Core Value Four: Integrity
In a recent article written for Forbes magazine, author Amy Rees Anderson makes a surprising opening statement about the critical importance of living a life of integrity. “If I could teach only one value to live by, it would be this: Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be. Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose.”
Her statements are really surprising considering the current cultural climate we live in where the prevailing school of thought says “the end always justifies the mean.” I mean, there are a lot of “other” voices out there in the culture telling us to embrace a different set of values. For example, entertainer Miley Cyrus recently said, “Life is ALL about having a good time.” Madonna has often shared one of her biggest philosophies on life, “If it makes you feel good, then I say do it.” You go Madonna! What about all those famous baseball players like Alex Rodriquez, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa who admittedly used performance enhancing drugs but made a boatload of money and set all kinds of records over the last twenty years. What about business leaders who cheat and lie but seem to be enjoying a great lifestyle. All of these people seem to be doing pretty well and they don’t seem to embrace the value of integrity. They do have a lot of money, fame, and success though. So, really, does integrity matter?
I like Amy’s perspective but need some more convincing to fully embrace this so-called life of integrity. Here are some questions I would have:
- What is integrity?
- I appreciate the sentiment of “doing the right thing’” but does’t that mean different things to different people? Where does integrity ultimately come from? There has to be some standard of right and wrong.
- Why is it important for my life?
Let’s start with question number one – what is integrity? The dictionary defines integrity as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles or moral uprightness. The state of being whole and undivided.” Simply put, integrity is honesty, responsibility, and trustworthiness. O.K. good so far, but where does this standard of right and wrong come from that we are supposed to live up to? This is where it can get confusing, but I personally believe there is strong evidence that the standard comes from God himself. The Bible says there is a God and he is righteous, pure, unchanging, light, truth, love, holy, and perfect. He is the source of all that is good and true. “This is the message we have heard from him (Jesus) and declare to you: God is light, in him there is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). James 1:17 says, “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”
I once read a story about the famous atheist Bertrand Russell who was quoted as saying, “No one can sit at the bedside of a dying child and still believe in a loving God.” The author’s question back to Russell was, “then what would you tell them?” Tough luck. Sorry, you were the unfortunate one. By the way, this is it, there’s nothing on the other side. This question doesn’t make any intellectual sense if you don’t believe there is a God and there’s life after death. If we are all just here by chance and then cease to exist one day, why would he be outraged with tragedy and perceived injustice? If there is no God than you definitely can’t say that an unfortunate early death is somehow wrong or immoral.
Alright, I’m tracking with you. I can see how the standard of right and wrong can come from God, but why is it important to my life? Again, it seems like a lot of people living without integrity are prospering. Here are my top 4 reasons for living with integrity:
- Because our choices have real consequences and can hurt real people. Take for example the story of King David in II Samuel 11. Scripture says that at the time when kings went off to battle David stayed in Jerusalem. One night David got out of his bed and began to walk on the roof of his palace. He noticed a beautiful woman bathing in another home and had one of his attendants find out who she was. The attendant came back and reported that her name was Bathsheba and she was married to a man named Uriah. David went ahead and sent for her and had sexual relations with her. No big deal right? Wrong. Throughout the rest of the chapter we find out that Bathsheba becomes pregnant and David, in an attempt to cover up his mistake, has her husband murdered. Many historians believe that this was a turning point in David’s leadership, and ultimately, his lack of integrity had profound effects on his family, his children, and the nation.
- Because trust is the currency of business and life and when it’s lost is detrimental. Integrity and trust go hand in hand. When trust is lost relationships suffer, companies lose customers, athletes lose endorsements, and churches lose influence. Trust is the most valuable commodity any person can possess. “The single uniqueness of the greatest leaders and organizations of all time is trust,” says David Horsager, author of “The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships and a Stronger Bottom Line.” Interestingly, people without integrity many times have a hard time trusting anyone else.
- Because lying and deception affect your health. Really? Yep. According to an article in U.S. News and World Report titled, “How Lying Affects Your Health,” honesty is your best policy for health and well-being. It is a well known fact that when we lie we trigger the release of stress hormones and increase our heart rate and blood pressure. Stress in turn can cause many other physical problems. Psalm 32:2-3 says something very similar, “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.”
- Because one day we will have to give an account of our lives and choices to a righteous God. To me, this is the most convincing reason of any to live a life of integrity. Contrary to what many people believe there is never a time when “no one” is around. Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.” Early in my walk with Christ this point was reinforced to me and has always stuck with me. It was the summer that April and I got married and I was traveling back and forth from my parents house to April’s parents home in Minerva, Ohio. One day we were up in her room talking and I got upset with something she said and raised my voice to her. All of a sudden I heard a noise right outside her room that I assumed was her dad. Immediately, a sobriety and embarrassment came over me. It ended up not being her dad but I felt the Holy Spirit quietly speak something into my heart that day: “If you were this concerned with how you would be perceived and held accountable by April’s earthly dad, how much more should you realize that one day you will be accountable to me your heavenly father.”
So, in answer to my previous question “does integrity really matter?” Yes, it does. It means everything and why it is so important we build Renovate Church Austin on this value.
Dave and April