I cannot even begin to comprehend the number of essays, articles and books written on the subject of integrity. The number must be in the millions at least. The question I have is; how many people actually make an effort to apply the principle of integrity to the process of living their everyday lives? Better yet, how many even comprehend the value of applying the principle of integrity to the process of getting from the point of opening their eyes in the morning to the point of closing them again in the evening.
If one pays any attention to the news it would be difficult, especially for the uneducated, to even think that integrity has anything to do with our lives at all. The people we have placed in positions of authority in our governments, be it national, state or local, to a man/woman appear to apply little, if any integrity to the process of carrying out the duties of the offices to which they were elected. But, they aren’t the ones on my mind at the moment. The people on my mind are the ones I deal with on a daily basis in my own life. My question is: why is integrity such an unimportant part in people’s lives today?
Integrity doesn’t appear to be considered a virtue anymore, in spite of the fact that in reality, it’s an umbrella term which covers a number of other virtues, like honesty, faithfulness, accountability, responsibility, loyalty, reliability and trustworthy. The term integrity as applied to structure means to be whole; not broken or divided. To my way of thinking, that definition could be applied to the whole of the seven virtues above. In other words, a person of integrity would be all of the above, whole, not broken or divided.
As a part of the world of business, integrity as a principle is pretty much enforced by rule of law. If I purchase a product or service and agree to pay over time, my integrity as it applies to making those payments is supported by a written contract. If I fail to live up to the terms of the contract my credit rating will indicate that I am a person with little to no integrity. If I entered into that contract with little more than a hope for continued financial stability in the future and no backup plan for honoring my contract then I would be a person lacking whole integrity and that would be the same as no integrity. It’s sort of like being a little bit pregnant. You either are, or are not, pregnant.
But all of the above are issues supported by law. What about integrity in our personal lives where law civil or otherwise does not apply? For example; I might ask someone to do something for me; something that while unimportant to them is something very important to me. The response to the request is: “Yes, I will, but not today. I’ll do it tomorrow.” That’s okay with me, because I don’t expect someone to drop whatever they may be doing that instant to do something for me. It would even be okay if the person said, “No, I’m sorry, but I really just don’t have time to honor the request.” I might be disappointed but at least they could be considered a person of integrity because they told me immediately that they didn’t have time.
But what if their response was the “yes” response and then they failed to do what they said they would do? And not only did they fail to do what they said they would do, when asked if they had done it, failed to apologize, and instead made excuses about how busy they were. The gospel of Matthew addresses the issue to a degree in Chapter 21:28-31,
“But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go. “Which of the two obeyed his father?” They replied, “The first.” Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do.”
When I was neck deep in my alcoholism I had not one shred of integrity; not a whit’s worth. I was not whole, I was broken, I was divided. I was void of integrity in every sense of the word as defined above. I was honest only when it served me better than being dishonest and those moments were rare. I was like the man in the scripture above who said “yes” but failed to honor his commitment. I was faithful to only one person. The rest of the world was not worth faithfulness as far as I was concerned. The term faithfulness is in reality interchangeable with being trustworthy as well as responsible and reliable.
There was one of those virtues I think I could lay claim to. That would be loyalty. I was then and still am today, loyal to people I deem worthy of that loyalty. I’m even loyal to people whom I can’t depend on to do what they say they will do.
Three of the most difficult tasks I’ve faced in life were taking, or doing as they say in AA, step 4, taking that moral inventory of myself; step 5, admitting the nature my wrongs to God, myself, and someone else; and step 9, making the required amends, some of which have required a lifetime of amending.
I’ve remained sober for nearly 22 years, for 2 reasons. Abba has always been there for me and the absolute fear of ever having to go through those 3 steps ever again. Do I think for a moment that I’m perfect? Of course not! But, I have learned that to stay sober I must adhere to the best of my ability to those 7 virtues. It pains me a great deal to think what is being lost to the world, if it serves me, a recovering alcoholic well, why do the majority of its inhabitants fail to live by those virtues. If we fail in one … we have failed in all.
So in answer to the question at the end of the second paragraph above, People just don’t realize that integrity is critical in our daily lives because if we cannot be counted on for the integrity to do what we say we will do, the people we count as important in our lives will eventually lose faith in us. We may still love them but we will not trust them.