Webster’s Dictionary defines integrity as: 1: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: INCORRUPTIBILITY 2: an unimpaired condition: SOUNDNESS 3: the quality or state of being complete or undivided.
In studying for a class, I read several books that focus on integrity. I find it fascinating that with so much being written about it and so many classes being offered on the subject, especially in the field of business and leadership, our society still does not follow a more stringent ethical/moral code. I have come to the conclusion that the reason so many people have a hard time living a life of integrity has nothing to do with a lack of knowledge. It is not because we don’t know right from wrong. It’s because it is much more difficult to live a life of integrity and do the right thing than it is to bend the rules and lend a blind eye to doing what’s easy. It is HARD to live a life of integrity.
That said, I’d like to share some characteristics that those who wish to live a life of integrity should follow:
- Keep Commitments
In the good ol’ days, people shook hands to close the deal on verbal agreements. The need for contracts and lawyers wasn’t nearly as necessary as it is today. People gave their word, and that was enough. Commitments were kept. When a couple entered into marriage, they exchanged vows promising for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for as long as they both shall live. They made a commitment. I challenge you to keep your commitments. Whether it is a commitment to your marriage, a commitment at work with colleagues or clients, or a commitment to fulfill the promise you made to your kids to go to the park after school, be a person of your word!
- Speak the Truth
Slander and gossip are vicious habits and do an enormous amount of harm. I like to visualize slander and gossip as our mouths being guns and our words being bullets. Once our words leave our mouths, just like bullets, they cause harm, if not death, to the target. Once the bullet comes out of the gun, you can’t change your mind and take the bullet back. Our words are like bullets. We need to be careful to speak the truth, and do it with love. Imagine a world where everything we said about anyone (whether they were in our presence or not) was to edify and build them up!
- Practice Self-Control
We are bombarded with messages like “if it feels good, do it;” “just do it;” or “look out for number one.” Not great messages if you want to live a life of integrity. Sometimes, having integrity means you look out for what is best for others before you seek your own interests. Integrity cannot be associated with selfishness. They are polar opposites. Practice self-control and before you take any action, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Will my actions have a harmful effect on anyone?”
- Learn How to Pray
Jesus modeled how to live a life of integrity, and it began with prayer. There are many moments in Scripture when Jesus gives examples of prayer. Interestingly, He teaches us not only how to pray, but also how not to pray. In Matthew 6 Jesus is giving His disciples examples of how not to pray, and then He shares with them an example of the kind of prayer we should practice. True prayer begins with recognizing God the Father, surrendering to His will, asking for what you need, forgiving others and accepting forgiveness, and receiving the divine protection of God.