Living with Integrity
The word integrity comes from the same Latin root as entire and means whole or complete. More commonly, we use the word today to mean good character, moral uprightness, and honesty. I see it as meaning that we are the same all the way through – inside and out. What people see on the outside is simply of reflection of what we are on the inside.
The goal of integrity is to be so honest, so transparent, and so thoroughly true, that we don’t have to worry about being caught in an unguarded moment. We can be ourselves, knowing that God, in his grace, is making us over time into the people he wants us to be. We are not complete yet, but we are on our way and, in the process, we are being as honest and trustworthy and as righteous as possible. Here are some of the benefits, per the book of Proverbs, of living lives of integrity:
“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9). There is real peace that comes with having nothing to hide. We don’t have to worry about putting up a front, saying something that will reveal how we really feel, or covering evidence of our “hidden life.
“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 11:3). Living with integrity helps us make good decisions. We can think clearly because we are not trying to accomplish two competing agendas at the same time. This is consistent with James’ teaching in the first chapter of his epistle when he talks about the instability of a person he describes as “double-minded”.
“Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right” (Proverbs 20:11). If we want to be effective representatives of God, we must be men and women other people find credible, people they trust and respect. So, we guard our reputations by always doing the right thing whether anyone is watching or not.
“It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider his vows” (Proverbs 20:25). Integrity means we choose a path and stick to it. Back to James: This is another example of the person described in James 1:6-8 who is “double minded”, blown about by the wind, and unstable in all his ways. If we have competing convictions or conflicting values, we will never be sure of our decisions and we will be prone to changing our mind when circumstances change. If we are people of integrity, the same through and through, consistency will come naturally to us. We will do what we do and say what we say out of heart that is in sync with Jesus’ heart.
When we choose to follow God above all else, to be totally devoted to him and to everything he stands for, we will have hope. “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 23:17-18). Sure, we will experience problems just as everyone else does in this world (and sometimes even more because our faith, at times, actually separates us from others), but we will always have hope. God wins in the end and, as a result, so do we!
“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Guilt is a depressant, it is an energy drain, it is a spiritual land mine. We don’t have to live with guilt. People of integrity acknowledge that they are not perfect, they recognize and confess their sins and find, instead, God’s forgiveness and mercy. With clear consciences, we can be real, knowing we are loved and accepted by a gracious and forgiving God, and we have nothing to hide from him or from the world around us.
The path to biblically defined integrity begins with the sincere desire to see Christ as the overwhelming first thing in our lives. We must want God and all he is more than we want anything else this world offers (see Psalm 63:1 and 84:2). That desire helps us distance ourselves from this world’s values as we seek his face in Scripture and in relationships with those who are like-minded with us.
When we let go of our desire for security, control, pleasure, and ego, the Holy Spirit can have full sway in our lives, and we begin to hear the voice of God more clearly. We begin to have his power at work in and through us - not for our personal benefit but for the benefit of the Kingdom of God.
Our walk with him becomes more than just our talk, it becomes our reality. We are through and through his and no one else’s! That is purity, stability, security, and pleasure. That is Christian integrity.