.
A person's moral character matters -- no matter what the media or others may try to tell us.
- It matters if we keep our word. When we tell someone we'll do something, we need to do it; otherwise, we are not dependable or trustworthy.
- It matters if we are moral. If we do drugs, drink, or have sex with someone to whom we are not married, we are compromising the integrity of our body. With drugs, we are putting foreign substances into our bodies that impair our ability to reason and to have control. With sex, we are opening ourselves up to parenthood and unfortunately, disease. We are undermining the family structure and the marriage covenant. These statements may be tough to hear, but they're true. Both subjects warrant their own articles. We've already had an article on "Sexual Morality."
- It matters if we are honest and ethical. It might seem tempting to take the easy way out -- to lie a few times if it seems harder to tell the truth. But then, we have to keep remembering what lie we've told. Eventually we'll get caught in our own lies. By definition, lies are not true. Yet, the search of all the greatest thinkers is, "What is truth?" We may be tempted to think that a little fudging on the taxes, a little insider trading, a little cheating on a chemistry test, a little plagiarism on an English paper … can't hurt.
In all of these different areas, the unfulfilled promises, illicit sex and drugs, and lies may not initially catch up with us. We may not get caught or have immediate ill consequences, and so we may start believing that we can get ahead in life by compromising our integrity. But this is a false assumption. When we compromise our integrity, we are really cheating ourselves and destroying our own strength. We are not founding our lives upon principles that will last and support us throughout our lives. In other words, our lack of integrity WILL catch up with us here or hereafter. Evil-doing truly does not pay. History has proven this true.
Taking short cuts can often do us irreparable damage. Consider, for instance, a baby chick. It takes a chick an amazing amount of time and energy to peck open its shell. If we open the shell for it, thinking that we will help it, we will actually hurt the chick. The chick will not have enough strength to live and so will die. Each and every peck is essential for that chick to gain the necessary strength, persistence, and skills for it to survive. If we skip over the hard challenges by avoiding them or cheating our way through them, we are ultimately weakening ourselves, depriving ourselves of valuable learning experiences that will equip us to handle whatever comes our way. We are, in a sense, paving the way for our own and ultimate failure.
But failure is not inevitable. We are not bound to cheat or compromise our integrity -- even if the peer pressure to do so is enormous, even if the expectations for material, economic, or business success seem impossible to achieve without cheating. The only thing that is truly inevitable is our discovery that we, as the children of God, are complete and at one with God. Because of this, we have everything we need to meet every challenge. This is a huge discovery!
But, we need to learn and listen to what those wiser than we are have told us. Jesus teaches us valuable lessons. He explains: "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7:20). He doesn't say, "by their 'words.'" What really matters in life, what really shows the character of an individual, is not what he says but what he does day in and day out. In times of temptation, people discover how important integrity is to them. Jesus knew of what he spoke. He was faced with tremendous pressures throughout his life. He refused to compromise his integrity, even when the devil, tempting him three times, offered him the world. Knowing his strength and freedom came from his undivided connection with God, Jesus was able to affirm, "Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matt. 4:10).
We don't want to dabble with evil or waffle in our response to temptation. Jesus told us that "a house be divided against itself . . . cannot stand" (Mark 3:25). If we waver in our decisions on how to deal with evil, terror, lying, cheating, etc., then we are susceptible to attack from evil and can be easily destroyed. Predators, such as lions or sharks, don't pick out the strong prey. They pick out the young, wounded, or weak. This is interesting in light of what has recently happened in Russia. The terrorists chose a school to use as their platform for terrorism; they chose the young and the weak to victimize. Evil will try to hit us where we're weakest -- morally and physically. If we do not maintain our integrity, if we do not fight off impurities, if we do not stand up to evil, then evil will find a way into our lives. But Jesus said of evil, or the devil, "he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44). A lie does not have power over us once we know that it's a lie. A lie is defeated by the truth. Truth brings freedom.
Our real integrity is founded in the truth that we are at one with God. Jesus affirmed, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). Jesus's teachings continually affirm our unity with God, our integrity as a child of God, our innate goodness and Godlikeness, and the freedom that God has bestowed upon us. Our God-given integrity blesses us. The fact that we are principled, moral, upright, and whole makes us free from worry, guilt, confusion, duplicity. Of course, we may still have inner battles; temptations may still arise making us think that we're better off if we cheat. It's tempting to think that we're not good enough, that we don't have everything we need, or that we're deficient or lacking in some area, especially if we don't perform up to expectations of our parents, friends, bosses, or teachers. But if we start from a position of lack, we'll end with a position of lack. Our foundation determines the strength of our house; so our foundation of thought determines the strength, metal, character of our individuality, our being. We need to start from the standpoint of completeness and reason from there. And if we have not always stood up to temptation successfully, we have to realize that this does not mean that we have lost our integrity. It's still there. A "1" is a "1" is a "1" -- no matter how much we try to erase or change it. We are God's children no matter how much evil will try to tell us otherwise. Our nature will always be whole and complete. Let's delight in the freedom of our God-given integrity!