In The Making of a Christian Leader, Ted Engstrom wrote: “The world needs men who cannot be bought; whose word is their bond; who put character above wealth; who possess opinions and a will; who are larger than their vocations; who do not hesitate to take chances; who will not lose their individuality in a crowd; who will be as honest in small things as in great things; who will make no compromise with wrong; whose ambitions are not confined to their own selfish desires; who will not say they do it because everybody else does it; who are true to their friends through good report and evil report, in adversity as well as in prosperity; who do not believe that shrewdness, cunning and hardheadedness are the best qualities for winning success; who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for the truth when it is unpopular; who say no with emphasis, although the rest of the world says yes.”
This potent quote summarizes many facets of integrity, truly a beautiful word that should be a central focus in us and in society. The word integrity comes from the same Latin root as integer and implies whole. A Christian person who is whole is undivided, lives rightly and has a viable Christ centered identity. This helps to decrease major factors that contribute to evil in society, such as indifference, violence, greed, self-centeredness, division, lies and fakery. We shun adding our vote to the popular vote just because it is the thing to do or participating in activities that damage a group or person’s character. If we truly live integrity, we know it is not doing whatever we want when we want, but rather being what we were meant to be and standing up for what we value. This entails the ability to say no to certain things that reduce the quality of who we are striving to be. We strive to be true to the Christian tradition at all times. Christian standards call us to say no to things that lead to sin. In our society, this is quite difficult. If we believe as a Christian, we must show it by how we live. Believing that God is good, and that he is walking with us, gets us through many problems. The foundation for Christian integrity is Christian faith that energizes the light of hope and the power of love.
Christian integrity should be lived by all Christians, whatever their station in life. God’s love is there for all who seek him. Integrity is not determined by attending important meetings, knowing important people, making important decisions, being politically correct, having a large following, being in the media spotlight, or having money or status. Most of us are not important people. Some are called by God to do important things. Mother Teresa of Calcutta is a prime example. She was upright and well known but she would not consider herself important. Most of us are behind the scenes that make things happen. Integrity shines bright in Mother Teresa’s unknown sisters, hospital housekeepers or restaurant dishwashers who live rightly. In the words of Philippians 4:8, we think and act on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.” To live these attributes, we must walk in the footsteps of Christ and live what he taught. We do what is right, not what is easy, even when no one is watching us. We are sons and daughters of God and must act accordingly. Neither is integrity stationary. We may frequently fail but this should not discourage us. A young monk once said to his superior: “Father, I must leave the monastery because I do not have a vocation to be a monk.” The older monk asked why, and the younger monk replied: “In spite of my daily resolution to be good tempered, kind and loving toward my brother monks, I keep on sinning. So I feel I am not suited to the monastic life.” The older monk looked at him with love and said: “Brother, the monastic life is this: I rise up and I fall down, I rise up and I fall down. I rise up and I fall down.” The young monk stayed and persevered. And so it is with us. When striving to live Christian integrity we fall and get up over-and-over again. We are a mix of vices and virtues, but if we cultivate the flowers of virtue, the weeds of vices will decrease.