“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)
Merriam-Webster defines integrity as “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values; an unimpaired condition; and the quality or state of being complete or undivided.” But what does that mean? Integrity, as with all of our Gospel Values, is a nuanced virtue and idea.
One of the first concepts regarding integrity is the importance of honesty. A person of integrity is honest and fair in their words and deeds. They tell the truth and do not cheat or lie.
Being full of integrity also calls people to follow a moral code. The Church has provided us with a roadmap to follow on how to be upright people of faith. Our faith then, informs us of the moral absolutes in the world and gives us a guide on how to choose and follow the moral paths of the world.
But we do not live in a vacuum. Our world and our culture often tempt us and pressure us to give in to the easy path. Having integrity often requires us to also have courage and fortitude. St. Thomas More is an excellent example of a saint who practiced integrity. St. Thomas faced great pressure from his king and friend, Henry VIII, to support the new Anglican Church, which declared the king to be the head of the church in England. Despite this political pressure, which included imprisonment and eventually his martyrdom, St. Thomas continued to showcase his integrity by not supporting King Henry in this declaration. St. Thomas More’s last words were “I die the king’s faithful servant, but God’s first.”
Finally, people of integrity are called to consistency and wholeness of being. Integrity requires that our public and private life be the same. C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” What we do in front of an audience – our friends, colleagues, and neighbors – we need to also do and practice at home. We are called to practice and live our faith not only on Sundays but every day and every hour throughout the week.
The challenge that we have in practicing integrity is to follow each of these intertwining aspects of this Gospel Value at all times. To be strong and consistent in our faith despite temptations or stress.
“Don’t walk through life just playing football. Don’t walk through life just being an athlete. Athletics will fade. Character and integrity and really making an impact on someone’s life, that’s the ultimate vision, that’s the ultimate goal – bottom line.” ~ Ray Lewis
We are focusing this year on our nine core Gospel Values – Community, Servant Leadership, Respect, Gratitude, Humility and Understanding, Wellness, Patience and Perseverance, Diligence, and Integrity. This is the 9th installment of a series of articles which explores these Gospel Values. This installment discusses “Integrity.” (Please click on the links, above, to view the previous installments.)