“In the Hebrew language, the word translated as ‘with integrity’ means ‘complete, blameless, whole, wholesome, innocent, upright’ and includes being honest and sincere. Although we usually think of integrity as simply being moral in what we do and what we avoid, it encompasses so much more. It’s being an undivided person. In other words, who we appear to be on the outside to others is who we actually are in our innermost being.”
Who am I when I’m alone? What would happen if I let go of all the masks? Perhaps, unbound, I’d become complete.
While there’s truth in that formulation, It pushes our understanding of integrity beyond morality.
With that said, becoming a person of integrity is not fundamentally about behavior but about a way of being: Our thoughts and actions all flow out of whatever understanding we have about who we are, why we exist, and what these things mean for the way we move through the world. Either that or they flow out of a misunderstanding and wreak havoc on our life. In the end, for the Christian, sinning isn’t so much “doing bad things” as it is a failure to be oneself—that is to say, a beloved child of God, a radiant bearer of the divine image, the hands and feet of Christ on earth.
As the apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col3:1-3 ESV). Hidden with Christ in God—these profound and mysterious words are the remedy for my posturing; they offer relief for every temptation I’ve felt to construct an identity for myself out of the stuff of this world. Perhaps you can relate.
For the Christian, sinning isn’t so much “doing bad things” as it is a failure to be oneself—that is to say, a beloved child of God, a radiant bearer of the divine image, the hands and feet of Christ on earth.
living a life of integrity means “being an undivided person. In other words, who we appear to be on the outside to others is who we actually are in our innermost being.” But finding out exactly what that means requires a long and arduous journey—it’s a journey we must make with the Holy Spirit and our fellow travelers who tangibly show us the love of Christ. Because the truth is, many of us often feel that we’re going through life as if stumbling through dimly lit terrain, where it’s easy to think the brightest lights are behind us, in the past, rather than ahead. We might sometimes feel so lost, in fact, that it’s as though we’re walking toward an endless night. It’s a difficult journey, one made all the more troublesome by our insistence on crafting an identify for ourselves. We layer persona upon persona like a trunkful of costumes. We put them on, one after another, until it’s impossible to remember the real person underneath.
The better path to becoming our true self is none other than the path of repentance—one that we’re to stay on our entire life. It is the only cure for the kind of delusion that tells us we are not made in God’s image but fashion our own. The true self exists beneath every layer of ego and pride, beneath every worry and fear and desire to be affirmed by the world. It’s worth remembering that repentance is a lifestyle of returning to God, not self-flagellation. It’s the decision to—no matter what happens—keep pressing on toward the bright transfiguring light of God’s love.