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The Spirit of Integrity
Integrity comes from the Latin word integer, which means complete, whole, entire. It is the undivided wholeness of a person. We will naturally respect and trust people with integrity in their life, as they are who they are in whatever they say and do, wherever they are. Here, we divide the components of integrity into 5 parts:
- What we should believe
- What we believe
- What we say
- What we do
- What we do at different circumstances
These components are sequentially related as follows:
- What we should believe and what we believe - Uncompromising
We live in a society without moral absolutes, no standard, where everything is deemed to be subjective and relative: what is true to you may not be true to me, so let's just live together harmoniously. This, however, is not real peace; it's avoiding the issue rather than addressing it. It is quite unfortunate to see that many people are being swayed by hollow and deceptive philosophy, sometimes just to conform to the social settings. We need a firm principles so that we can anchor our life around it. This is important as we can be consistent, yes, but we can be consistently right or consistently wrong. We ought to be velvet-covered brick, to have firm principles on the inside but warm and relational in communicating what we believe to others.
Sometimes we choose to believe only the things that we like, cherry-picking some principles of life that will not perturb us out of our comfort zone. Integrating between what we should believe and what we believe is to be uncompromising. For Christians, for example, this means taking the Bible as one complete package of truth, and not just picking the parts that speak about blessing while leaving the hard teachings about responsibility and obligation that comes with it. We ought to take the whole Biblical truth and not to take only what works and what feels good.
- What we believe and what we say - Honesty
To have a coherence between what we believe and what we say is honesty. It's a congruence of what is inside our heart and our speech. To communicate the truth is actually easier than to spread lies. If our lips speak words of deception, a lot of brain power is needed to memorize what we say to him/her, so that the next time we talk to him/her, we will remain consistent and not be caught in our lies. One lie can break relationships and erase the past record of truthfulness. To be honest is actually simpler, less straining, and will prevent future complication.
Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse. - Proverbs 19:1
- What we say and what we do - Trustworthy
If someone says that he is going to do something and indeed he does that, he is trustworthy. If you are trustworthy, people can hold on to your words, for they know for sure that you will do it and you will not breach their trust. It is to be a man of your own word, where your word is your bond. To say something that we don't do is to be a hypocrite, unreliable, and man with speech but no action.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 7:21 (NIV)
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? - Luke 6:46 - NIV
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. - James 4:17 (NIV)
- What we do at different circumstances - Consistent
We live in different social settings and circumstances, such as family, schools, workplace, church, and also our private life. What we do at these different social settings is the testament to our consistency and integrity. Someone can be an angel in the church, but he may transform into a beast in his workplace. The apostle Paul also mentioned that public testimony is an important quality for the selection of the elders, that they have a good reputation with those outside the church community (1 Tim 3:7). Often it requires courage to go against the crowd whenever everybody else is doing the wrong, to remain consistent and true to our principles.
A key aspect probably lies in the private setting: our true self is probably who we are when there is nobody around us. In Platos's The Republic, he told a story of Gyges ring. Gyges found a ring that renders him invisible and he used it to murder Candaules, King of Lydia and marry the queen. His thirst for power corrupted his heart and he rose to the king's throne. The true test for human's morality is one's conduct when he/she does not have the fear of being caught or punished. This test can be hypothetically done if we imagine that we have Gyges ring that give us invisibility.
What would we do if we are invisible and we can do anything that we like without having to bear the consequences of our actions? The temptation for power, riches, revenge, sexual immorality, and other detestable things will probably start to pervade our mind and will corrupt our mind if we succumb to it. We may start to question ourselves whether we are righteous because we extol principles of truth and human rights or we are afraid of bearing the consequences and shame that will follow our actions.
In summary, integrity is the moral commitment and courage to maintain consistency between what we should believe, what we believe, what we say, what we do, and what we do at different circumstances. It is something that we decide, either we seek praise from men or praise from God. At the end, our integrity will be tested with fire:
Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water. - Isaiah 1:22 (NIV)
In the Bible, there is this story about Job, who is betrayed by his friends. His friends attribute his afflictions to his sins and wrongdoings. In return, he said:
I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. - Job 27:5 (NIV)
Even his own wife left and betrayed him:
His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” - Job 2:9 (NIV)
However, Job came out the same person he was, maintaining his integrity even after being tried:
Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason." - Job 2:3 (NIV)