One of my favorite words is “integrity” – not the word itself, but what it stands for.
My dad was a humble man of few words, unencumbered by a sense of ego. He owned an awning and canvas company that he operated with one employee, who helped him with sewing duties.
In the 1940s and ’50s in South Florida, whenever a hurricane approached, we usually had about a day’s notice to “button up” our homes. We would gather around the radio, staring at its wooden veneer and awaiting the latest information. My dad would keep working up until the last minutes before a hurricane struck. He filled those precious minutes taking down the awnings of his customers, a job that he performed free of charge. “They’re my customers,” he explained to my mother. “I don’t charge my customers. They’ve already paid for their awnings.” After the hurricane passed, he would return to their houses and rehang all the awnings, also at no charge.
The first time I heard my mother use the word “integrity” was when she explained this situation to my siblings and me. “Your dad has integrity,” she told us. “He does what he thinks is right.”
You can imagine my delight when I came across an article noting that the main quality Warren Buffett looks for when hiring someone is integrity. The article quotes some advice Mr. Buffett gave a few years ago on what to look for in a job candidate: “You’re looking for three things, generally, in a person: intelligence, energy, and integrity. And if they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two” (Marcel Schwantes, “Warren Buffett Says If You Hire People on Intelligence but They Lack This Other Trait, Don’t Bother,” Inc.com, Jan. 9, 2018).
Christian Science presents a deeper, spiritual meaning of “integrity” as the state of being complete, whole, and perfect. And because we are created by God, made in His image and likeness, integrity is built into our true being. Spiritual integrity stems from God’s infinity as divine Spirit and is expressed in His spiritual creation. “Integrity” is derived from the Latin word “integer,” which denotes that which is honest, sound, complete, entire, untouched, undivided, whole. We read in the book of Psalms that God “upholdest me in mine integrity” (41:12).
Clearly, humanity has work to do when it comes to acting in a manner consistent with this. But the spiritual fact of our integrity as God’s children means that nobody is beyond hope. Each of us has it in us to know and do what’s right. An openness to the wholeness and goodness of God and His spiritual creation nurtures this capacity.
Recently I discovered that a vendor had failed to send me invoices for the previous five months. I immediately pointed this out to him and wrote a check for the entire amount. I didn’t have to ponder the question of whether to do this or not, thinking about how much money I would save by keeping quiet. Paying him in full was the only course to take.
From this experience I realized more than ever that integrity – the desire to do what’s right, the discernment to know what’s right, and the ability to follow through with honorable actions – flows from the connection we all have with our common creator, God.
Regarding the importance of expressing our integrity as God’s reflection, Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, quotes the Scottish minister Hugh Blair in a letter included in her “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896”: “The upright man is guided by a fixed Principle, which destines him to do nothing but what is honorable, and to abhor whatever is base or unworthy; 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” (p. 147).
The world needs integrity. The more we recognize it as naturally expressed in God’s spiritual creation, the more we experience healing and progress in our lives, our communities, and our world.
Adapted from an article published in the Sept. 3, 2018, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.