“Killjoy describes you. We’ve gone to all this trouble to have fun! One time won’t hurt.” “Can’t you ever relax and let your hair down?” Have you been the object of these accusations? Or, has someone who promised to help you not only failed to follow through but didn’t let you know he/she had actually bailed? You guessed it, integrity. People of integrity are steadfast and keep their word, along with many other examples of cognitive strengths.

Dictionary: The quality; or state of being complete; unbroken condition; wholeness; entirety, the quality or state of being unimpaired; of sound moral principle; uprightness, honesty, and sincerity.  "He or she is known to be a person of integrity” has been applied to several Presidents and other well-known leaders.

Familiar terms that define integrity: Pick your favorites.  If you know of others, please email me.

Authenticity, Chaste, Complete, Conscientious, Correct, Equitable, Ethical, Fair-minded, Faultless, Genuine, Consistent, High-principled, Honorable, Just, Scrupulous, Steadfast, Truthful, Undivided

My understanding of integrity stems primarily from a ring-side seat vantage point of being married to Jim for 65 years, listening to his conversations, observing how he functioned in the pastoral ministry, parenting, relationships with fellow ministers, businesses, neighbors, extended family and friends. He never wavered no matter the pressure. I have shared in books, blogs, counseling and talks that Jim’s first answer was “no” and his second answer was “no” which gave him time to reconsider which on occasion he did when enough facts or figures were given to change his mind. Everyone who knew or worked with Jim would vow that my evaluation of his exemplifying the disposition of integrity is spot-on.

I was especially aware of Jim’s strong stance for adhering to what he believed was correct as he worked closely with deacons and leaders of the church, standing up for what he believed to be right, and especially glorifying to God.  He worked tirelessly to begin and support a bus ministry to reach children and families in the city of York who had no Sunday School affiliation.  He shopped for buses, repaired and painted them and found members to drive the routes, young people to usher the kids aboard and supervise the ride, and teachers to teach. In leading children’s worship, I was part of the magnitude of financial and staffing details in running a successful bus ministry. The halls of our church hummed with 50-75 (maybe more) extra kids but tallying the spiritual ramifications was more than gratifying.

One Sunday after everyone had left the church grounds, Jim and I were heading for our car when a deacon stopped us. “Jim, I’m concerned that these kids are scuffing up our church building. If you’ll stop the bus ministry, I’ll make it worth your while.” Jim immediately replied, “Brother, I’m not for sale.”  Jim couldn’t believe that the deacon equated the wear and tear on a building above ministering to children. Soon after that, the deacon and his wife with whom we respected and had worked together for several years left our church. We never breathed a word to anyone about his offer and the ensuing conversation.

Although maintaining integrity often gets messy, my goal is to discuss how integrity ultimately benefits you, your family, friends, neighbors, and relationships with co-workers and businesses.  Teaching children and youth the values of honesty and the accompanying attributes is far reaching.  Children, as we’ve discussed before, form their character by watching and listening to parents, family members and close friends.

The categories where integrity is advantageous range from activities, conversations, associations, educational pursuits, marriage to ending relationships. This blog will not answer all your questions but hopefully will enable, encourage and energize you to apply integrity whenever necessary. Integrity supports prior decisions offering protection from financial, physical and emotional injury.  When we refuse to engage in ‘not-right’ activities or friendships, steadfast integrity heads the list of qualities as part of stellar character which we covered in an earlier blog. Integrity-logo is ‘if in doubt, leave it out’.

We all yearn to be known for our integrity but many experiences challenge our conviction. Developing and maintaining integrity is not easy but possible with determination and discipline but speaking firmly is difficult for the softhearted segment who by design prefer harmony and peace over being right and tough. We all have to struggle to balance the opposite preferences.  I think Jim reached integrity to the utmost as a result of the time he spent reading the scripture and praying.

For this blog, I want to highlight two circumstances from verbal, physical abuse that put tremendous strain on the strength of integrity as well as peacefully assessing close relationships that no longer are mutually satisfying mixed with the common emotional desires to please and not wanting to hurt.

When anyone, child or adult, has been raked over the coals whether deservedly or innocently, maintaining integrity is at stake:

1.  I cringed as I listened to Phyllis. “Joe’s hurt my feelings deeply many times.  We’ve been married 13 years but he assumed early on that he was not only the chief decider but also appointed to be my boss.  I’m not permitted to go anywhere alone or with a girlfriend, not even my sister without my husband disapproving and even sabotaging our outing by calling me on my cell phone saying he has to have the car.  I feel managed, not like a partner but more like a slave.  He puts me down for every little wrinkle or grey hair to injure my self-confidence.  When we’re visiting with a group, he listens to everything I say and continually corrects my facts.  He gives the impression that I’m incapable of sharing my experiences or opinions or conversation accurately or honestly. I cannot enjoy being with friends and family since he’s always listening. He will not allow me to go alone.”

2.  Gil shared“ If I disagree with my companion, she backs me into the wall until I agree with her. She’s as strong physically as I am. Sometimes, she squeezes my arm until it’s bruised. I’ve been taught that a man never hits or hurts a woman.”

In cases like the above, a person has to determine if their relationship with this person can be sweetened and if not, the abused must move on.

Gil doggedly stuck to what he was taught. And if his companion will not agree to get help, their relationship may not last. Anyone experiencing similar episodes makes it very difficult for the abused to remain unshakeable.  Integrity and abuse do not mix very well. If the only accepted answer or opinion is what the abuser approves, a protection and/or separation is the wisest decision.

It is difficult to forget angry and hurtful words, yelled or even whispered from our minds and hearts or the person who abuses us physically, emotionally or takes unfair advantage of our position or generous sharing of our possessions and/or time. Forgiveness releases our anger and disappointment. We know we’ve forgiven an abuser when we have no need to identify the person. What was said and done can sometimes be erased from a person’s memory but not always.  Remembering hurt doesn’t indicate that forgiveness wasn’t genuine. Minds are so created that we remember many facts that will never make it to the airwaves, unless the experience will help another but not to sully the reputation of the abuser who may have seen the error or his/her ways and is now on the right track. Integrity begins with valuing

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator Col. 3:9-10 (NRSV) Jesus said Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’, ‘No’…Matt. 5:37 (NIV).  You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.             Isa. 26:3