“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” (Proverbs 10:9)
One of the greatest joys in my life –to be quite candid– is to be partnered with a woman of extraordinary integrity. It’s very helpful, since the elasticity of my own conscience often leads me into trouble.
One of my favourite biographies is Carl Sandburg’s life of Abraham Lincoln, who seemed to have epitomised this quality. Here’s Lincoln: “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”
I see the same quality in Atticus Finch, the courageous lawyer in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: “They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
And somehow I read the same in the old King James version of Isaiah 21:6 “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” Just say what you see! Nothing more, nothing less. Don’t hesitate, prevaricate or fabricate! The whole truth and nothing but the truth. That’s what makes for a true witness, in court as in life.
But how do you arrive at integrity? In Isaiah 61, it is described as an aspect of the anointing. He will plant “trees of righteousness.” The Hebrew (terebinth trees) is symbolical of people strong and straight, who are not threatened by circumstance, nor bowed down like reeds before the wind.
It’s a planting, then, a tiny, seed beginning of truthfulness. But Einstein said: ““Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”
That is to say, truth is never trivial.
People with integrity live by fairness, even when fairness puts them at a disadvantage or causes them problems. It wouldn’t occur to them not to fight fair.
People of integrity speak what they mean, with no subtext or hidden agenda, allowing their “yes” to mean “yes” and their “no” to mean “no.”
People of integrity are authentic and transparent with a kind of “what you see is what you get” approach. Keep it simple. Keep it real.
People of integrity are straightforward. They are people “in whose spirit is no deceit” (Psalm 32:2), who don’t hide what they’re doing.
People with integrity explain the facts in an even-handed manner, not in a way that makes them score points or gain an advantage.
People of integrity focus on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.” (Philippians 4:8). They think straight.
But there’s a little more to say.
I remember years back, reading one of the Harry Potter books to a Junior High class. Suddenly one paragraph hit me with the force of a sledge hammer in the chest. I all but wept.
“Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory.” ( J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
You see, this is where integrity goes. It stands tall in the face of evil and accepts the consequences. Such was the experience of Lincoln, Socrates, Gandhi, Martin Luther King… Jesus Himself.
Lord, how I need that anointing. Let the roots go down deep and let the tree grow strong.
Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy…