The Integrity Muscle

This article is part of a five-part series on High Noon’s values: 

Honesty
Grace
Integrity
Accountability
Courage


Contributed by Andrew Love

It is important to understand integrity, first as a concept, then more specifically practically, so you can apply it in a very basic way to your life. As life fragments into more complex segments, you can continue with the established integrity that you already have. If you lack the basics of integrity, your life will become increasingly more difficult.

As a starting point, let’s talk about structural integrity to help paint a picture.

Engineering is truly a feat of science, math, imagination, and art. There are structures that were created thousands of years ago, yet we still can’t explain how they came to be assembled because they’re an engineering oddity. The pyramids, Stonehenge, and other such creations have withstood the test of time due to the quality of their structural integrity.

Although there are many great concepts for what an edifice might look like, bringing them to substantial reality, harmonizing the perfect materials, exact measurements to the precise degrees is a whole other matter.

If something lacks integrity, even in a very small way, the entire structure could eventually collapse. This is true of anything from bicycles, to shoes, to buildings.

For buildings, this reality is all the more true in environments which are prone to natural disasters. In places like Nepal, the buildings are constantly being tested by earthquakes. And since the standards of their construction laws are insufficient, the buildings lack in basic integrity and often fall apart – causing devastation.

Whereas a place with higher standards of integrity, such as San Francisco can endure powerful earthquakes because they have applied an extremely high standard of integrity for their buildings. Having a high standard of integrity is the first law. Then finding the most efficient way of living up to that standard comes second.

Integrity is when all of the pieces of an entity align harmoniously; When the blueprint, materials, construction of the foundation, structure, internal and external components all work together, you have full integrity.

If one element is out of integrity, the entire structure can fall apart.
If the blueprint is mathematically incorrect, the whole thing can fall apart.
If they choose the wrong materials for that particular type of structure, everything that can fall apart.
If the people putting the building together cut corners and try to create something quickly instead of well, everything can fall apart.

Each level of assembling a project is equally important as the next and the last and the net total is a structure with or without integrity.

Now let’s talk about how this would apply to our lives. Just like the other virtues with High Noon extols, Integrity is a muscle that needs daily exercise otherwise it can become weak and lazy.

The life of somebody 100 years ago was vastly less complex than ours. They had less technology, less travel, less options, less opportunities, less complications. In this era, we have more opportunities than any other era in history. We can visit anywhere in the world, to try any type of food, to have access to all information of the past and present. We have as many opportunities as we have imagination.

But with these opportunities comes endless complexity. Because of this complexity, It is many times hard to have the wherewithal necessary to maintain a basic level of integrity in all areas of your life. This is why many people have adopted lives focused on avoidance rather than integrity. IT is easier to avoid having a difficult conversation than to have it. And if you have the options to leave a job instead of confronting your boss, exit a relationship instead of apologizing, or moving instead of making friends with your neighbor, then that is what you will inevitably choose.

This is precisely why so many people are in a state of disrepair, depression, anxiety, and riddled with all sorts of negative emotions.

The basic bedrock of integrity is the ability to consistently live up to your clearly expressed word. But it is difficult to make a statement or make a decision from a place of anxiety or discomfort. Too many options can often lead to analysis paralysis, which in turn causes anxiety. We make poor choices under stress. Our default setting when we are stressed out is scarcity. We sacrifice our long term integrity to alleviate ourselves from the pain in the moment.

Let’s look at what integrity looks like in different areas of our lives and apply some basic principles.

Integrity means all pieces working together to create a solid, harmonious result.

In terms of finances, it means that you have a harmonious relationship with the flow of money in your life. Here’s how it would look:

Past – Your debts are paid off and there is nothing lingering to prevent you from moving forward.
Present – you can sustain the standard of life that you are striving for without unnatural stress from mismanagement
Future – that you’re covered in the event of an emergency or unforeseen situation.

If you manage your money well, then there will always be enough for yourself and to help others. When you have a healthy relationship with money, you use it for the betterment of humanity instead of being a slave to money.

Financial Integrity means that how you want to live and how you live are provided by your financial aptitude and application. Making money, keeping money, growing money, giving money. In this cycle, the more someone takes care of their personal finances, the more they are able to give to others through charity. Money becomes a vehicle for liberation rather than slavery.

That is integrity.

When the blueprint and the result are identical, integrity is the result. If your financial planning and the results are the same, then you have financial integrity. Anything short of that results in a lack of integrity.

So, let’s look at how that might look in terms of sexual integrity.

