Personal Integrity: The “What and Why of Who You Are”
A Christian Counselor’s Thoughts
The development of personal integrity is vital to living a peaceful, productive life. For the Christ-follower, personal integrity is closely related to our relationship with God and can be test of that relationship. It is foundational to our authenticity as believers, and to our life’s purpose.
What is Personal Integrity?
Merriam Webster defines integrity as:
1: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values (incorruptibility);
2: an unimpaired condition (soundness);
3: the quality or state of being complete or undivided (completeness).
Personal integrity is a solid internal code that is built upon Christ’s teachings, morals, and ethics. Personal integrity clearly defines who we are and what we stand for. As we grow closer to Christ and follow his sacred Word, our integrity strengthens. The state of our character begins with the sturdy infrastructure of our integrity.
If You Stand for Nothing, You’ll Fall for Anything
The time-honored adage, “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything,” implicitly shows us that integrity is essential to determining the usefulness or harmfulness of external influences. Personal integrity consists of the sum of Christ’s teachings plus the action of adherence to firm principles and high standards. Without our own code of standards, we can be easily lured into following what is popular rather than what is pleasing to God. Without integrity and character, we devolve into something far less than what God made us to be, that is, a reflection of Him.
Integrity serves as a litmus test and indicates what is or is not congruent or compatible for us. It shows us what corresponds to our known personal values. When we go with the flow of peer pressure and popular opinion, we deviate from our internal code or our own integrity. It is our integrity that allows us to say “no” to that which does not dovetail with our internal code. When our integrity is intact and strong, our code is unmistakably perceived by others. By our integrity, others are attracted to also live and act in a principled fashion.
Personal Rules Make for Personal Authenticity
If you’re familiar with the TV show NCIS, you’re familiar with “Gibbs’ Rules.” The lead character, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, a former US Marine Gunnery Sergeant, leads a small team of well-trained criminal investigators for the US Navy Criminal Investigation Service. Gibbs, a naturally quiet man, has lived a life of extraordinary personal growth brought on by the incredible challenges he has faced.
Gibbs lives a life of integrity that is underscored by his list of 40(+) rules. This list guides his personal and professional belief system. There are those who assume that living by rules makes for a rigid and boring individual. Not so. Gibbs is quietly self-assured and intellectually and ethically sound. Gibbs shows that loyalty to his rules both strengthens and protects his integrity. By his example of integrity, Gibbs is trustworthy and reliable. Gibbs is admirable because he is unwaveringly authentic for the very reason that he not only knows, but lives by, his integrity.
Our Belief System Makes Us Who We Are
Integrity must be a vital and omnipresent part of our very being. C.S. Lewis, author of Chronicles of Narnia, among other remarkable books, offers us a reminder of the value of our integrity. He is credited with saying, “Integrity is all about doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” This means that we must stand strong for our belief system in all things and at all times for, without fail, it makes us who we are.
We prize integrity when we recognize it in others. Should we not also prize and develop our own integrity? If we are to become the virtue-filled and authentic people God has made us to be, then integrity must be the backbone around which the rest of our belief system and life are arranged.
Developing Personal Integrity
Who are you? How do you know what you stand for? What elements, morals, ethics, and beliefs make up your integrity, character, and authenticity? How well do you adhere to your own standards? Do you model Christ to others? How do we develop our integrity and keep it strong and healthy? The answer is found, in part, in an ongoing process that includes at least the following elements:
- Honor God and stay true to His Word in all things.
- Develop a list of personal policies to which you will be dedicated at all times.
- Surround yourself with people who are serious about their own personal integrity.
- Engage in frequent self-assessments – that is, examine your conscience, for it is there that you will find the situations and issues that affect the health of your integrity.
Christian Counseling to Develop Personal Integrity
A deep review of our integrity allows us to live according to Scripture and brings us and closer to God. What rules guide your life? Are you able to clarify what your values are? Have you found yourself in situations where you have had to evade and excuse yourself, or felt shameful or compromised when you reflected on your actions afterwards? If you find areas in your life that need clarity or solution, or in which you struggle and for which you would like assistance, you may want to consider Christin counseling. A trained Christian counselor can provide a safe space for an “integrity check-up” and can accompany you as you seek to develop your own integrity.
- Quote “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything” generally attributed to one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton (born 1755 – died 1804). http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alexanderh100913.html
- (Various Directors). Producers, Bellisario, D. and Brennan, S. (2003 – 2015). NCIS. [Television Series.] Los Angeles, California. Columbia Broadcasting System.
- List of Gibbs’ Rules: http://www.ncisfanwiki.com/page/NCIS%3A+Gibbs%27+Rules From NCIS. . [Television Series.] 2003 – 2015 Los Angeles, California. Columbia Broadcasting System.
- Lewis, C. S. (1950-1956). Chronicles of Narnia. New York: MacMillan. Publishing rights sold to HarperCollins, New York, in 1994.
“Day 43 – Every Brilliant Thing-Hope!,” Simon James, Flickr CreativeCommons, (CC BY-SA 2.0); “Integrity Compass,” courtesy of fabiusmaximus.com, provided by Bing search for free for commercial use.