One does not have to look far into today’s headlines to see a ‘win at all cost’ mentality that has seemed to grip our culture in a myriad of ways. Most recently, the life of Lance Armstrong has been just another discovery of a complete erosion of integrity and truth. Here is an example of someone who seemed to live the perfectly impossible and improbable life, yet it was built on a systematic formula of cheating and self-denial. Looking at the ruin of his life, the honest person must come to grips with cheating and consider the wake of the one that lacks integrity in the work of their life.
When it comes to life, work, and eternity, the element of integrity makes a difference. So, what, really is integrity? This can be explained by going back to the entomology of the word and its use. According to etymonline.com, the root of integrity is from the Latin word integritatem, meaning “soundness” or “wholeness.” The word integrity was often applied to ships, and especially to describe the condition of a boat beneath the water line. If the boat had integrity, it meant that its hull was whole and complete, therefore rendering the sailor safe from sinking. In searching for a boat to buy, any wise captain considers what is beneath the water to be more important than what is above the water. Likewise, a person’s personal integrity is like the invisible hull that determines success or failure in navigating life. If you are not ‘sound’, or ‘whole’, then at some point in your life you will sink (case in point: Lance Armstrong).
No one aspires to sink at some point in their life. So, how can someone acquire integrity and avoid a perilous fate concerning the work of their life? Since, integrity means aligning oneself with truth and righteous morality, then one must seek out submission to greater governing principles that are transcendent. Like a sailor navigates from fixed celestial points, life must be transfixed in the grip of integrity; buoyed to eternal principles. All integrity must find its focus on Christ and God’s commands. When integrity is build on God’s way for living life, then the foundation provides conviction when living in the wrong and resolve when living in the right. When this takes place, there is a convergence of life and goodness creating a life well lived. In similar fashion, Integrity means resisting the entropic pull of sin. Integrity consists of having the correct moral code to follow; God’s word, and acquiring the wisdom to grow in integrity. Ultimately, this will lead to character.
On the other hand, integrity is not simply being true to oneself. This is relativistic moralism. Integrity is adherence to something beyond oneself, a set of beliefs centered on Christ that a person lives by. It is not just convictions, but the correct convictions. Integrity is comprised of being a complete person filled with honesty, truth, righteousness, justice, purity, and nobleness.
The Bible is fraught with examples in the book of Proverbs about achieving a life of integrity. Consider a few of these scriptures:
The one who conducts himself in integrity will live securely, but the one who behaves perversely will be found out.
– Proverbs 10:9
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the unfaithful destroys them.
– Proverbs 11:3
The righteous person behaves in integrity; blessed are his children after him.
– Proverbs 20:7
A poor person who walks in his integrity is better than one who is perverse in his ways even though he is rich.
– Proverbs 28:6
In closing, even the Greek philosopher Heraclitus gives sage advice for building a foundation for integrity. He states:
“Allow yourself to think only those thoughts that match your principles and can bear the bright light of day. Day by day, your choices, your thoughts, your actions fashion the person you become. Your integrity determines your destiny.”