It’s been a while since my monthly column focused exclusively on one of the many virtues we try to reinforce here at JUGHEADS. On the brink of our 20th annual show and our big move in May, reflect with me on one of the most precious virtues: integrity.
I’m not a math guy (my brothers got those genes from my dad), but I find it interesting that the root word of “integrity” is “integer”–the same word for a whole number. Just as a whole number has neither decimal points nor fractions, a person of integrity avoids compromise and compartmentalized character. Integers and integral people are whole, complete.
The problem is we as humans have a fallen nature, and integrity needs to be both taught (by mentors) and caught (by soft-hearted learners). Compromise is easy; living by convictions (even when no one is looking) is hard. Integrity is doing the right thing and having the right character even when it’s neither popular nor convenient, and even, dare I say, when it could get one in trouble, hurt, or even killed. Our world is often hostile to integrity.
Sober words for a juggling newsletter, are they not? Well, I prefer large talk over small talk, and I prefer to mentor youth toward potentially difficult lives of deep purpose and meaning rather than shallow lives of mere temporal comforts and worldly fame and fortune. Of course it’s possible to have both integrity and worldly success. However, it’s never a good bargain to trade integrity for riches, fame, acceptance, etc. Steal a trinket, and one may get away with it, but is the resulting loss of integrity worth it? Pursue the American Dream apart from learning to love one’s neighbor, but is selfish ambition and vain conceit worth it?
Introspectively, I’m a work in progress, seeking sanctification. On many days, my own self-doubts and shortcomings seem to disqualify me for leadership. But as I grow every day in my mission to become more Christlike (modeling myself after the ultimate Whole Person), my solace is that a mentor need not teach integrity from a place of arrival–he teaches just a few steps ahead on the journey toward true, lasting wholeness.