The root of the word integrity is “integer.” In math, an integer is a whole number, as opposed to a fraction. So integrity represents a wholeness in life as opposed to being fractured or living a “partial” life.

A true sign of maturity and strength of character is to be the same person no matter where you are or who you’re with. Integrity is who you are when no one is looking, when there is nobody around to impress. It is when your private life matches your public image. It’s doing what you said you would do, keeping your promises.

Where does integrity come from? Are we born with it? Is it simply human nature or learned behavior?

I remember, as a young boy, going uptown with friends and visiting the Ben Franklin Five and Dime store. After looking at the magazines and comics, we would usually walk out with penny candy in our pockets that we didn’t pay for. At that young age, we did not see penny theft as a big deal.

As I grew older, I remember going back to that same store with my father. He drove that five to ten minutes to return the ten cents that the sales clerk had overpaid him on an earlier purchase. That made quite an impression on me. I realized it wasn’t about the money; it was about doing what was right!

I’ve come to the conclusion that integrity does not come easily or naturally. We all need people in our lives to model and teach us the importance of practicing integrity in every aspect of our lives. My dad was my master instructor, and I saw the fruits of his integrity play out over the years.

I realized it was my duty to model that same integrity to my daughter and others I influence. Does anybody come to your mind? Who is looking to you to be a model of integrity?

I’m reminded of the story of the salesman who was waiting to see the purchasing agent so he could submit his company’s bid. While he was waiting, he couldn’t help but notice that his competitor’s bid was sitting on the purchasing agent’s desk.

Unfortunately, the actual figure for the bid was covered by a drink can. He thought, “How could it hurt if I took just a quick look? No one would ever need to know.” So he reached over and lifted the can. His heart sank as he watched hundreds of BB’s pour out of the bottomless can and scatter across the desk and onto the floor.

It was a test that the purchasing agent had set up, and the salesman failed miserably. Needless to say, he didn’t get that company’s business.

You can never go wrong living a life of integrity. Unfortunately, it is way too easy to become oblivious to decisions we make each day that do not model that characteristic. It’s an ongoing journey.

Stop for a minute and think about what integrity means to you as you walk through your workday.

For me, integrity means doing the following:

Decide what is important to me and how I need to live my life. Then, regardless of any applied pressure, continually honor my values. Effective living occurs once we make that decision.

Commit myself to not agreeing to do things unless I’m going to follow through. Even if I later feel the commitment doesn’t justify my time, there is great value in just being trustworthy and following through.

Live my life with the thought that my boss, my wife, my children, and my friends are watching me. (Not to mention God!)

Keep a confidence when asked. Be careful not to share that information with anybody. (No, not “just this one time.”)

I challenge you this week to be intentional in living a life of integrity. Consciously make decisions that show your commitment to do what you say you will, no matter who is around or what the consequences are.

I believe you will find reward through stronger relationships, strengthening of your self-worth and value, and peace, passion, and purpose that come from living a “whole” life.

Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.
—Proverbs 28:6 (NKJV)

Integrity is written by Terry Steen

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