Tag Archive: integrity


Real Live Integrity

In my last post, I started talking about the importance of integrity. I also talked about what it is and why I think it’s desirable, but what I would also like to do is get past that and move into application. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten stuck there! It’s easier to talk about something as a concept than to make it concrete and talk about how it looks in my life. Thing is, concepts aren’t much good if they’re mere ornaments. For them to be worthwhile, they have to move beyond the “good idea” and become real, live, and practiced. This might be especially important for something like integrity, which is structure and essence and anything but ornament!

So what does integrity look like as it develops in my life? One point I should probably make is that I think, like ogres or onions, have layers. What’s immediately apparent about somebody is probably not all that they are. Under the immediate, there will be something else, and under the something else, there’s probably something else yet, and under the something else yet… I’m sure you get the idea. That complexity is not a bad thing. It can add richness, interest, even beauty to a person’s life and character. It keeps us from being flat (you know, like old soda pop), boring, single dimensional beings, and I’m pretty sure God made us like that on purpose.

We do have this little problem, though, that messes up the layers. It’s called sin. One reason it is a problem is that sin causes separation and brokenness. It does that in our relationship with God, it does that in relationship with other people, and it does it inside an individual. Sin breaks up the cohesiveness of the layers and causes a person to lose their integrity.

I do think there is more than one way sin breaks up an individual into layers that don’t talk to each other. One way is pure cussedness on my part. I have a conscience. Everybody does. It’s part of a human being’s basic equipment. I suspect that life provides opportunities for the education or desensitizing of a conscience, but that’s another post, because right now, I’m talking about how I will sometimes just ignore my conscience’s pricking in favor of doing something else. For instance, I have a conviction about obeying traffic laws. The government has set them, it has the authority to do that, and a citizen, I’ve a duty to obey them. Once in a while, I’ll deliberately speed, and I’ll find some way in my head to justify it. It’s a little thing, relatively speaking, but I am causing myself a certain amount of brokenness when I violate my own principles. Here’s another way. Because of that conviction regarding traffic laws, I sometimes allow myself to get judgmental about how other people drive. Ever noticed how many people just do what they want without much apparent regard for laws or other people’s safety? I get so mad about it sometimes that I want to treat them the way they just treated me. Besides the utter idiocy of playing tailgating and cutting off games (that’s dangerous) while driving, how well does that anger and judgment jive with God’s command to love others? To treat those around me with kindness, gentleness, and so on? To consider them as more important than myself? Where is my integrity there, huh? When I choose rage, to let myself dwell in bitterness over the injustice, and so on, I’ve lost hold of what really matters to me, and the integrity of my soul has taken a hit. I hope that makes some sense. I’m really having trouble trying to put this to words.

Another way sin breaks us is through the actions of others.  I can tell you that abuse and neglect can do a number on integrity, on wholeness. Being hit, being deceived, being ignored – those force rifts into a soul. Being deceived certainly helps to teach a person to be deceptive. How would they know to do anything else? It’s their normal. It was mine. Being hit without justice – receiving physical pain at the hands of somebody you believed would be your protector – I can’t even tell you how deep that forces the wounds. Again, I thought it was normal. All this stuff hurts, because it breaks us (breaks trust, breaks faith, breaks hope, etc), and as individuals we have to do something with the pain. I believed that’s what I was worth and supposed to expect from those who “loved” me.

I didn’t always do good things with that brokenness that was beaten into me. This in a place where it gets so tricky, because while what happened to me wasn’t my fault, what I did with it was. I had no control over how my dad treated me, but I did over how I responded, and my response was another place to accrue brokenness. I should have been angry. I should have been hurt, and I sure was. Because of that, I walled myself off in sections so that I wouldn’t feel, I wouldn’t react, and he couldn’t so easily to get the most tender parts of me. I also blamed him for all of that, and I shouldn’t have. He didn’t do the walling. I did that. He made me angry, but when out of anger, I did things to simply defy and spite him, that was wrong of me. In that particular place, having integrity meant that I started to learn the difference between his responsibility and mine, and I had to start taking mine.

You know what one really awesome thing is about integrity? I don’t to live as a victim. I can get hurt, and I can move on.

Good luck to you in getting through this!

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Integrity

Let’s take a look at integrity today, shall we? It’s one of my favorite words in a long list of words I like, and it’s one I’ve spent some time absorbing. Integrity is something I very much want to have present in my life. Like most everything in life, its presence has been something of a process.

