Integrity in the modern culture
It's your birthday, and you are having a dinner party at a fabulous restaurant later this week. Prior to the day, you ask your friends who can attend and receive 10 "yes" responses, 3 "no" responses, and 25 "maybes". Since you know you can count on the 10 Yes-ers and are hoping for half of the Maybes, you make a reservation for 22 guests. (After all it's your birthday, and you're feeling lucky!) When you arrive at your dinner party, how many guests do you have? We all know the answer... You have maybe 5 guests.
Have you ever been there? Can you feel the anxiety as the minutes tick away; as the rest of your guests glance at the empty seats - avoiding all possible eye contact - knowing the rest of the party isn't coming? How do you feel? Upset, sad, and disappointed, but some small part of you thinks: "What more did I expect? People aren't going to come even though they said they would come." Granted, there are things that pop up which are more pressing than a birthday party, but what happens when you find out that people just found something or someone else more fun to spend the evening on? It hurts. We have all been there: when you're expecting someone to be at your special event, and they miss it entirely. Or how about when you just need to talk, so you ask your friend to a coffee date, and he/she just doesn't really want to...EVERY TIME. (Fortunately, this doesn't often happen to me - mostly because my friends know I will sob uncontrollably.)
What happens if we reverse the roles? Don't we all think that when WE are in need of someone, they BETTER be there for us?
I would venture to guess that these hurt feelings and missed opportunities could be resolved by us - all of us - learning to live with greater integrity.
The view of integrity by our modern culture has one defintion: doing what you said you would do. But living a life of integrity includes two understandings: saying what you are going to do and doing what you said you would do. The former requires the backbone to commit to doing what you know you should do. The latter requires the dedication to honor your word.
In Matthew 21, Jesus uses a story to illustrate this idea:
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and changed his mind and went. Then the man came to the second son and said the same thing; and he replied, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of the father?”
Ultimately, the first son did the will of his father. But answering that question only begs another: Which is better: (a) saying you won't do what you know you should do, or (b) saying you will and knowing you won't? Neither. The best situation is someone who commits to doing what he/she should do and follows through with action.
A life of integrity combines right words and right action.
While it is likely that nobody gets thrills from talking about integrity, it's something I see as problematic in our culture. It's so easy to notify someone at the last minute that you're cancelling plans; there's the classic phonecall, the upgraded speed of text messaging, snapchat, Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, etc. etc. So what we need to do is fight harder against this easiness to retreat against our word. The cultural norm doesn't have to be normal, and the new normal can start with YOU! Here's what you can do: commit to living with integrity. Commit to doing what you know you should do, and follow through by actually doing it.
As an added bonus, you get a gift in return. The funny way integrity works is that it gives you a sense of confidence. I know those times when I am not acting with integrity - when I blow off a scheduled meeting, refuse to reply to an invitation in case something else better comes up, etc. - I feel icky. I feel disappointed in myself; I feel awkward around those people I should have met with; I try to avoid the uncomfortable conversations such as "Hey, why didn't you show? Where were you?" It's icky. But when I fight against the current of cultural norms and commit to doing what I said I would do, I feel light and free and enjoy my days.
My challenge to you is this: be a champion of integrity to your family, friends, colleagues, classmates, neighbors, and acquaintances. Be the person whom people say is reliable, trustworthy, and displays integrity in all areas of life. Let's create the new normal!
With love, PriskaTabitha