Many of us may have seen the TV commercial of a father and his son going to an amusement park. Before entering the merry-go-round, the father paid for tickets for both of them. The man receiving the payment looked at the son, and then told the father that he could have told him that the boy was under six years old. He would not have known the difference and would have let the boy in for free. The father pointed his chin at his son and said to the man, “He would have known.”
What the father was modelling before his son was integrity. That word has its root in “integer”, meaning a whole number. It is about wholeness, or soundness, being integrated rather than divided.
In contrast, many of us were aghast when a staffmember at an outlet of a well-known company was caught on camera transferring soybean drink from cartons of another company, and claiming the rebottled drink to be freshly produced.
When we walk in integrity, our thinking, our emotions, our spirit, our values, our convictions are in alignment with our conduct. Our exterior life is in sync with our internal life.
Here is a simple integrity test. Say you are alone in the washroom. Having washed your hands, you dry them with a paper towel. Then you throw the wet paper into the bin. But it drops not into the bin but onto the floor instead. No one else is in the washroom. You know deep down inside that cleanliness requires you to pick it up. But would you just walk out of the loo without doing anything? Integrity will prompt you to pick it up and throw it properly into a bin, because your actions are in line with your beliefs.
“I will walk with integrity of heart,” sang the psalmist (Psalm 101:2, ESV). That psalm has a few pointers on this subject.
First, this psalm is a prayer. One key motivation to walking in integrity is our awareness that there are eyes trained on us. It is to this person (or persons) that we will be accountable – especially if this Person is God. Self-deception, arising from a lack of such awareness, is one reason why many of us keep doing evil.
However, many believers live as if God does not exist, or that He is blind. Aware of this human shortcoming, the psalmist vows “I will look with favour on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me” (Psalm 101:6, ESV). We need credible likeminded persons, to whom we can be accountable. We give them licence to check on us, to rebuke us if necessary.
“I will ponder the way that is blameless,” sings the psalmist. Thinking about ways we can practise integrity, we can then anticipate various scenarios which challenge our commitment to it and prepare the right responses.
Finally, the psalmist adopts a zero-tolerance stance against anything that even smells of straying from integrity. “No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.” (Psalm 101:7, ESV) If we are serious about upholding integrity, when we find someone within our organisation compromising our values, then we must act to address the situation.
Most people do not become corrupt overnight. It is a process of gradual decay. When we start to relax our standards in this area, it is a matter of time before we no longer walk in integrity.
“I will look with favour on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me.”
Psalm 101:6, ESV
Picture by AntonioGuillem/Bigstock.com
Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2012. He has been a Methodist pastor for 30 years.