“Tell Bill the word is integrity.” There are not many images that stick in my mind for decades at a time, but those words, “Tell Bill the word is integrity,” do. They appeared to me in a wonderful little book entitled, “A Touch of Wonder” by Arthur C. Gordon. In one of the chapters he tells the story of a prisoner of war who was instructed to write a final letter to his family. In that letter there was just one sentence addressed to his son. That sentence was a reminder that our life is measured by our character and integrity. This was the most important message he could communicate to his son. How you live is about integrity, not fame, not wealth, not prestige or position, but integrity.
For those of us who have spent most of our lives in ministry those words have special meaning. Not because we work around people with impeccable character or because Christians already know the importance of their conduct and behavior, but because those we expect the most of – often disappoint us. We are shaken when those who wear the name of Christian act in a manner that would cause many in the world to blush.
I remember on many occasions saying to my children, “you ought to know better.” We expect that from children! They are learning about boundaries and about life. They are eager to spread their wings and explore a bigger world. Part of our responsibility is helping them to explore while learning there are healthy and unhealthy expressions of our independence.
I struggle when grown men and women, educated and well disciplined in so many areas of life choose to compromise their principles and character to achieve an end. I have been known to push the limits around me and blur boundaries on more than one occasion. I once told my son “It’s alright to break rules sometimes, but wisdom helps you discern which ones.” I say that as a reminder that I don’t believe we should slip quietly into the night without leaving our mark on the world, but integrity demands we accept responsibility for our moments of rebellion.
Those men who signed the Declaration of Independence pledged their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” and for many of them that was the price they had to pay. For me, Integrity is about “manning up” when you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, or you act independently or disregard your superiors at work. Integrity looks them in the eye and said, “I had to follow my conscience and do what I believed was right.” You don’t make excuses, or cast aspersions on others.
What do I want my children to remember about life? The word is INTEGRITY!