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!