Have you ever lost sleep because something was not right in your life? Tossing and turning in bed while your mind tosses and turns is miserable. Lies demand constant plotting to avoid getting caught. Bitterness envisions confrontation or revenge. Fear ties you up in knots, eventually wearing you down. Worry imagines things that could happen, even when they haven’t.
The word integrity comes from the same root as integer, which is a “whole number” or “complete unit.” An integer is not a fraction. It is not divided. In the same way, a person with integrity is one who lives a singular, undivided life. It is distinguished by wholeness.
We all play different roles in different settings that dictate our behavior to a degree. If I’m leading the worship band or in charge of a television shoot, I’m pushing people along, giving instructions, and making sure we meet our goals. If I’m the background singer or camera operator, I’m following the lead of someone else, so I’m not stepping on his or her toes by trying to take charge. That’s knowing one’s role and fulfilling it. Either way, I’m the same person in the way I treat people and the characteristics I try to live by, like honesty, respect, patience, and so on. If I treated people with kindness when I was not in charge, then viciously tore them down when I was in charge, I would be disintegrated – one person in one role, but a different person in another.
Similarly, when we become entirely different people in different settings, we expose our fractured spirit. To use an extreme, yet obvious, example, consider the priests who led mass, presiding over communion and speaking blessings on parishioners, then molested altar boys in the same week. Most people would simply label that man as evil, and certainly the sexual abuse of any person, especially a child, is nothing but evil. But the reality is that many priests caught in such vile behavior also displayed wonderful characteristics for years, serving others with compassion and teaching Godly principles. That’s why the revelations of abuse caused so much shock and confusion. If everyone thought the abusers were nothing but evil men their whole lives, there would have been no surprise. But the fact that they were divided men – good in most settings but hiding a terrible crime – enabled denial and cover-up for a long time, then stunned people who only knew the “good” priest when the truth came out.
This is a clear example of a lack of integrity – divided men with incomplete souls leading fractured lives. Imagine them reading in Proverbs, “People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will be exposed” (10:9). I don’t know how any of them ever got a good night’s sleep. The exposure destroys people, families, and institutions. Some never recover. Lives disintegrate.
Most of us battle wholeness on a lesser level, but it’s still hugely important to face. We follow the Prince of Peace, yet harbor anxiety. We proclaim our trust in God, yet battle fear. We exult forgiveness in Christ, yet hold onto a grudge. We pay lip service to the truth of the Bible, yet cling to lies about ourselves or others. All of these fault lines weaken us. We must seek wholeness before things fall apart.
Perhaps one can find some wholeness through self-examination, psychological counseling, or other non-Christian methods, but I am convinced the only way to repair a brokenness is to hand it over to our Maker. Paul calls those who have been spiritually reborn in Christ a “new person” (2 Cor. 5:17) and “God’s masterpiece” (Eph. 2:10). James explains how we can be "perfect and complete, needing nothing" (James 1:2-4). Jesus told his followers to “be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The connotation in Jesus’ statement is about wholeness. It comes at the end of his teaching on loving your enemies and being kind to those who are not kind to us, which does not come naturally. True integrity only comes when we allow God to work in us to heal the fractures and bridge the divides.
Here’s the exciting news when we live with integrity: God notices, and He really likes it. “The Lord detests people with crooked hearts, but he delights in those with integrity” (Proverbs 11:20). Maybe your parents took delight in your achievements as a child. Perhaps your mother or father noticed the good things you did. Or it could be that you felt overlooked and underappreciated (and still do). Either way, when you live a life of integrity, God sees you. And He delights in you.
If your life feels fractured, know that it does not have to disintegrate completely. There is a Healer. Take your brokenness to Him and allow Him to put things right. He will re-integrate you and you will find rest.
Adapted from Upgrade by Randy Robison. Available with any gift towards Water For LIFE.