I stood by the self-checkout register, running my groceries through the scanner. No one was paying me much heed. You know what it’s like. I sometimes think we self-scanners go to the self-checkout line so that no one will bother us. For me, it’s a race against the annoying voice of the bot who tells me to bag something or reminds me to take my change.
Then I got to the Gala apples. Quickly I looked up the code. They were organic. Almost before I could think, I chose regular. Who was going to know?
Integrity. It’s another word for wholeness. It is also defined as: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
I didn’t display a lot of moral principle at the self-checkout register, did I?
Part of the problem in defining integrity is that we define it according to the principles we tend to hold dear. Some of us would argue that never telling a lie makes you a person of integrity. Others might suggest that being compassionate is more important than being blunt.
Some emphasize the details, like making sure you don’t cancel appointments at the last minute or under tip the server. Others stress the overall tenor of someone’s behavior. What do your neighbors say about you? Do you have a good reputation at the office? Do you generally do what you say you will?
It’s easy to say that integrity means not stealing and not cheating on your spouse or girl/boyfriend. We’re great at compiling a list of “thou shalt nots” drawn from our own experiences or from those of others, be they pals or politicians.
I knew that I shouldn’t have cheated the store out of a few dollars. But perhaps the “thou shalt nots” can lead us to the “thou shalts.”
Thou shalt be kind.
Thou shalt be merciful.
Thou shalt look after the folks others forget (or worse, trample on).
Thou shalt be proactive in fixing yourself (and healing the world).
If you have messed up, what can you do to make the situation (or the relationship) whole again?
If you are broken, what can you do to mend or allow yourself to be healed?
Perhaps integrity isn’t so much a noun as it is a verb. We may never know if we’ve “gotten there,” but it’s a good bet that others are going to notice us trying.
As for those apples? I tried to make up the difference and was told I couldn’t. I have to live with that little stain on my conscience. I’m broken like the rest of the world. Broken—but still trying to be whole. I know that I won’t always get it right, but I’m driven to try harder. At least, I hope I won’t make the same mistake twice.
This post reflects the views and experiences of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on virtues from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.