Integrity is a high standard of living based on a personal code of morality that doesn’t succumb to the whim of the moment or the dictates of the majority. Integrity is to personal character what health is to the body or 20/20 vision is to the eyes. A person of integrity is whole, their lives are put together. People with integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. As the proverb states, “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” Their lives are open books. They say to a watching world, “Watch me. My behavior will match my beliefs. My walk will match my talk. My character will match my confession.”
Integrity is not reputation—what others think of us. It is not success—what we have accomplished. Integrity embodies the sum total of our being and our actions. It expresses itself in how we live and behave.
Unfortunately, integrity is in short supply and seems to be diminishing every day. All too frequently our integrity is discarded upon the altar of fame or fortune. Sadly, what we want to achieve is more important than what we are to be. Integrity is lost when we focus on expedience more than excellence, on progress more than purity, on riches more than righteousness.
A salesman, on the brink of retirement, was involved in a potential sale that could possibly net him a hundred-thousand-dollar commission. Not a bad way to go out. The only problem was, in order to make the deal work; he would have to be somewhat deceptive when he presented the product to the customer. But upon consideration concerning his integrity he decided to tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. He told the customer the complete truth, and it cost him the sale. But he did what was right.
Two friends gave their word that, pending a few details, they would sell their profitable business to a particular buyer. They made this commitment on a Friday. Over the weekend, however, they received another offer that would have netted them an enormously higher profit. Unsure of what they should do, they spent the rest of the weekend discussing the matter. By Sunday night they agreed that their word must be their bond. On Monday morning, they called the second buyer and turned down his better offer.
Here are the facts: Our integrity is put to the test every day, in virtually every situation. We are being watched closely to see how we will respond. The choice of our walk matching our talk, our behavior matching our beliefs, our character matching our confession is left to us.
In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch, a lawyer in a small Southern town was asked to defend an innocent young black man who had been charged with attacking a white girl. When he agreed to defend the young man, he immediately came under the abuse, the scorn, of the people in the town. The boy was innocent, and the lawyer defended him capably; but when the jury came in, nobody was surprised that their verdict was guilty. The lawyer’s two children were at the courthouse. Unable to find seats downstairs, they had gone into the segregated balcony and sat next to the town’s black preacher. As the judge retired, spectators filed out of the courtroom. Jean, the lawyer’s daughter, was engrossed in watching her father. He put on his coat and walked down the middle aisle toward the exit—a beaten man but with his soul intact. Jean felt someone touch her shoulder. She turned around and noticed that everyone in the balcony was standing. The black preacher nudged her again and said, “Miss Jean, stand up, your father is passing by.”
Atticus Finch was a hallmark of integrity. Stand up, your father is passing by. There was a quality, a nobility, and a distinguishing trait about this man. He rose above the crowd. He displayed an integrity that differentiated him from the norm.