In order for sexual integrity to be present, certain elements must be present:

  • A clearly understood goal
  • A set of standards understood to facilitate accomplishing the goal
  • A life that is embodies the standards expressed

You simply cannot have sexual integrity if you don’t understand the purpose of your sexuality. The reason is that avoidance doesn’t lead to fulfillment. If we train ourselves to restrain from certain temptations, although that is a good start, it’s only a temporary means to get us to the end goal. Focusing a lot of energy on avoiding something negative doesn’t create a radiant life. If we truly crave fulfillment, then we need to define what ‘fulfillment’ looks like to us. Without that clearly expressed end goal established, we will simply be drifting.

Next, we need values and standards to act as guiding posts along our journey towards our goal. If we have a clear goal but no standards, we will never reach our destination and ultimately our goals will only serve to remind us of our inadequacies rather than a signal of our power. Our standards guide our actions and our actions lead to our results. Without clearly expressed standards, we will much more easily make justifications for taking the easier route rather than the avenue that leads us to our goal. Our values are the reasons for our standards. Since we are sentient beings, living in simple black or white, good or bad terms is never sufficient nourishment for our souls. We need to know why we are doing what we are doing in order to feel fulfilled in the path we have chosen. Values are the way in which we express the meaning behind our actions and our standards are the vehicles to make our values possible.

Last, in order for us to experience integrity, we must walk in line with our goals, values, and standards. The total sum of a life lived with integrity is that a person acted in a way that was congruent with how they chose to live.

The blueprint is our goal.
The materials used are our values and standards.
The edifice is the life we live. It is our substance.

Our hopes and dreams manifest in our minds and hearts. When we can speak clearly to others about our aspirations in life, that is a meaningful step towards living a life of meaning. It is bold to admit how you are really feeling and what you really want in life. You risk being mocked or persecuted for the hopes of your heart.

But expressing your dreams is only the beginning. It is crucial that we maintain a minimum standard of doing the things we say we’re going to do. That means when we make a promise, We keep our promise in substance. A promise could be to yourself, to God, or to others.

When we have integrity, we have confidence. When we have integrity, others have confidence in us. In terms of our word, It has a deep value. When we become people of our word, then what we say matters – and people listen. If you are a person of integrity, your advice has value. Conversely, if you are known for lacking integrity, it is harder for people to trust you and for them to take your word seriously because it lacks value.

You could compare this to stock on the market. Stock goes up and down based on the integrity of the company. When there is a scandal in the company, The stock goes down. When the CEO of a company does something wrong, the stock goes down. Our word Whether we like it or not, has a value to others and when we make a promise, but fail to deliver, it becomes harder for them to trust us. When we make a habit of failing to live up to our promises, then people naturally start to doubt that your word has any value. They simply stop believing in you when you say something.

The same dynamic is true of your relationship with yourself as well.

If you make a goal to wake up early in the morning but fail to do so, it is frustrating. The less you are able to train your body to follow the desires of your heart and mind, the more frustration you will experience. If you fail to deliver on your self professed goals, you will stop believing that you have the ability to have integrity in this area. You will start to give up on yourself because you are lacking in personal integrity with your words.

When we make promises in the silence of our hearts during prayer and fail to deliver, it becomes very difficult to become reliable for providential purposes. The story of providential figures is about integrity. The story of Noah was about a man who was building integrity between his vision of creating a boat and the substance of making it a reality. Abraham’s story was about the importance of fully finishing a task, or suffering the consequences. Such is the nature of integrity.

Martin Luther is another perfect example of providential integrity. He was unable to follow along with a regime that he deemed to be corrupt, and he was willing to risk his reputation, his power, and even his life all the way until the end. His integrity was so meaningful and powerful, that he changed the trajectory of history.

The value of integrity has no limits. When you practice keeping your word with yourself, with our heavenly parent and with the people in your life, you will inevitably rise into a person with immeasurable impact. But to lack integrity is to avoid your responsibility. And it’s hard for anybody to rely on you and to count on your work.

The focal point of life is connection. The connecting point between your dreams and your reality is integrity.

Let’s consider all the areas in your life where integrity vital:

  • Money
  • Romantic relationships
  • Parent-child relationships
  • Friend relationships
  • Faith

Consider whether you hold deep beliefs or not and whether you live up to them. Consider how committed you are to your commitments. How much value do your words have to others? Are you a person of integrity? Physically, do you look and feel the way you would like? Do you eat the foods that would support such a feeling?

Living a life of integrity requires that we prioritize knowing how we want to experience life. Integrity demands that we prioritize substantiating our deepest held values, and never lowering our standards to suit our immediate desires.

Integrity is the vessel that unlocks a world of total and utter freedom because if what you want and what you do are in total harmony, then there is nothing lacking.

Integrity is everything.

 

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