Success and the Temptation to Make Integrity Malleable

Building fallingWhen you see on the news that a bridge or building has fallen you will hear experts say it had an integrity problem somewhere within. Something just didn’t hold up. Something finally couldn’t stand the pressure any longer and it broke causing disastrous results.When something has integrity, it means it is solid. It doesn’t break easy.

When you say a person has integrity, you are saying the same thing…they don’t bend easily. There is a quality about them that is consistent, strong and unchanging. Success brings the temptation to rationalize a “malleable integrity”, which is really not integrity at all. Malleable integrity is outward integrity. It is the facade of integrity. The structures behind facades don’t need the same quality of integrity that real buildings need. They are fronts. They have no substance. You can’t eat in those restaurants or bank in those banks…they are just a flimsy pretend version of the real deal.

If we are going to be people of integrity we must have substance. No facades. No flimsy supports. We must depend on God. We must grow deep roots. We must be consistent…the real deal. People with real integrity don’t allow their gifts to make way for excuses, exceptions and deceptions. The thing is, the truth always comes out and people are always found out for who they really are. The private rarely only affects the private…it ultimately gets expressed in public one way or another (through our actions, attitudes, etc)…people pick up on these things. Once integrity is compromised it is only a matter of time until something gives and the whole thing comes crashing down. If the cracks were obvious we wouldn’t ever let a bridge collapse because the consequences of an event like that are devastating.


Confusing Transparency and Integrity

Transparency is highly valued. People hate hypocrisy. They despise people being phony. They would rather known what someone or something is really all about than something being presented falsely. But there is a difference between transparency and integrity. The two should never be confused. Transparency is seeing something for what it really is. If it is junk, it appears to be junk. If it is valuable that shows up as well. Integrity is impossible without transparency but not the other way around. It is entirely possible to be transparent about your lack of integrity. That is called audacity.

Because transparency is so highly valued some Christians have fallen into the trap of thinking evil can be alright as long as they are being honest with themselves and others about it. This is confessional complacency at its best and it results in transparency being a rationalization for sin rather than a means to integrity. The race away from hypocrisy has led many to integrityless transparency rather than using our shortcomings to help our faith and integrity grow.

It is important that we are people of integrity. One of the first steps toward getting there is transparency, that we are real with ourselves and others about our shortcomings. For integrity to grow from there it is going to take more than a complacent acknowledgment of problems. We have to let that knowledge and experience refine our lives into a more holy existence. That can only be done in partnership with God and a community of faith.

Erwin McManus on Integrity and Authenticity

Erwin McManus shares some thought provoking thoughts on character, integrity, and authenticity that we all should digest in his book Stand Against the Wind: Fuel for the Revolution of Your Soul. You can purchase this book for a couple bucks and it is well worth it. This quote speaks as much to the culture of our day than anything I have read in a long time. The dangers to Christians and their faith are monumental as we hear more and more people who think sin is alright as long as you are upfront about it. I can’t help but think this is the backlash of people who don’t want to be hypocritical and so they put their sin out front and center. This grows into a justification for sin…as long as I am authentic about what I have done then my integrity can suffer. Here is the quote:

“You can’t say two different things at the same time and expect to be trusted. A person of integrity cannot say one thing and do another.

Integrity is the context from which courage is formed. Integrity, like wholeness, is a byproduct of our spiritual integration. ‘Integrity’ comes from the root word ‘integer,’ which means to be complete, indivisible – in other words, to be whole.

In our culture we have put an increasing value on authenticity and a decreasing focus on integrity. We have disdain for the pretentious and we long for anything that is real. But we mustn’t romanticize authenticity. When calling for authenticity, we need to take seriously the brokenness of the human heart. If we’re not careful, authentic can be the new word for arrogance. As long as you’re true to yourself how can anyone fault you, right? Authenticity can establish a self-righteousness that justifies abuse.

If we are committed to being the genuine article, first we’d better look closely as what we’re made of. Authenticity without integrity is lethal.”