I must tell you that I have been troubled regarding the face of things in our country and within the family of God. My major battle has had to do with one word, one concept. My battle has to do with integrity.
In our nation—and in the church—there has been a falling away, a breakdown, and a compromise in integrity. Recent headlines have taught us that the boom of the 1990s was built on a foundation devoid of integrity. But compromise isn’t limited to CEOs who greedily sell out their employees or to pork-happy politicians. All too often we find a moral laxity behind our pews and, even worse, behind the pulpit.
Let me define what I mean by integrity. Webster’s tells us integrity means “an unimpaired condition.”1 It means to be sound. The Hebrew word for integrity, tom, also means to be complete or solid.
So he shepherded them according to the integrity [tom] of his heart,
And guided them with his skillful hands. (Psalm 78:72)
Integrity is completeness or soundness. You have integrity if you complete a job even when no one is looking. You have integrity if you keep your word even when no one checks up on you. You have integrity if you keep your promises. Integrity means the absence of duplicity and is the opposite of hypocrisy. If you are a person of integrity, you will do what you say. What you declare, you will do your best to be. Integrity also includes financial accountability, personal reliability, and private purity. A person with integrity does not manipulate others. He or she is not prone to arrogance or self-praise. Integrity even invites constructive and necessary criticism because it applauds accountability. It’s sound. It’s solid. It’s complete.
Integrity is rock-like. It won’t crack when it has to stand alone, and it won’t crumble though the pressure mounts. Integrity keeps one from fearing the white light of examination or resisting the exacting demands of close scrutiny. It’s honesty at all costs.
The words of Louis Adamic seem fitting, “There is a certain blend of courage, integrity, character and principle which has no satisfactory dictionary name but has been called different things at different times in different countries. Our American name for it is ‘guts.’”2
I like that. Integrity is having the guts to tell the truth, even if it may hurt to do so. Integrity is having the guts to be honest, even though cheating may bring about a better grade. Integrity is having the guts to quote sources rather than to plagiarize.
But there are some things integrity is not. It is not sinless perfection. A person with integrity does not live a life absolutely free of sin. No one does. But one with integrity quickly acknowledges his failures and doesn’t hide the wrong.
Now, in addressing this crucial mark of character, I could come across as the “white knight,” but you know me better than that. I fail like everyone else. The sooner you remember that, the better we’ll get along. But concerning the issue of integrity, I give you my word. You will know if I have failed or if Insight for Living has failed in some way. I will tell you. I will not lead you to believe something is true if it is false. That is the least I can do as a minister of the Gospel.
Integrity is essential in the church, in the marketplace, and especially in the home. When you walk in integrity, you leave it as a legacy for your children to follow (Proverbs 20:7). It’s what I call the father’s thumbprint. Blessed are you if you had a father with integrity and a mother with guts.
When you work with integrity, you honor the Lord. Regardless of your profession, your character and conduct are methods of ministry. Over 50 years ago, Elton Trueblood wrote,
It is hard to think of any job in which the moral element is lacking. The skill of the dentist is wholly irrelevant if he is unprincipled and irresponsible. There is little, in that case, to keep him from extracting teeth unnecessarily, because the patient is usually in a helpless situation. It is easy to see the harm that can be done by an unprincipled lawyer. Indeed, such a man is far more dangerous if he is skilled than if he is not skilled.3
Do you put wire in walls? Do you repair cars? Do you work with numbers? Do you sell clothes? Perhaps you practice law or medicine. The important thing is not what work you do, but whether you do your work with integrity. Perhaps you labor behind the scenes, and your only thanks is the inner satisfaction of a job done right. Do you cheat on your exams? Are you cheating on your mate? Some have the audacity to do such things and call themselves Christians. No wonder the world is confused!
You want to shock the world? Start here . . . demonstrating the guts to do what’s right when no one is looking. It takes real guts to stand strong with integrity in a culture weakened by hypocrisy. Start today.
- Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed. See “integrity.”
- Louis Adamic, A Study in Courage, 1944, as quoted by John Bartlett in Familiar Quotations, 13th ed. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., n.d.), 981.
- Elton Trueblood, as quoted by Charles R. Swindoll in Leadership: Influence That Inspires (Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1985), 35.
Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, “A Battle for Integrity,” Insights (March 2003): 1-2. Copyright © 2003, Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.