First, about the author of this blog: Once upon a time, in a galaxy not so far away, an aimless young ne’er-do-well surprised himself and the Universe by surviving into adulthood. By a series of serendipitous mischances, he acquired stable relationships, marketable skills, and a wide circle of family and friends. His slack-jawed astonishment at this unlikely state of affairs led him to the serious study of the burning moral Question, Why Do Good Things Happen To Bad People? After several decades, he was forced to conclude that God is Unjust, and, moreover, that is a Good Thing.
Brief dictionary definition
Integrity, n.Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.The state of being unimpaired; soundness. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness. [Middle English integrité, from Old French, from Latin integrits, soundness, from integer, whole, complete.]
My working definition
Integrity,A state of personal wholeness or completeness, in which all the disparate parts of one’s life acknowledge one another. I have integrity, for example if and only if I can admit to my friends that my other friends are also my friends; if what I do for fun and what I do at worship have something in common; if my inner thoughts and feelings are allowed to be seen in my outward words and actions (and vice versa).
Why it is a search
I call it a search because I as an individual, like all individuals, am made up of many parts, and by nature I am often unaware, when engaged in one activity or spending time with one group of people, of how I would behave and think differently in different circumstances. The conscious and the unconscious, the light side and the dark side, and all things in between, cannot hold together in a static way. So I search for a way to enlarge, expand my awareness, to admit my foibles and fears as well as my strengths and talents, my ignorance as well as my wisdom, such as it is. In this way I seek to become, more authentically, who I am. I begin as a mystery, unknown to myself, and seek by means of this search to become, on purpose, what I discover myself to be, and not hide any part away. I do not expect ever to finish the search, but I do expect many discoveries along the way.
All of what has been said above about an individual (example: me) applies also to larger systems: a family, a church, a community, a company, a culture, a country; perhaps even the cosmos itself. I cannot acknowledge all of what is within me until I admit that what I see outside of me has its corresponding place; including the things I draw back from, reject, deny. The search for integrity is, in this larger sense, a search for all humanity. For me as a Christian, it is thus a search for Christ, who includes all of humanity in his love.
Can I write about integrity? The search for integrity is a daily, hourly, practice that means responding in wholeness to all the stimuli if life. It means listening honestly to those who are placed in one’s care. It means telling the truth. It means keeping quiet, until there is a need to speak. Integrity is not possible without a single focus. But no single focus, simply defined, will bring about integrity.
Only one single focus is large enough, all-encompassing enough, to bring us to wholeness. It is that focus that gives us permission to be whoever we are, with no strings attached and no apologies needed; and allows us to have confidence that what we can become is not limited by what we have been. Kierkegaard says that purity of heart is to will one thing.
The person of integrity acknowledges, to begin with, the impossibility of this; recognizing the conflicts and complexities inherent in this earthly existence; but wills above all else that some sense can be made of that complexity.