Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Essence of Integrity

Copyright: Aleksei Potov
About twenty-five years ago, when we lived in Atlanta, our pastor told a story in his sermon one May. It was Mother’s Day, and he took his wife and four children to the restaurant at Stone Mountain for brunch. His youngest son had just turned whatever age it was when his meal was no longer free. As he stood before the cashier, the thought crossed his mind—for just a second—that he could fudge on his son’s age, and save a good bit of money. But his son was watching him, and what would the real price of saving maybe $20 be?

Integrity.

My daughter Emma had a fender-bender about ten days ago. She was leaving the parking lot of her apartment complex and bumped into another young woman who was backing out. (To avoid too many shes, I’ll call her Eve.) Eve was talking to her insurance agent when the police—whom Eve insisted be called—arrived. Eve said her company said it was her own fault. But by the time she talked to our insurance company, Eve had changed her story, and since my daughter admitted she was a bit distracted by the paper she had due, we were held 100% at fault. Emma said, “All they are teaching me is to lie! Maybe next time I just won’t tell the truth.”  I know her well enough to believe she wouldn’t really do that, but she was so frustrated, so upset that she was being judged unfairly and being made to pay for it because she told the truth while Eve lied.

Integrity.

Copyright: Jean-Marie Guyon

The same day as Emma’s accident, my best friend’s father died. For years, her mother had shown up every day at the care facility where he lived. He had Alzheimer’s, and though he required more care than she could give him at home, he was quite happy there. She spent most of every day there, visiting, talking to him. Her friends encouraged her to skip days, do what she wanted, have some fun. Let the nurses do it all. She refused. The last couple months he had pneumonia, and could only eat pudding and applesauce. She still came every day and fed him. She had vowed to care for him in sickness and in health. So she did. Faithfully, cheerfully.

Integrity.

Where has it gone? Why is it so rare?

The world tells us to get whatever we can for ourselves, no matter what it costs. Even if it hurts others, or even if it hurts us in the long run. Only now matters. Only success matters.  
That is decidedly not what God thinks.  The material gains or savings are fleeting. But the effects our actions have on us, on our children, on those around us are long-lasting, even eternal. We must think carefully before we take action. The consequences are often far more profound than we realize.

To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.   Proverbs 21:3

The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him! Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.   Proverbs 20:7, 11 

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