“Brothers and sisters:
We are always courageous,
although we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Yet we are courageous,
and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
Therefore, we aspire to please him,
whether we are at home or away.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each may receive recompense,
according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”
I have often heard integrity defined as doing the right thing when no one is watching (one attribution is to C. S. Lewis). It is not a bad definition, but there can be another way to look at it. Integrity comes from the word integer, which itself comes from the Latin prefix in- (not) and verb tangere (to touch). Therefore, it is untouched, entire, whole, or complete. All of the various parts form a whole, single unit. Everything in our personalities is integrated and integral to each part. Consistency and continuity between our beliefs, thoughts, and actions characterize us as persons when we have integrity. We end up doing the right thing when no one is watching because that is who we are, that is our true self.
Part our our process for growing in maturity is to become more integrated, or to have integrity. Especially in our teen years, when we suffer the angst of trying to figure out who we are and are going to be, many of us go through this process. It was very intentional for me as a teenager. I found myself acting in a different way in different circumstances depending on who I was with and what I thought that they thought of me. To receive “their” approval, I felt and acted like a different person when I was in class, hanging out with high school friends, at Boy Scouts, with family, etc. It was exhausting and, eventually, I made a very clear decision to be the same person no matter the context. I had to be myself and I gained continuity in who I was and how I acted. This sense of integrity transcends a particular place or time. We have continuity with our true self wherever and whenever we are. This takes growth, practice, commitment, and courage. The more we are true to ourselves, the easier it becomes. The more we are true to who God made us to be, the easier it becomes. We gain consistency in our continuity.
Our earthly pilgrimage, where we do not see God directly, but only by faith, will come to a natural end for each of us. Entering through the doorway of death into eternity, we will transcend all space and time and see God face to face. We will stand before the judgement seat of Christ naked, as it were. The only thing we will hold on to is our true selves. The consistency and continuity of integrity follow us to that face to face encounter with God. We will be the same person when at home with the Lord as we have been at home in the body. Integrity now prepares us to stand before God then untouched, entire, whole, and complete. What we do now matters then because it is who we are, our true selves. May we aspire to please God now and be pleasing to God then. Integrity shows us the way.