INTEGRITY — BEING WHOLE
Why is it that few men finish ‘well’? My cutting rejoinder is that many people learn the prospects of being fruitful— having results— without maintaining integrity. They eventually become trees rotting inside that are in the end toppled by the storm.
Help me answer these few questions. Will you vehemently criticize a youth leader if you caught him watching pornography, but confidently cross your leg and enjoy a movie, a website or a magazine littered with photos or films of nudity? Will you still stand for the truth if you knew your remarks concerning a matter was going to put a friend or a sibling in trouble? While your answers to these may be convincing, your actions speak with a more powerful eloquence about what you actually believe and stand for.
“many people learn the prospects of being fruitful — having results — without maintaining integrity. They eventually become trees rotting inside that are in the end toppled by the storm”.
Today, integrity has become as rare as hen teeth. We can barely talk about men of integrity without significant controversy. The world has this unhealthy tendency to see and reward gifts rather than character. The result is the moral injustice so evident in our world today.
During my years in medical school, I remember clearly my perception of how ‘perfect’ doctors were supposed to be. I therefore resolved to be seen as one – a man of integrity. Sadly, this perception only appeared to fade away the louder the voice of academia resounded. The cutthroat basic science programme that came with a profound emphasis on making good scores only succeeded to fracture my idealism. In my naiveté, I expected an environment where integrity would be upheld to its zenith. The demands the programme made on us forced many of my colleagues to compromise on their integrity – from falsification of signatures for requirements to various forms of cheating on tests. People drowned in the deluge of getting things done to meet a certain standard when the only real standard that mattered was their integrity.
The world does not need more cool, culturally savvy and irrelevant copies of itself. This is a hoax that has duped and is still duping thousands of young Christians. Christians are called to transform the world by being worthy examples of excellence and integrity, and not to conform to its standards. Let us learn from the exemplary life of one Hebrew boy, one of so many pictures of integrity littered instructively all over Scripture
Joseph, only seventeen, has dreams foretelling his reign over his kindred. Blinded by envy, his brothers decide to sell him to a caravan of Ishmaelites, and the young Hebrew boy from Dothan ultimately finds himself a slave in Potiphar’s house. There, it is said that Joseph prospered so much so that even an unbeliever like Potiphar soon recognised the fact that the Lord was with him. But that was not all. It is also said that Joseph was very handsome. He was celebrated all over the East. Persian poets and the chronicles of the Koran speak of his beauty as perfect. Tradition says that Zuleekha, Potiphar’s wife, lost all self-control and became a slave to her passion because of Joseph. Potiphar’s wife, more than anything, wanted to sleep with Joseph. When people get a taste of success, almost immediately, a test of integrity comes knocking. The integrity of the young Hebrew boy was in question. Will he fast track his way to greater power and riches by sleeping with his master’s wife? This was an opportunity of a lifetime, wasn’t it?
Joseph’s response to Potiphar’s wife was mind-blowing! He said both in word and in deed: ‘How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?’ Wow!
Joseph was in a foreign land, and in an empty house, where no one would have probably caught him sleeping with his master’s wife but the Hebrew boy simply could not do it – integrity! His next reaction was impulsive fleeing from compromise. This should be our attitude and posture in all matters where our integrity is put to the test. What do you do when no one is watching?
We could also talk about Daniel, the young Jewish royal who found himself in exile in Babylon. The presidents and princes in Darius’ reign sought to find occasion against Daniel, but they could not find any.
“A self-induced osteoporosis of compromise will weaken our moral backbone. Perpetual compromise will eventually result in the loss of our moral conviction”.
However vital our choices seem and however fervently our ambitions are lit, the core of our hearts should burn with the fire of integrity. We can sympathize with the layered complexities, ambiguities and difficulties of life, but that is not an excuse to compromise on our integrity. We are just weaving into the fabric of our being seeds of corruption that will finally take root and destroy us if we continue to compromise. We mostly think we are doing it once, only to repeat the act until the incremental cumulative effects of selfishness and greed corrupts our integrity.
A self-induced osteoporosis of compromise will weaken our moral backbone. Perpetual compromise will eventually result in the loss of our moral conviction.
At the core of the matter, most decisions to compromise on integrity hinges on pride. We always want the self-aggrandizing feeling of being in the lead and getting respect from peers and superiors. This pride generates slow fires, which melt away our moral muscle, and clams our vision of doing right. The solution to this problem is submitting to the saving power of Jesus Christ. The same Spirit of excellence in Daniel that spurred him on to leave a legacy of Integrity is the same spirit that will transform you if you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and saviour today and make the effort daily to become like him.
No matter how much you have compromised in your line of work, in purity, in thought and in action, a decision to allow the fires of revival from Christ to warm you enough to stay perfect and whole is possible today if you believe.