On Sunday Pastor Dale taught on Daniel – a man of consistent and continual integrity. I've been thinking about integrity ever since.
That word was used a whole bunch when Giana was in rehab. The girls were encouraged to hold one another accountable by simply saying the word "integrity" when they suspected a teammate of being less than honest.
When Gia got home from rehab, I remember a time when I suspected her of lying to me. I looked at her and said, "Integrity". "Oh Mom," she retorted, "I heard that word every day for seven months. Do me a favor and find another word." I've always loved that she feels free to speak her mind around me.
adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.
a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship's hull.
We often say that integrity is being the same person – whether we're in public, or alone in our own home. As parents we strive to teach and model integrity. I remember being in a store one time when I saw a mom with a small child in tow. She was attempting to cash a personal check. The clerk was trying to tell her that her account had been flagged. Apparently she had, at one time, written a check that bounced. Hey, it happens.
The mom said, "My check is good. I'm a mother – I wouldn't lie." It occurred to me that she had the opportunity to model integrity for her child. Perhaps her check WAS good, but she had to pay the consequences of a mistake she'd made in the past.
As parents, I think we sometimes bully our children into becoming adults who lack honest integrity. Consider this scenario: One of your three kids leaves an artful masterpiece on your leather sofa, and they used a permanent marker for a brush! You march into their playroom and at the top of your lungs you bellow, "Who did this?"
The children cower into the corner.
"Okay, whoever destroyed my couch will tell the truth, or I'll call Daddy and we'll cancel our trip to Disneyland! You have five minutes to confess."
The kids discuss and commiserate and accuse. Perhaps they're all guilty, or maybe there's only one budding Picasso in the group. For whatever reason, however, the child with the artistic (albeit destructive) bent fails to come forward. So, one of the innocent kids throws up his hands, and in exasperation proclaims, "I'll say I did it. Geez! I don't know about you, but I WANT to go to Disneyland."
I was that kid. I took responsibility for a lot of stuff I didn't need to take ownership of. I naively believed that the truth would eventually win out. But here's the problem – I set myself up to be the fall guy. Even when I was innocent, I willingly took the blame, and others were eager to dump it on me.
Several years ago, a boss wrongly accused me. He was sure of my misdeeds because others had told him it was so.
"Why," I inquired, "do you believe them and not me?"
"Because," he replied, "they are people of integrity."
But wait, didn't the fact that these people came to him with gossip automatically mean they LACKED integrity?
Instead of loudly proclaiming my innocence, my naivete' once again prevailed, and I believed the truth would eventually find it's way free. I would be exonerated. It didn't happen that way. I had been groomed to take responsibility – even when it wasn't mine to take.
Look, I'm not perfect. I've made tons of mistakes. I don't hide my skeletons, I dance with them. I take ownership of my wrongs and I've finally learned to stand up to bullies. And, like Daniel, I've been thrown in the lions' den. But guess what? I survived.
I believe having integrity means acknowledging when I've messed up, absolutely. But, does a person of integrity need to carry the burden of someone else's weaknesses and lies?
Hmmmm.... It's food for thought, isn't it.