Integrity: A Real Definition

Let me take you back to the a time before cell phones were in the hands of everyone over the age of 8. Where, when you were bored, you actually had to figure out how to get unbored using just your imagination and the tools within eyesight and reach. You basically had to be MacGuyver with your mind. Are you there with me?

It was a hot spring day in Oklahoma. I sat at my desk bored after finishing my assignment well before the bell and my classmates. I looked around the room at all the inspirational posters. My favorites were the ones with just one word and a picture to represent that word. Character. Integrity. Honesty.

Throughout the years I’ve heard many definitions of integrity. You could Google one right now and get a clear sense that integrity has something to do with being moral, honest, and whole. But what does that really mean? How does that relate to my everyday as a mom, wife, professional, and friend when ALL the books that pop up in that same search are about integrity in business?

As I looked through definitions and book summaries I saw that they spoke more to the result of integrity, but not the underlying path to integrity.

So what’s your new definition?

I propose to you, my dear reader, that the second definition Google gave me should actually be the primary definition: wholeness. When we talk about something having integrity, we are speaking to it’s wholeness: how nothing is lacking, and everything is working together to keep the structure being what it is.

This is the scaffolding of integrity in humans too. Wholeness. Integration.

Great, so what does wholeness really mean for me?

Wholeness means the integration of our hearts, minds, and spirits. More specifically, we have integrity when our thoughts, emotions, and behavior are aligned with the truth of God’s word.

For me, this definition really helps to bridge the gap between the age old debate of works vs. faith. When we come to faith in Jesus as our Savior through the drawing of Holy Spirit, our identities are now defined by who God says we are: His children. When we act in ways that do not show that we are His children, then we are lacking in integrity (or integration).

This also means that our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are all equally important. We see Jesus placing feelings and thoughts on the same level of behavior in Matthew 5:8 when he equates lusting in ones heart with adultery.

As modern westerners, we often place thought and behavior above feelings. We act as though feelings should be barely seen and never heard.

But when we send our feelings to the kiddie table while the adults (thought and behavior) talk, we usually return to see that our feelings have started drawing on the walls.

When something is out of alignment

We know through experience that sometimes our thoughts, feelings, and behavior don’t always line up with each other, so how do we know which one to trust more? The hard, but honest answer is that it depends on the situation and the person. Some people are more prone to have misalignment in one area over the others. So the bottom line comes down to knowing God and knowing yourself.

Knowing God comes from reading and studying the Bible regularly and in community with others. The community part is important to integrity because we can totally fool ourselves and justify misaligned thoughts, feelings, and behavior all day long. But when our friends start to ask the hard questions, lack of integrity will quickly surface.

Knowing ourselves comes from introspection and close community. Introspection is the examination of our hearts and minds in relation to our own behavior. Unfortunately being human comes with innate limitations for even knowing ourselves. So, just as we need the perspective and challenges of others to know God, we need community to reflect back to us who we are so that we may further align it with our identity in Christ.

Next time we’ll talk more about why/how each area gets misaligned and how to bring it back into alignment with Scripture. No worries it won’t be a “you should read your Bible more” kind of article. It will lead you in a process of understanding yourself better and have practical steps on how to realign.

The recap

When our thoughts, feelings and/or behaviors don’t line up with God’s word, we will experience discomfort. The misalignment needs community to help correct it.

Copyright 2019 Phoebe Barron

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