The word “integrity” has been on my mind this morning (25 May 2004), and really for at least the past week. It seems it embodies a concept missing from our world today. So, I wrote the following little essay.

Redefining Integrity.

I have heard a number of commercials lately using the word “integrity”. It is such a fine word, everyone wants it to be in their commercial, so people will associate the word with their name. But they cannot just SAY it, they also add a defining phrase with it to tie in with their business. For example, this morning I heard Texas Land Bank say, “Integrity means being in business for 85 years”.

That is hardly what it means!

The word has the same root as “integer”, and “integral”, and the first meaning is related to the thought of those words.

A short Bible study (well worth reading) on integrity begins, “In the dictionary, the word integrity means

1) an unimpaired condition, i.e., soundness, wholeness
2) firm adherence to a code of moral values, i.e., incorruptible, honor,
3) the quality or state of being complete or undivided, i.e., completeness.
Synonyms of integrity are honesty and unity.”

According to another writer: “Integrity means saying what we mean and consistently doing what we say.

Some businesses define it correctly. But just because they do so, and they include such information in their advertising, does not mean they are doing business with integrity, or that the owners and employees live up to that standard. Nevertheless, a proper understanding of the word is important, because we will not live above our understanding.

Nortel has a good webpage on integrity which begins with “Integrity means ‘We Do What We Say We Will Do’. Acting with integrity means that, while we may not always be sure of every answer, we will not knowingly say one thing with the intention of doing another. We will not make promises that we have no intention of keeping or cannot be reasonably sure we will be able to keep.” To summarize the rest:

“In practice, this means:
1. We work hard to meet customer commitments.
2. We report information completely and accurately.”
I believe they are sincerely trying to communicate to their employees what the word means, why it should be part of their character, and how it needs to be implemented in the context of their job.

You can find quite an interesting suite of sites on the web by searching with google or some other search engine for “integrity means”. I am sure they are not all significant, but google found over ten million pages with those words!

One site has the following little quiz:

Are You a Person of Integrity? (Take this self-evaluation and find out.)

True or False

1. I always try to do what is right, even when it's costly or difficult.

2. I am true to my very best self.

3. I live up to the highest ethical standards.

4. I don't compromise my values by giving in to temptation.

I think I am/am not a person of integrity because: ____________________

The same site goes on to define the character trait this way: “Being a person of integrity means you are solid, principled, true to your very best self. It means you walk your talk by living up to your highest ethical values. It means you always try to do what's right even in tough situations, and you don't let temptation compromise your values” They offer a video “In Search of Character: Integrity” which looks very interesting. It is the 10th in a set of ten videos aimed at high school students. They cost $70 each, or the full set of ten for $650. It looks to be very well done, and accurate in its portrayal of good character.

Here are some more “definitions” I found on the web:

  1. Academic integrity means honesty and responsibility in scholarship. Professors have to obey rules of honest scholarship, and so do students.
  2. Integrity means that we don't put our personal agendas ahead of the game or our associations. We don't meet in back rooms to plot and complain.
  3. Exercising financial integrity means that you live in faith and not in fear.

Christina Katz offers seven ways to increase your integrity:

  1. Be 100% Honest
  2. Take Responsibility
  3. Update Your Values
  4. Relax Into Your Options 5. Learn to Say “No”
  5. Walk Your Talk
  6. Pursue Worthy Efforts

Yep, that is seven all right. But all it does is take pieces of the meaning of the word, and say “Do it.” Not really very helpful. Personally, it just makes me feel more inadequate.

I long for the Christian world to be the clarion voice and witness of good character, and therefore of integrity. After all, we have Christ living in us! We are united to Him! What could be more “integral” than that?

For a Christian, we have the promise that the Character of Christ is being built into our lives, and this includes integrity. We can resist or cooperate. I vote for cooperate!