When I was growing up, I don’t recall hearing much talk about integrity. What I DO recall is the clear evidence of it in the lives of my parents, teachers, and those we fellowshipped with at church. People did what they promised without fanfare or a need for acclaim. Their words, values, and behavior matched. My teacher behaved the same way in the classroom, in the grocery store, or at the football game.
Back then, being honest, having strong moral principles, and moral uprightness was taught, modeled, and expected from a very young age.
I often look wistfully to that time and undoubtedly idealize it.
Now it is more common to speak of the lack of such scruples and integrity. It has gone beyond failures in this character trait in places like Hollywood to failures in every area of our lives, from the coach or teacher to the school board member. From the councilman or mayor to the judge or magistrate, from the halls of Congress to the White House, and from the youth director to the pastor, we daily read stories unheard of fifty years ago.
What has happened?
Perhaps all this busyness we all talk about has a byproduct that we don’t immediately recognize that makes it easier for integrity to be compromised.
In our busyness, we tend to compartmentalize our lives in order to tackle one thing at a time in the hope of avoiding being overwhelmed. There is the Church Department, the Work Department, the Friend Department, and the Home Department to name just a few possibilities.
Life is complex and lived at a fast rate of speed so we hope that compartmentalizing will help us. The skill is often taught as a way of coping, as a way to try to help us be present in whatever place or role we are to be in at any given time.
That is not necessarily a bad thing. The problem comes when we start to behave differently in different roles or departments, to have different motives or values. Little by little we can be tempted to become several people instead of one person. We are one way in one place and one way in another.
We are no longer integrated and we no longer have integrity.
Maybe the shift in us only happens in one setting or one department, but over time all the parts and pieces that had fit together to form a whole, a solid foundation, begin to erode. It might be in just that one setting or area, but unless it is addressed other parts start to be affected as well. Those around us often don’t notice it because they are doing the same thing as we are.
What we are most commonly missing in this mix is accountability.
If we are honest, most of us cringe at accountability because it exposes our flaws, our mistakes, and our sins. We fear being exposed, not unlike Adam and Eve. Discovery that we are not what we say or seem often results in a frantic effort to find fig leaves.
Little by little we have left behind accountability to a core set of biblical values and principles. We have avoided community at deeper levels. We have put off time in His Word, the ultimate foundational standard for our motives, words, and behaviors.
Sadly, our dullness has caused us to not remain aware that the Lord sees all of the parts of us and knew we would fall prey to these challenges. He planned for it and became our accountability at the cross. He offers grace, mercy, comfort, and love in the hope we will run to Him when we fail instead of hide from Him and anyone else who would seek to help us.
Our pride gets in the way because we feel like we are supposed to know the answers or be able to figure out the next step or issue. Yet Proverbs 15:22 says:
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”
Jesus was always and forever accountable to His Father and He was perfect.
If He did so, should we not also value accountability as a key to integrity?