Vol. 2 Issue 11March 14, 2008
The weekly newsletter of True Potential Publishing
Integrity is an interesting word.
Everybody wants it. A lot of folks claim to have it. And a lot of folks that claim to have it, turns out, donâ€™t really have so much of it as they led us to believe.
All youâ€™ve got to do is watch the evening news. Preachers, politicians, business leaders; all folks youâ€™d expect to be full of integrity, we find out maybe didnâ€™t have so much after all.
Like I said, integrity is an interesting word. We all use it, we look for it in others and, oh yeah, in ourselves. And we all know exactly what it means to have integrity.
Integrity means â€¦ well, it means â€¦ when somebody has integrity, he â€¦ well â€¦ umm â€¦.Integrity is an interesting word. We expect it in others. We think weâ€™ve got it, but secretly know we donâ€™t have as much of it as we let on. But we canâ€™t say exactly what it means when weâ€™re put on the spot.
Thatâ€™s why I figured Iâ€™d dig into it a little. I didnâ€™t want to preach to others about integrity without really having a handle on it myself.
I thought about asking the folks who talked about integrity the most, you know, the movers and shakers. I thought about going to our government leaders â€¦ but who would I ask? Maybe getting a politicianâ€™s advice regarding integrity isnâ€™t such a good idea right now. I thought about asking religious leaders, but that could get a little dicey too. Maybe weâ€™d better stick with folks we donâ€™t know too personally.
I was a businessman in a former life. Iâ€™m a businessman now, I guess, but back then I was a real businessman, if you know what I mean. Iâ€™ve always liked books and since I was in the business world for so many years I collected a lot of books about business, leadership, personal effectiveness, success – that kind of stuff. I still have the books so I looked up what the best-of-the-best had to say about â€œintegrity.â€
This is what I found out:
Personal effectiveness guru Stephen Covey has a reserved seat at the top of the human empowerment pyramid so I thought Iâ€™d hit him first. Covey, in his modern classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has this to say:
â€¢ Integrity is the opposite of being â€œinwardly duplicitous.â€
â€¢ â€œIntegrity includes but goes beyond honesty. Honesty is telling the truth â€“ in other words, conforming our words to reality. Integrity is conforming reality to our words â€“ in other words, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations.â€
â€¢ â€œâ€¦ if we have integrity, our intent cannot be to deceive.â€
â€¢ â€œâ€¦ if we canâ€™t make and keep commitments to ourselves as well as others, our commitments become meaningless.â€
Corporate leadership gurus James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner weigh in on personal integrity in their business textbook, The Leadership Challenge.
â€œYou cannot lead others until you have first led yourself through a struggle with opposing values â€¦. personal integrity is essential to believability. A leader with integrity has one self, at home and at work, with family and colleagues. He or she has a unifying set of values that guide choices of action regardless of the situation. This does not mean that leaders are one-dimensional people who only focus narrowly on their work â€¦. We are not suggesting that the ideal leader is a saint. However, we are suggesting that leaders who cannot personally adhere to a firm set of values cannot convince others of the worthiness of those values. Leaders without integrity are only putting on an act. The believability and credibility so essential for leadership are earned when your behavior is consistent with your beliefs.â€
Lastly, management gurus, Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, in their book, Leaders, contribute: â€œIn order for an organization to have integrity, it must have an identity â€“ that is, a sense of who it is and what it is to do.â€
Okie-dokie. The gurus of personal effectiveness, business leadership and management have all weighed in. Letâ€™s try to boil it down into something we can use.
Covey seems to be good at telling us what integrity isnâ€™t. According to Covey integrity isnâ€™t â€œinwardly duplicitous,â€ â€œdeceptive,â€ or â€œmeaningless.â€
If I look up the opposite of all that, I get that heâ€™s saying integrity is similar to honesty; but he also sayâ€™s itâ€™s more than honesty. This is about the best I can get from Covey regarding what integrity is: â€œkeeping promises and fulfilling expectations.â€ No wonder Coveyâ€™s so popular in the business world; heâ€™s turned integrity into a McDonaldâ€™s slogan.
Kouzes, Posner, Bennis and Nanus are a little more practical. According to them integrity has to do with knowing who you are and allowing your values to guide your actions. That sounds pretty good. You have integrity â€œwhen your behavior is consistent with your beliefs.â€
Of course â€¦ if your beliefs are all screwed up and your behavior is consistent with them, are you still to be considered a person of integrity?
Growing up, I knew a girl who thought she was a horse. She whinnied and neighed and pranced around. She loved oatmeal. Her behavior was consistent too. I never saw her when she wasnâ€™t acting like a horse. Her behavior was in line with her beliefs, but Iâ€™m not sure Iâ€™d call what she was doing â€œintegrity.â€
The business gurus have taken a shot at defining â€œintegrityâ€; but I believe Iâ€™ll keep looking.
Webster (Iâ€™ve always liked him) defines integrity as: â€œmoral soundness, probity (scrupulous honesty) // wholeness, completeness // the quality or state of being unimpaired. From the Latin integritas â€“ wholeness.â€
I like the part about â€œmoral soundness,â€ â€œcompleteness,â€ and â€œbeing unimpaired.â€ Iâ€™m beginning to feel like I may be getting a grip on the meaning of â€œintegrity.â€
The Old Testament (ESV) mentions â€œintegrityâ€ twenty-four times. Itâ€™s the Hebrew word â€œtomâ€ or â€œtam.â€ It means â€œcomplete,â€ â€œblameless,â€ â€œupright,â€ â€œsound,â€ â€œwholesome.â€ The word and its derivatives come from the Hebrew â€œtamamâ€; meaning â€œto be complete, be finished, be at an end.â€
The New Testament (ESV) only mentions â€œintegrityâ€ once. Itâ€™s the Greek word, â€œadiaphthoriaâ€; meaning â€œincorruptibility.â€ The KJV uses the word, â€œuncorruptness.â€
Incorruptible means â€œincapable of being corruptedâ€ (so much for the politicians). Incorruptible also means â€œnot subject to decomposition,â€ â€œimperishable,â€ â€œliving forever.â€ One of my favorite mentions in the Bible is when Peter is comparing our old flesh to grass that withers and goes away, but our new flesh to the word of the Lord which lives forever. â€œâ€¦ having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever â€¦.â€ (I Peter 1:23)
So, according to the Bible, integrity means â€œto be completeâ€ and â€œto be finished.â€ It also alludes to â€œincorruptibilityâ€ or â€œimperishability.â€
Itâ€™s funny how the experts can stumble around with a word like â€œintegrity.â€ Theyâ€™ll give a whack at telling us what it isnâ€™t, and theyâ€™ll formulate answers that sound pretty good, but donâ€™t really work – but they just donâ€™t seem to have a purchase on the meaning themselves.
Webster does a pretty good job, but my guess is that he was leaning a little on biblical interpretation anyway.
The Bible, like always, cuts right to the chase and give the big picture at the same time. Living with integrity means showing signs that weâ€™re being completed. Not complete, but being completed. Completed means finished, that restoration or â€œputting back together.â€ Itâ€™s the work Christ does in everyone who takes advantage of it.
Someday weâ€™ll experience the full meaning of integrity. Weâ€™ll be fully integrated, fully complete, fully finished, and fully alive.
â€œFor the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: â€˜Death is swallowed up in victory.â€™â€ (I Corinthians 15:52-54)
Until next week. Walk in integrity.