Integrity is ultimately derived from the Latin word integer meaning “whole.” In math class, we learn that an integer is a whole number, a number without any fractions or decimals. When we choose to live with integrity, we are whole – we are not fragmented and there are not other pieces laying around. All of the pieces come together to make a whole.
Living with integrity means that we must be the same person wherever we are. We are the same person at home, at work, and at church on Sunday morning (or pick an example that applies to you). This does not mean taking your work home with you, but it does mean that you exhibit the same personality traits wherever you are.
Kids always offer so much opportunity for us to observe and learn. When my kids are playing with their friends and fuss at their siblings, we use this as a teaching moment. I simply ask them how they would feel if I were to be really nice to everyone at work but come home and yell at them. They get the point.
When our family eats dinner at a restaurant, we ask a blessing and give thanks before we eat…just like we would at home. We don’t skip it because people might think we’re weird. It isn’t always comfortable, but it is what we would at home.
What about more subtle points?
Most of us would not run out and hire a slave. And, most of us would not knowingly write a check to an organization that helps people buy slaves. But how many of us buy products from companies who use slave labor? [This does not mean companies that build products overseas, that’s actually a reasonable thing to do if the people are reasonably compensated (see this blog on outsourcing), but it does mean companies who exploit people and do not fairly compensate them.]
We all live busy lives and do not have time to research every single product that we buy. (Maybe we should!?) But, what happens when we find out? What happens when we find out that our favorite brand of pants, or shoes, or computers, or coffee is made by slave labor?
How does our integrity stack up then? Do we give up something we really like or enjoy because of our principles? Or do we compromise and rationalize it away?
Once we have our views on slavery sorted out, we can move on to the next social issue.