Integrity is in the news. Trump. Putin. Facebook. Stormy Daniels. Russia. Robert Mueller…and so on. Ad nauseam. Integrity is a big deal. It is a basic requirement of daily living yet it seems to be in such short supply.
I’ve been studying the character quality of integrity. My primary focus has been the life of Daniel in the Bible. The first six chapters of the book of Daniel recounts significant events in his life beginning with (probably) his teenage years to when he was about 80. A prominent theme throughout these stories is Daniel’s integrity.
The Hebrew word for “integrity” is tōm. If you’re a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance user, that’s H8537, which is defined as “completeness, integrity.” Interestingly, this is also the word used for the high priest’s breastplate.
That’s a weighty thought: The word for integrity is the same word to describe the part of the high priest’s attire that covered his chest, directly over his heart. Priests were to wear their integrity very visibly, for all to see, on their chest. (However, they didn’t maintain integrity in doing this.)
What is integrity? What does it look like? I offer the following definition after synthesizing several definitions from various scholars and thinkers:
Integrity is consistency between heart and actions over time toward right and just purposes.
I often hear that integrity is simply doing what you say you will do. I’ve said that, too. However, I’ve come to realize that integrity goes deeper than consistency between words and actions. Integrity is deeply connected to the heart. By tying integrity to heart, we make a connection between a person’s being and their action—not just their words and action.
Someone could say, “I love my neighbor. I watch their house when they’re out of town. I shovel their driveway when they are sick. I take boxes for them when a courier drops things off. We have shared meals together at each others’ homes.” On the outside this looks like they really do love their neighbor. Some might say it looks like integrity because he displays what he says.
However, if that same person has a critical attitude toward them behind their back (different race, different faith, doesn’t keep a neat lawn, has noisy kids or a barking dog, …), their heart is not “complete” with their actions. There is division between heart and hands. There is lack of integrity.
When a person’s actions align with their heart there is completeness.
Here’s another way to think of it:
Integrity is simple.
I remember very clearly when I was a kid that I figured out telling the truth was so much easier than keeping track of lies and having to weave stories consistent with the lies. I also knew that telling the truth could be hard, especially when I was in the wrong, but that telling the truth and dealing with those consequences today was so much less pressure than dealing with the consequences of a crumbled fortress of lies down the road.
Integrity is simple. Lack of integrity is complex.
While integrity may be simple, it is not necessarily easy. Here are eight habits of people with integrity that are drawn from the life of Daniel. You’ll see these are usually not easy to live out.
- People of integrity remain true to God especially when the culture is changing. See Daniel chapter 1 when he and his friends decide to maintain their obedience to their God while in Babylonian captivity.
- People of integrity pray in dependence on God and His power. See Daniel 2:17-18 when Daniel turned to God for wisdom for a difficult situation.
- People of integrity give God credit. Having learned the riddle of a vision, Daniel gave God credit for the insight (Daniel 2:27-28).
- People of integrity maintain fellowship with other godly people. Daniel was elevated to a powerful position and ensured that his three godly friends would be on his team (Daniel 2:48-49).
- People of integrity speak truth even when it is dangerous. On two occasions, Daniel delivered dire reports to his king. He told King Nebuchadnezzar that God would reward the king’s arrogance with the loss of his kingdom and even his sanity (Daniel 4:24-27). He told King Belshazzar that his arrogance would cost him his kingdom as well as his life (Daniel 5:18-23).
- People of integrity point others to God in times of crisis. After telling King Nebuchadnezzar that he would lose his kingdom and his sanity, he pleaded with the king to repent and turn to God (Daniel 4:27).
- People of integrity live blamelessly. Daniel’s high distinction and regard drove other jealous leaders to charge him with a crime, but they could find nothing to charge him with (Daniel 6:4).
- People of integrity trust God. Daniel’s obedience to the one true God resulted in persecution but he continued to trust Him (Daniel 6:23)
Integrity is simple. It can be hard, but walking with God provides wisdom, courage, and power.
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.