An important part of this process has been asking questions. As I began to ask them, an unpalatable realization emerged. I was not as honest a person as I’d thought I was. I’d been fooled, I was fooling myself, and since I was doing that, I wasn’t telling other people the truth, either. This hurt. I’d prided (can you tell what got hurt?) myself on being an honest person, and I’d had nothing but contempt for liars. To find this discrepancy in myself was indeed painful.

Unfortunately, in some ways,I didn’t help myself very well in dealing with my own lies, but that’s another story. What I think that I did do well is to search for understanding of what honesty means. Along the way I learned that there is a difference between behaving honestly (what I’d been attempting to achieve) and being an honest person.

Being an honest person is much more demanding. You can’t settle for a mask or the appearance of honesty. Instead it requires some soul searching to see if the honesty goes any deeper than the surface. You have to look at uncomfortable things like motivation. Honesty is a good thing, but there are bad reasons to pursue it, like pride in one’s good behavior. I can tell you firsthand that pride in one’s honesty can give a person an unwarranted sense of superiority.

I was trying to move past the mask. I did the soul searching and got very angry about what a crappy person I was. That, by the way, would have been me and not God piling on the blame and hate. He doesn’t operate like that. Anyway, I also dragged out a concordance and started looking up references containing honesty. I pulled out dictionaries and found definitions of honesty. I even got into the thesaurus and found synonyms for honesty and repeated the process with some of the synonyms.

Not surprisingly, integrity was listed as a synonym. Honesty and integrity go hand in hand. At the time, all I knew about integrity was that it could be used instead of honesty, and it would mean the same thing. It was a synonym, right? Well, that is true, but as I dug some more, I had a beautiful insight.

Here’s the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of integrity:

1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility
2 : an unimpaired condition : soundness
3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness

Let’s compare this to honesty, shall we?

1 obsolete : chastity
2 a : fairness and straightforwardness of conduct b : adherence to the facts : sincerity
3 : any of a genus (Lunaria) of European herbs of the mustard family with toothed leaves and flat disk-shaped siliques

We’ll skip the obsolete meaning and the one about the mustard family, because we’re talking about people, and focus on door #2. Honesty, the “fairness and straighforwardness of conduct,” could be fairly mistaken as a behavioral measurement, could it not? You do this, this, and this, and you’re considered honest. Yay! You look good. However, let’s go back to integrity and pick out a couple  of words, like “condition” and “state.” Those go a little deeper than “conduct.” You start talking about the state or condition of something, and you’re talking about what it’s like. You might even be talking about its essence, that elusive element that makes it what it actually is. Interesting, no?

Let’s look at another dictionary’s definition of integrity, which is what I did to reach that insight. I looked things up all over the place, because I was trying hard to understand what I was reading and not be writing my own mistaken ideas into it. Integrity is:

1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.
3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship’s hull.

Look at that. Isn’t it beautiful? Whole, entire, undiminished, sound, unimpaired, perfect – I don’t know about your heart, but that’s exactly what mine was straining toward. God says things in the Bible about how His people will be a “new creation”, that we’ll be born again and have eternal life, and that the life we have will be “to the full.” If you go snooping about the Bible, you can find all kinds of good things God says about the people He calls His. You can even find some references regarding integrity. I like I Kings 9:4-5 and the ones in Proverbs, personally, except for 29:10. But, yeah, beautiful!

There I was with a disconnect between who I was and who I wanted to be, between who I was and who I should have been, and there’s integrity, a word meaning wholeness, perfection, and unimpaired condition. Now, remember that my goal in life is and was already at that point to love God with my heart and mind, soul and strength. How do ya’ do that without integrity? How do you do that without wholeness or soundness? How does a person who is diminished or impaired or broken all to pieces even try to love God with their whole being? Got me! I don’t even want to try. I don’t think it’s possible, and I started asking God specifically for integrity.

For myself, honesty alone doesn’t cut it. I need something more than “straightforwardness of conduct” to – well – keep me honest. Integrity, however, seems to fit admirably. It’s got more depth and, to me, more hope to it. It’s about being honest all the way through. It’s about wholeness and soundness and being a person who actually might be able to love God with all that they are.

I even hear that God likes it! See?

I Chronicles 29:17a

I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.

Catch you later!