The famous Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said: “When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”[1] What this wise man was talking about was integrity.

Psychologist Seth Meyers tells us that integrity is a word you hear almost every day, but it’s not a word that people spend a lot of time thinking about. If you try to define it, what would you say? According to the dictionary, integrity is “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” Put another way, the root of integrity is about doing the right thing even when it’s not acknowledged by others, or convenient for you. An individual with integrity is the antidote to self-interest. There are countless examples of integrity in everyday life—and yet we seldom see some them acted out in our daily lives:

Dr. Meyers suggest the following examples of integrity:

            When parents apologize to their children for wrongly punishing or unnecessarily yelling at them.

            Bosses highlighting their staffs’ accomplishments and downplaying their own.

            Couples who refuse to call each other derogatory names and treating them with disrespect.

            Drivers who refuse to give in to road-rage no matter how discourteous the other driver may have been.

            Refuse to keep other people waiting because of personal business or lack of good time-management.

            Giving another person the benefit of the doubt when the circumstances are unclear.

            Doing things voluntarily instead of always wanting to be rewarded.

Dr. Meyers goes on to say the good news about integrity is that we’re not born with it—or without it—which means that it’s a behavior-based virtue we can cultivate over time. We can set a goal to show more integrity in everyday life and we can reach that goal by practicing the behaviors above, as well as countless others which too often go unnoticed.

Psychologist Leon F. Seltzer tells us that perhaps the most important thing you possess is your integrity. It’s your word of honor—what makes you honorable. Yet at one time or another, you’ve certainly violated this trustworthy, most “sacred” part of yourself. Why? Whether to yourself or others, what is it that, from deep within, compels you to go back on your word?

Other psychologists tell us that integrity is a personality trait and comprises the personal inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from honesty and consistent uprightness of character. The etymology of the word relates it to the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete). Evaluators, of course, usually assess integrity from some point of view, such as that of a given ethical tradition or in the context of an ethical relationship.

Not only that, but integrity is consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcome. As a big picture concept, it judges the quality of a system in terms of its ability to achieve its own goals. We must employ the thinking process of reducing the information contained in a concept in order to retain only facts. Then we can see what evidence is relevant in understanding a particular purpose for someone’s actions. That allows us to see how it applies to any interaction between people that reveals significant factors in identifying integrity due to a person’s appropriate or inappropriate behavior. A value system may evolve over time while retaining integrity if those who advocate that values account for and help resolve inconsistencies.

But what does the Holy Book have to say about integrity? King Solomon is a gold mine of thoughts and concepts about integrity. For instance, he says, “People with integrity are sure-footed, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.[2] Then Solomon states, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their dishonesty.”[3] The King goes on to record, “It is better to be poor and have integrity than to be dishonest and a fool.”[4] But wise Solomon is not finished, he tells us that “The godly walk with integrity;blessed are their children who imitate them.”[5] And then he repeats what he said before in different words, “It is better to be poor with integrity than to be dishonest and rich.”[6]

We can also find examples of integrity when we look at Samuel’s life and conduct.[7] And King David tells us that God can be trusted because He is trustworthy. That’s the point: It always comes down to the issue of character, not just words. Biblical integrity is not just doing the right thing; it’s a matter of having the right heart and allowing the person you are on the inside to match the person you are on the outside. This is how God is. This is how His people should be. And the writer of Hebrews defines what integrity means: “Jesus the Anointed One is the same yesterday, today and forever.”[8]

So, the question that remains is do we resemble any on these examples of integrity?  If the answer is “some” or “none” we can use them as tools in teaching us the value of integrity. Remember, you may be less than totally honest with yourself or others, but it is fatal to be dishonest with God. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] From Tao Te Ching (The way of integrity)

[2] Proverbs 10:9

[3] Ibid. 11:3

[4] Ibid. 19:1

[5] Ibid. 20:7

[6] Ibid. 28:6

[7] 1 Samuel 12:1-4

[8] Hebrews 13:8

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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