Are you a person of integrity?

By Henrylito D. Tacio

Carlyle Marney tells of an incident from the Korean conflict in which General Dean was given only a few short minutes to write a letter to his family before being shot. He wrote only eight or nine lines. In the heart of this message was a brief sentence to his only son, Bill: “Tell Bill the word is integrity.”

The basic meaning of the word integrity is that of wholeness. Implicit in the term are such principles as having no flaws, being blameless, having no hypocrisy, being honest in every aspect of life, and being genuine all the time. Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. A person’s integrity is revealed when he responds spontaneously to something without having time to plan his actions in advance.

Integrity is when the way you live lines up with you say you believe. Such attribute is manifested by American novelist John Grisham, author of blockbuster books that become blockbuster movies. He has been called “a straight arrow making his way along a very crooked path.”

In an earlier interview with a magazine, Grisham has said he would rather be a nice guy than resort to filling his books with sex and gore. He refuses to write anything that would offend or embarrass either his mother or his children.

Contrary to many in the publishing world might have predicted, his approach has paid off big. Fan mail and sales from The Firm and The Pelican Brief, are proof. Films made from his novels are all box office hits!

The Bible urges us to be a man or woman of integrity. How can we become one? When you make a promise, you must carry it. If you cannot do so, then don’t commit yourself. James 5:12 urges: “My brothers, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your ‘yes’ be yes, and your ‘no’ no, or you will be condemned.”

My father once told me that person of integrity is he who keeps his own promises but not those of someone else. As such, if there are times when friends pressure you to fulfill obligations they have made, don’t do it. If a classmate or colleague agrees to a large project, then tries to pass it off onto you, kindly but firmly refuse.

As one sage puts it: “Be careful in the way you commit yourself or you’ll find yourself so busy meeting the obligations of others that you have no time, energy, or money to keep your own commitments.”

Proverbs chapter 22, verse 1 states: “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” Good name here doesn’t refer to fame, wealth, or power. What the writer was actually talking was about integrity – who you are, not what you’ve got.

“Even as you’re getting your education or building your career, you’re also making a name for yourself,” reminds Henry Blackaby, the man who wrote the bestselling classic Experiencing God. “Everything you say or do is creating in people’s mind an image of what you are like. People are watching you, listening to you, and making up their minds about what kind of person you are. Once you have a reputation, it is hard to change.”

Does it pay to become a person of integrity? Allow me to share this story which happened during a very nasty, stormy night at a small hotel in Philadelphia. An elderly couple approached the registration desk. “Do you have room for us tonight?” the husband inquired. To which the wife added, “We have been to some of the larger hotels, and they are all full.”

The clerk explained that there were several conventions in the city at the time, and indeed no rooms were available anywhere that night. He also said that all of the rooms were full. But the clerk added, “I wouldn’t feel right about turning you out on such a nasty night. Would you be willing to sleep in my personal room?”

The couple was taken back at the generous offer and didn’t know how to respond. The young man insisted that he would be able to get along just fine if only they would use his room.

The following day, as the elderly couple was checking out, the man told the young clerk. “You are the kind of man who should be the boss of the best hotel in the country. Maybe someday I’ll build one for you.” They all smiled at the little joke, and then the clerk helped them carry their bags out to the street to load into their car.

Two years later, the clerk received a letter from the old man. He had almost forgotten the incident, but the letter recalled that night and his kindness. The letter also included a round trip ticket to New York City with the request that he come to be their guest for a visit.

When the young clerk reached New York City, there to meet him was the elderly couple. The old man drove him to the corner of the Fifth Avenue and Thirty-Fourth Street and pointed to a beautiful new building. It was like a palace of reddish stone with turrets and watchtowers like a castle. The older man told him, “That is the hotel I have built for you to manage.”

“You must be joking,” the young man said. He couldn’t believe what he heard. The old man insisted, “I’m not joking” and simply stood there and smiled.

The young man again inquired, “Who are you that you can do this?” The old man replied, “My name is William Waldorf Astor.” And the hotel was the original Waldorf-Astoria of New York City. The young clerk’s name is George C. Boldt, and he did become the first manager of the historic hotel!

To end this piece, here’s a timely thought from American author C. Welton Gaddy: “When integrity is viewed as the exception rather than the norm of life, there is cause for worry. When simple honesty is praised as courage, times are not good.” — ###

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