Chaplain's Corner + Integrity: The Foundation of Trust
In my Chaplain’s Corner column last month I wrote about the question: “Where has all the trust gone?” This month I want to focus on one powerful weapon in re-establishing trust: integrity. Now integrity implies “an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting. . . . moral soundness.”i Two types of integrity come to mind: Physical integrity, for example a sound body or structure, like an airplane or building, and spiritual-moral integrity, making the right decisions and actions as we traverse the vicissitudes of life.
Thus, integrity is a process under continual construction, repeated in test mode as new situations are encountered over time. A quite notable example of physical integrity failing is the booster rocket “O-ring” problem that tragically brought down the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. Examples in the spiritual-moral domain abound. In dealing with the vicissitudes of life, let us consider the warning words of Benjamin Franklin, "Let no pleasure tempt thee, no profit allure thee, no persuasion move thee, to do anything which thou knowest to be evil; so shalt thou always live jollity; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas."ii Integrity may be considered a spiritual virtue, an internal consistency of heart and mind that leads to honest and truthful words and actions.
Integrity is a commonly lauded quality among many religious traditions. In the Hindu tradition Gandhi notes: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”iii The aphorism: “If one man kills a hundred men, and another man masters himself, the second man is the much greater warrior,” is attributed to Buddha.iv There is also great wisdom in the ancient Chinese adage ascribed to Confucius: “The gentleman first practices what he preaches and then preaches what he practices.”v
The quintessential model of integrity in the Judeo-Christian tradition Job, who, in the face of attempted bribery, challenges, suffering and temptation consistently made choices that conformed to his commitment and trust in God. As Sacred Scripture tells us: “. . .my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a man simple, and upright [integrity], and fearing God, and avoiding evil, and still keeping his innocence. . . .” (Job 2: 3) In this regard we can contemplate the spiritual perception of our Eastern Church Father, St. Peter of Damaskos: “For as many of the saints of old, such as Abraham, Job, David and many others, had extensive possessions, but they were not attached to them: they held them as a gift from God and sought to please Him all the more through their use of them. (Philokalia III, p. 87)vi Heeding these words, we can see that faithfulness to God is the beginning and endpoint of integrity.
vi Palmer, G.E.H.; Sherrard, P.; and Ware, K. (Trans.) (1971, 1981, 1988, 1990). Philokalia, I-IV. London: Faber and Faber.