A More Accurate Definition of the Word Integrity. You May Have More of it Than You Thought.

Donald Miller

I recently had a conversation with somebody in which I doubted what they were saying was true. I hate those conversations, but years ago I promised myself that if the person was a friend, or somebody I worked with, I wouldn’t just walk away. Instead, I decided to say something. I kept it light, but I said enough that I wouldn’t go to bed that night without some clarity.

The response I received was a long, passionate monologue about how the person had never told a lie in their life. This person kept using the word integrity.

But the truth is, we all exaggerate. We all see the facts through our own self-serving lense. We are all, well, a mixture of good and bad. And the sad truth is, we’ve all told lies.

Often when we talk about integrity, we don’t fully understand what the word means.

*Photo by Nimish Gogri, Creative Commons

A person with integrity isn’t always a good person. There aren’t any purely good people. Another, more realistic understanding of the term integrity involves a person being integrated. And by integrated I mean they understand they have a mixture of motives. They sometimes do good, they sometimes do bad. They sometimes are loving and they’re sometimes spiteful. Some people are better than others, but nobody is purely good and nobody is purely bad (I’m speaking in practical terms, not theological terms regarding sanctification and so on).

And so, when I hear a person defending their integrity as though they are completely good, I know, in fact, they aren’t really integrated. And people who aren’t integrated are dangerous. Not evil, not bad, I just wouldn’t ride too closely behind them. They have blind spots.

If you can’t admit you have blind spots, you’ll never check them, and if you don’t check them, you’re more likely to get in a wreck.

Religious communities love the word integrity but I don’t think many of them understand it. Sadly, the word is often used as a way of painting ourselves as righteous, or worse, to describe another person in unrealistic terms.

Let me ask you this: Do you feel the need to be a better person than you really are? Do you feel the need to defend yourself as having integrity rather than feel at ease being truly integrated? When somebody confronts you, are you able to process their comment objectively or does something rise up inside you that wants to defend yourself?

Here’s a little tip on becoming integrated: Lean in close to Christ. When we know our God loves us whether we are good or bad or a mix, we don’t have to be so defensive. When we know we are accepted by the only judge with the authority to judge (in eternal matters) we have the power to accept ourselves as we really are, and that means to be integrated.

An integrated person is somebody who can remain objective about themselves. And it’s Jesus, not religion, that allows us to be objective about ourselves because if we know Jesus there is no penalty for our shortcomings. Of course we may be disciplined in love, but ultimately we are okay as we are. It’s a works-based religion that doles out reward and punishment based on our actions and can easily lead to a disintegrated personality.

Do you feel safe letting people know about your shortcomings? If so, why and if not, why not?

-Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is all about story. He helps people live a better story at creatingyourlifeplan.com and grow their business at storybrand.com. Follow Don on Twitter (@donaldmiller). To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.