People today applaud integrity in others, cry out for corporations and governments to exercise more of it, and seek role models to help secure success in their children's lives.
When donations to one highly respected humanitarian organization were recently reported to have been stolen by its own employees, more than one cry was probably added to the familiar chorus of, "Well, whom can you trust?"
In this light, it's perhaps no wonder that the word integrity ranked No. 1 in 2005 on the Top 10 "most looked up" words at Merriam- Webster's online dictionary. And an online organization that offers comprehensive job-search tools says that employers put honesty and integrity first on the list of values they seek in employees.
A struggle to maintain an everyday grasp on integrity is age-old. The biblical kings David and Solomon, for example, often fell far short in their ethical practices. Still, even thousands of years later, one can almost hear David himself crying out, "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee" (Ps. 25:21). And Solomon wrote, "The just man walketh in his integrity," adding that "his children are blessed after him" (Prov. 20:7).
Many people agree that Christ Jesus personified integrity - yet at the same time feel that his high standard is impossible to emulate; further, that it perhaps isn't adaptable to today's lifestyles. Nothing could be further from the truth. Integrity is achievable, maintainable, to greater and greater degrees, here and now. Among other delights, the rewards are deep-seated, selfless joy, and a balanced self-respect and humility.
Perhaps King David hit on the key to success in any endeavor when he added to his plea for integrity, "For I wait on thee [God]." Centuries later, it was the master Christian, who through continually putting his plans and relationships into God's hand for direction and care, healed the sick and raised the dead. Jesus' open secret to blessing the world was complete selflessness. He let God lead. The goal of making healing and transformation accessible to everyone drove his every act. Who wouldn't want to find out how to emulate the integrity that characterized this life and lifework?
In her diligent search to do just that, Mary Baker Eddy, who established the Church of Christ, Scientist, in 1879, proved that God, the only Father-Mother, is Love that continuously bestows an infinite wealth of goodness and truth on all creation. Christian Science brings the assurance that the man and woman of God's creating are naturally drawn to and able to follow Jesus' example - of outward goodness mirroring inward spiritual wholeness.
Mrs. Eddy wrote that a person of integrity "is not guided merely by affections," but rather "by a fixed Principle [God], which destines him to do nothing but what is honorable...; hence we find him ever the same, - at all times the trusty friend, the affectionate relative, the conscientious man of business, the pious worker, the public-spirited citizen" ("Miscellaneous Writings," 1883-1896," pp.147-148).
The current cry for higher ethical standards highlights the need to nurture purity, honesty, and reliableness in individual relationships - beginning with devotion to God. This is Christianity at work. It will result in new and active efforts to prove that His law of Love and good is supreme. These efforts, in turn, can lead to a deepening awareness of our own and everyone's innate purity as God's cared-for, and spiritually fed, creation.
Every good effort and thought, each heartfelt prayer, contributes not only to our own integrity but fortifies society's yearning to see proof that profound honesty is inevitably and naturally victorious. That it is, in fact, a gift of God.
Originally published as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.