Authored by Chris Cedar (a guest contribution)
The term “integrity” as part of character is often broadly interpreted. From one person to the next, the guidelines of “acting with integrity” can begin and end at different points, morphing to accommodate individual circumstances. However, true integrity is as solid a piece of one’s character as a cornerstone of granite. Once it becomes a part of the foundation, it does not adapt to the point of weakness, nor does it look to the other stones to see “how they do it.” It stands: firm, immovable, and much needed in its place. Without it, the building will not last. So stands integrity. Without it, neither individuals nor society can succeed. So let’s take a look at the integral elements of integrity.
Here’s a quote by Junius, a writer from the 18th century:
The integrity of men is to be measured by their conduct, not by their professions.
Sound familiar? It has also been said by my favorite author of all time—Jesus Christ—in these words: “You will know them by their fruits.”1
What comes to mind when you think of integrity? How would you define someone acting with integrity toward you? Personally, I’d say it means they are concerned about their treatment of me and behave with decency and reliability when they interact with me. If I said “That person has integrity,” I’d be referring to their moral standard in whatever circumstance. I would expect them to act even to their own hurt if it is right, and to resist the temptation to compromise, lie, cheat, or sidestep for gain. The definition simply helps to us understand it better; active integrity is dependent on what we and others do with what we know is right.
Here’s how the Bible defines it: “We do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”2
So, how do we commend ourselves to every person’s conscience? By “manifesting the truth.” Do you think Jesus was just using a pleasant metaphor when He said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free?”3 Let’s think about what that means: Truth equals freedom. Which means the reverse is just as true: Lack of truth equals lack of freedom, or rather, captivity.
Captive to what? Proverbs 11:6 explains, “The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the treacherous will be caught by their own greed.”4 When we don’t live truthfully, then we become captive to our own greed, or as some translations put it, our own lust, mischief, desires, and on it goes. The key point here is “our own.” We need to try with all that is within us to be more than simply ourselves—to be more like Jesus, who is truth, and in His truth is freedom.
Let’s look at it this way. Integrity equals “the grit in you.” The term “grit” is often used in description of character to mean “tough, down-to-earth reliable courage and determination,” or “stubborn courage; brave perseverance.” In that sense, integrity is being determined to the point of stubbornness to do what we know is right—regardless of the smooth alternatives. The “grit” comes into play when we’re faced with a situation where the “easiest” thing to do goes against what we know to be right. What is accepted or practiced around you makes no difference, except to spur you on to be more. It is that part of you which guides your actions, interactions, and the way you think. And for believers, this “grit” comes from a foundation based on God’s Word.
Throughout the centuries, until recently, someone’s word was their bond.—“Bond” meaning you were obligated to fulfill it; it was like signing a contract. If someone had promised someone else that they would do such-and-such, then that is exactly what they would do, come what may. And if they didn’t, not only would they be dishonored and practically a social outcast, but often their family would feel compelled by their honor to fulfill the promise. It was not a light thing to give your word, and when you did, you meant it. Your word and your honor were your most precious possessions.
Here’s something to think about: Which of all your possessions would you consider the most useful and valuable? Would you easily throw it away? I doubt it. Well, we should be just as reluctant to “throw away” our integrity. Listen to what Alan K. Simpson, a successful businessman, had to say about it:
If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.
So, cancelling an appointment at the very last minute because “Oh, I can just quickly call them,” or failing to follow through on a promise—however unimportant to us—or saying one thing yet acting differently; these actions rob us. They rob us of this priceless possession, this part of us that defines, directs, and enriches us: integrity. Do we sometimes feel the whole truth may be a detriment to our agenda, so it had perhaps better just remain unsaid? If so, we need to remember Romans 12:17: “Provide things honest in the sight of all men.”5
Again, honesty equals truth. Truth equals freedom. Freedom equals happiness for us and those around us. No one wants to be around a person they cannot depend on, but everyone loves a man or woman whose actions speak as loud as their words!
We each fail at times, whether intentionally or not, but acknowledging the failure and getting up each time to try again is what makes the difference.
If we can be strong in Jesus—honest, straightforward, caring, honorable, and faithful—we will have more than “integrity”; we will have the “grit” to make it through unstable times, and the ability to share God’s love with others—through an example of strong character and unfailing integrity. That’s what matters.
1 Matthew 7:16 NAS.
2 2 Corinthians 4:2 NIV.
3 John 8:32 NIV.
4 New American Standard.
5 King James Version.
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by Simon W. Copyright © 2012 by The Family International