Photo by Liam. Available at Flickr.com.
Today my thoughts settled upon the word “integrity.” Perhaps the negative political campaign brought this to mind, or the news about union leaders demanding secret ballots as they voted to close Hostess, while at the same time lobbying for the power to overturn the worker’s right to vote by secret ballot. Maybe these things caused me to think about integrity.
The dictionary gives as the definition of integrity “adherence to moral and ethical principles, soundness of moral character, and honesty.” The root meaning is to be whole or integral. We also get the word “integer” from this root: a number that is not a fraction or a decimal, but a whole number.
Those who lack integrity are duplicitous or double-minded. People who lack integrity display multiple personalities–at least multiple loyalties struggling for dominance, pushing one way and pulling another, sometimes tearing the person apart.
Those who deliberately sacrifice their integrity fall into another category from those who are victims of an inner weakness. Deliberate duplicity is not a sign of confusion but of evil.
All of us lack integrity to some degree. Only one person has lived an integral life in an absolute sense; his behavior mirrored his words and his words always reflected his true self. I am, of course, referring to Jesus Christ.
I am not suggesting we must attain absolute integrity to be persons of integrity. Some people, however, work harder to bring their lives into alignment with their principles, which is what integrity is all about.
Though I am a striving follower of Jesus Christ, I believe you can be a person of integrity without being a Christian. I am acquainted with some atheists who are persons of integrity; they walk what they talk. They are not trying to portray one thing while doing something different.
I also know Christians whose lives are anything but integral. They have not yet figured out that Christianity calls for a realignment of soul, body, and mind. Yet, I would not call them hypocrites (though these exist also); rather, I think people are just at different levels of understanding and development. We all live with a gap between our ideal selves and our real selves and some seem to do a better job of closing that gap than others.
The world needs leaders of integrity. This is not what we have been getting lately. Whether in business or in politics, leaders of integrity are hard to find.
How can we turn this ship around? Perhaps we can start by talking about it. Integrity–what is it? Why do we need it? How crucial is it for the survival of a civilized society?