I’ll never forget this quote I read, years ago: “Character is who you are when no one is watching.” When I stepped back and took a good look at my life, I realized the person I was in private was not the person I wanted people to see. The real me was the person I was all by myself. The fake me was what everyone else saw. I came to understand that without personal integrity, I was essentially a fraud.
We all know being the same person in all circumstances is virtually impossible. We understand this if we understand basic human nature. Because no one wishes to show the outside world their inner ugliness, (and we all have some of it), people are on a daily mission to hide the less than desirable aspects and show forth the better ones. In that sense, we are all frauds.
But digging a little deeper, we can see the Bible is not making the point that we are all frauds. No, that is pretty apparent on its own. Instead, the Scripture reminds us of the person we habitually are. The day-in, day-out of who we are. Are we saying this or that is crucially important, pointing out what should be and what should not be, and yet living another life altogether in private?
The writer of Proverbs gives impactful truths to direct his listeners to the absolute best life attainable. These are general truths, principles on which to base our lives, and the ideal way of living. In other words, if we put into practice all the truths of Proverbs, we would lead the most profitable, comfortable, and happy lives possible.
Personal integrity is vital to a successful life. There are zero exceptions. If we support morality and honesty, but do otherwise behind closed doors, there will be repercussions. Proverbs is giving us a much needed warning: have genuine integrity and reap the wonderful benefits or don’t have it and reap the dire consequences.
The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about personal integrity, and identifies three main benefits. They are: protection, piloting, and progeny. We will look at all three.
In Proverbs 10:9, we read: “He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out.”
If one lives a life they say they support, he or she will experience the security known only to those who are who they say they are. It’s not too difficult to hide bad personal habits for a while, but ultimately the truth comes out. Eventually the hidden stuff becomes known, because no one is able to completely hide their falsity. A brief glance at some high-profile people over the last few decades reveals a long list of hypocrites – people who thought they could hide their dark side forever. But somehow, someway, their real self was finally exposed. Frauds will always be found out, in time.
But for one who walks with integrity – the person who makes a habit of faithfulness, of being true, there is great reward. It’s the reward of security. Protection. There is nothing to worry about for these people, because there is nothing to find out. They are who they say they are.
If you’re at all like me, you want to be sure the pilot of the plane you are traveling on is well-versed on how to handle that particular aircraft. Being under the complete control of that individual, you must trust him completely. A wrong move, a misread of an instrument, could mean the end of your life. In a similar way, personal integrity “pilots” a life to keep on the right path. Uplifted, moving ahead with direction and purpose.
In Proverbs 11:3, we read: “The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.”
Personal integrity is a guiding light, a pathfinder for an individual who practices it. It provides a clear way before you to show you the direction to proceed, giving speed, efficiency, and productivity. The converse is equally true; a crooked person, a person with no personal integrity, is an accident waiting to happen. The one who leads a double life runs into obstacle after obstacle, and is ultimately destroyed by their own treachery. It is the way of the world – call it karma, the law of consequences, whatever… what a person puts out will ultimately be received back.
Proverbs 20:7 “A righteous man who walks in his integrity – how blessed are his sons after him.”
At some point in every person’s life, discussion of their legacy will begin to surface. People start to contemplate the future of their family, kids, and progeny. Eventually people tire of living for the next thrill, the next achievement, and realize the ability to enjoy life diminishes and acquiring more and more simply does not satisfy. This is when they will turn to the subject of the kids and grandkids… the people coming after them. The older one becomes, the more he or she will think of what they have left to their progeny. An inheritance, a name, a reputation, but most importantly, a legacy.
The Bible makes it pretty clear: the one who lives with personal integrity will bestow a blessing upon those following. There is no greater gift you can give to your children, biological or otherwise, then to give them a life example of integrity. Personal integrity provides a solid framework, a foundation, giving strength of purpose and objective to all who follow.
My grandfather was a stellar example of this to me. His life, though far from perfect, illustrated genuine personal integrity. Though he is long gone, I think of him often, how he was strong in his faith, determined in what mattered most in life, and authentic in every way. His memory is a precious thing to me, because of the legacy he left. How blessed I am to have that gift!
Though achieving genuine personal integrity can be difficult, the benefits of doing so far outweigh the costs. The rewards will not only apply to us directly, but even more importantly, bless those who follow our example, those who look up to us and model their lives after ours.