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On integrity and the lack of it

Let us consider some concepts:

Def. Integrity. 1. Uprightness of character; probity; honesty. 2. The condition or quality of being unimpaired or sound.

                                                                                                Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary

Integrity carries the basic meaning of being whole and sound. Integrity of character is a character that is whole and sound, one that hasn’t been corrupted or perverted.

Def. Honest. Not given to lying, cheating, stealing, etc; acting honorably and justly; trustworthy: an honest man.

                                                                                                Funk & Wagnalls Dict.

Def. Probity. Virtue or integrity tested and confirmed; strict honesty.

                                                                                                Funk & Wagnalls Dict.

Def. Upright. Morally correct; especially, just and honest.

                                                                                                Funk & Wagnalls Dict.

Integrity is a personality pattern, a set of personal traits, that is closely associated with the following concepts:

● Character; principled conduct; high-mindedness; high moral standards; moral strength

● Conscientiousness, acting in accordance with conscience; scrupulousness.

● Truthfulness

● Candor, candidness, frankness, sincerity.

● Undeceptiveness, undeceitfulness.

● Trustworthiness, reliability, dependability, responsibility.

What personality pattern is opposite to the personality pattern of integrity, honesty, probity? It is that personality pattern that is called dishonesty.

Def. Dishonest. Not honest; given to lying, cheating. or stealing.

                                                                                                Funk & Wagnalls Dict.

Dishonesty is a personality pattern associated with the following concepts:

● Unscrupulousness, unconscientiousness, corruption, crookedness, fraudulence

● Knavery, roguery, villainy

● Deceitfulness, untruthfulness, fraud, craftiness

● Untrustworthiness, unreliability, undependability, irresponsibility

● Infidelity, unfaithfulness, falseness

● Treachery, duplicity, double-dealing

● Corruptibility, venality, bribability, purchasability

Some people are honest. A few at least are. An honest man has that particular personality pattern outlined above. He is trustworthy. He is reliable. You can depend on him. If he says he will do something he will do it (or apologize for being unable to do it). He takes his responsibilities seriously. He does what he should do. He has a conscience. He acts by conscience. He does what is right by other people. He is just and fair in his dealings with them. He tells the truth when it is the difficult thing to do. He always does what is right. We now ask this question: What makes an honest man? How are such people as him created? To find the answer, let us ask a different question: What makes a dishonest man? The answer to this question is easy. There are just all kinds of forces in this world that tend to pull people in the direction of dishonesty. It seems like all forces around us pull in the direction of dishonesty. There are all those temptations out there. The sexual temptations, the temptations to lie, to cheat, to steal. The temptation to bend principle in order to be accepted by the crowd or to move up the ladder on the job. Most people just can’t resist the temptations. In addition, moral considerations are just not very important to them. They are not accustomed to thinking about or concerning themselves with the right and wrong of things. They develop hard attitudes toward their fellow man. They start thinking in terms of using him, manipulating him, plundering him. Starting in early childhood, they start making wrong choices, succumbing to temptations. Then habits grow. Soon they are moving down all the wrong roads. Desire for social acceptance, for things, for material wealth, for social position or status, etc. trumps moral considerations. Conscience becomes corroded and corrupted. They just don’t have the moral strength, the will, or the inclination to do the right thing. They develop all the wrong attitudes, all the wrong habits i.e. those attitudes and habits associated with dishonesty, the dishonest personality pattern. They come to believe in lying, cheating, deceiving, plundering, etc. as a way of life. So, again, what is it that makes people dishonest? They just follow the easy, natural way and that is where it takes them. So the big question is not what makes people dishonest. It is: “How is it that some people are able to retain their integrity?” Well, these people who do maintain their integrity have a healthy conscience, they know right from wrong, and they intuitively know that always doing the right and honest thing is important. They are attuned to the morality of things, sensitive to questions of right and wrong, sensitive to conscience. They believe in the importance of always doing the right thing and have something inside them that warns against doing wrong things. They believe in integrity and morality. It is important to them. Right conduct, doing the right thing is more important to them than social acceptance or money or anything else. It trumps all else. They know that when you yield to temptation once, you will likely do it again. A little corruption will likely lead to more corruption. It can easily become a habit. With bad habits, a small stream can easily become a brook and a brook can easily become a river. So they are careful to maintain their standards.

Let us now consider a connection between integrity and Christianity. The two are closely connected. What is the basic idea behind integrity? It is doing what is right by your fellow man. You don’t lie to him, cheat him, plunder him, etc. You treat him fairly. You don’t wrong your neighbor. The man of integrity then has an intuitive appreciation of the importance of God’s commandment to love our neighbor, to not wrong him (i.e. the commandment to do unto others as you would have them do unto you). He is a person who habitually lives in obedience to this commandment to do right by your neighbor.

Integrity and morality lie at the very heart of Christianity. Jesus taught many things, but integrity and morality cover the most of them. It is hard for me to conceive of a true Christian who lacks integrity, who is not honest. Integrity is very much a part of being a Christian. Yet I think that there are a whole lot of people who regard themselves as Christian who are not very honest, often quite dishonest. I think there are a whole lot of ministers who lack in honesty. I have to believe they are deceiving themselves. The true Christian is a man of integrity.

Apr 2014

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