Back in high school, I was a serious band-geek.
The majority of my close friends were members of the band program, and I loved being a part of that group--I still play trumpet to this day. However, I also desperately wanted to be liked by people in the other social strata. I wanted to be "popular" like the athletes. I wanted to be "cool" like the skaters. I wanted to be "smart" like the academics.
In order to fit in with the other crowds, I would often deliberately change the jokes I would make, the lingo I would use, and even the things I would wear depending on whom I was hanging out with that day. All of these were attempts to define my identity in some way, so they definitely skewed my core values. The way I carried myself and treated people was dishonest, inconsistent, foolish, and vainly self-centered. To be frank, I sometimes lacked in integrity.
Perhaps you can relate to my high school years. Or, maybe a lack of integrity is manifesting itself in a different way in your life right now.
Here at IDES, one of our Core Values is Integrity. We seek to serve and minister around the world in a way that is honest and trustworthy, consistent and above reproach, wise and open to learning, and constantly focused on others' needs.
In Proverbs 4:23-27, scripture says, "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. 24 Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. 25 Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. 26 Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. 27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil."
From this passage, we can pull at least four things we can practice to live with more integrity.
1) Integrity always tells the truth.
Verse 24 instructs us to speak honestly. Dishonesty only leads to broken relationships and hurt feelings. We must tell the truth in order to practice integrity. I believe this also includes sharing the truth of Jesus. If this is the best news in the history of the universe, why would we keep it to ourselves? The Truth set us free, and it will set others free if we choose to tell them. Living honestly is the logical byproduct of being free in the Truth of Jesus.
2) Integrity is consistent in all contexts.
Verse 27 instructs us to turn away from evil, and not to be two-faced. Unfortunately, one of the prevailing critiques of Christians in our culture is that we are hypocrites. What a shame! Whether we are at home with our families, at work with our coworkers, out to eat with our friends, or participating in extracurriculars with fellow community members -- we must be the same "me" in all contexts. We cannot promote a certain morality with one group of people, then "swerve to the right or left" and live in an immoral way. The old adage, "practice what you preach," rings true.
3) Integrity seeks and practices wisdom.
Verses 25 and 26 instruct us to be focused on what is in front of us, and to be thoughtful about how we live and interact with others. We read in Hebrews 12:2 that we should be "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith," focusing on Him front-and-center. Jesus is our ultimate example of integrity, and our most faithful source of wisdom. As we seek to live more like Jesus does, we must also spend time in prayer, thinking deeply about the practical implications of what we learn from Him. His wisdom radically changes our everyday lives and relationships.
4) Integrity is focused on others.
Verse 23 instructs us to keep our own heart vigilantly guarded. But, this is not the final goal. Instead, it is for the "springs of life" to flow out from our hearts. For something to flow out from us, it is reasonable to assume that it is flowing in to someone else, right? Integrity is not self-absorbed, self-promoting, or overly self-conscious. Instead, we must put others' needs above our own, continuously finding ways to come alongside of them in encouragement, just as Jesus did (and does!).
By practicing integrity through telling the truth, being consistent, seeking wisdom, and focusing on others, we will find that opportunities to show and share the love of Jesus Christ are abundant all around us. There are dozens of people even in our relatively small social-circles (like band-geeks!) that desperately need Jesus. Because of what He did for us on the cross, and His resurrection, we have the freedom to live like He lives, always improving in the process of sanctification.
In short, to live with integrity is to do the right thing no matter the circumstances. The Spirit will help us in our weaknesses as we seek to live this way.
How has someone with integrity affected your life personally? What are some other ways you try to practice integrity? Do you have a story on integrity to share? We would love to hear it in the comments below.
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director at IDES