Season 2 - Week 1
When St Augustine of Canterbury (who died in 604 ad) was asked to define time, he replied : “If no one asks me what time is, I know. If I want to explain it to anyone who asks me, I am at a loss.” Integrity is very like that for me; but let's look at it under two main headings before we try to agree about why it is such a key part of life and leadership generally, and of Christian leadership in particular.
Integrity is what other people value in you as they observe you seeking to live your life by honest and strong moral principles which include truthfulness, moral courage and openness in all your dealings.
Some years ago I knew a Mr Gibson who had been the personal assistant to Gordon Selfridge, the owner of the store of that name. He told me that he shared an office with him. One day the telephone rang and Mr Gibson was asked to answer it. “If it is for me, tell him I'm out” said Selfridge. Gibson took the call and handed the telephone to his boss. “It's for you” he said. Selfridge was annoyed and after finishing the call he said to Gibson “Why didn't you do what I told you and tell him I was out?” In telling the story afterwards Gibson used to say, “I cast my heart to the Lord and heard myself say to him 'I claim to live by Christian principles and if I can tell him a lie I can tell you a lie and am not going to do it.'” There was a long silence and then Selfridge said “You are quite right.” And always after that whenever there was an issue in the store Selfridge would ask, “What does Gibson say? Then that's what we'll do.”
Integrity is a unity - a unit of one.
That is to say, you behave the same way in private when no one is watching as in public. Your life is not segmented. So why is a reputation for integrity so important and desirable?
Because truthfulness, generosity and humility are characteristics of God Himself. In this passage from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is reminding us that we are to be the sort of people who always tell the truth. We shouldn't need any extra sort of code or expression like “on my life” or “I swear to God, I am not lying” that would appear to give the impression that what we are saying now is more likely to be true than what we might say without such backing. When I was growing up the local auctioneer, a colourful character, had the reputation for total honesty – whenever possible! That isn't the standard that Jesus is looking for.
We are to be the sort of people who always tell the truth
Because whether we are conscious of it or not people watch what we say and do. If, over time, we gain a reputation for truthfulness, honesty, straight dealing, keeping our word even when it is difficult or costly, people who trusted us in comparatively small things will feel confident to trust us with much greater things.
Because whether you know it or not you are, or will become a role model for younger people who will begin to shape their own thinking and behaviour as they see how you model your life.
I am conscious that this concept of integrity seems to set an almost impossibly high standard in this day and age. How can we set about attaining to this standard? Is it possible? Let me end with some suggestions.
Simply let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no”, “no”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
As we start this series on integrity, what does that word mean for you? Take some time to consider the word - perhaps look up a dictionary definition, find some examples online, read some biblical examples of integrity or write down all the things that come to mind when you hear the word. If you're striving to be a person of integrity, what does that person actually look like?
In the Selfridges analogy, Mr Gibson becomes the standard for integrity. Think of the people in your life. Who sets a good standard of integrity for others to follow? What can you learn from them?
Take some time to consider the areas of life in which you most value integrity. Make a list of them somewhere to return to as you follow this Open Me series through.
You see us all
You are watching me now,
so I must not pretend.
Because you see me as I really am,
I cannot tell you I am important
since the only importance I have
is the importance you have given me
by making me and redeeming me;
I cannot tell you I am clever
since any cleverness I have comes from you;
I cannot tell you I am good,
for when I stand at the side of Jesus I am not.
You watch me, and you accept me as I am.
So I should stop pretending to be someone different
and let You and everyone else see just me.
Make me more human by letting me be me.
I try to look back at you. I look at Christ.
Anyone who looks at him
sees a reflection of himself made better.
Christ is not like the friends whom I admire.
for He offers not the qualities He is good at,
but whatever quality of mine needs to be made new.
Make me the person you created me to be.
In him you help me to be more human.
Make me the real me.