Integrity and character are often conflated. And ideally they do work together. But it is also possible to be high in integrity and low in character, and vice versa.
Integrity is simply walking the talk and faithfully doing what we say we’re going to do. Our actions and daily life are consistent with the claims we make and how we present ourselves to others.
But both the sinner and the saint are living with integrity when their inner and outer worlds are aligned. And, to be sure, many dark and sinful acts are committed with a person’s integrity fully intact; there’s no remorse when their hearts are fully devoted to such behaviors.
Either way, living with integrity is certainly a good start, as people can at least know what to expect from us and adjust accordingly. But simply living with integrity should not be confused with being a man of character.
To live with character is to live a virtuous life – doing what’s morally right and seeking to bring good to others whenever the opportunity presents itself.
But, even here, living with character doesn’t necessarily mean we’re living with integrity. It’s possible to do the right thing from a bad heart. Similar to bad faith, we’re merely virtue signaling when we’re only playing the part of being good and this goodness is not flowing from our deep and true heart.
Ideally, we’re high in both integrity and character – our actions are aligned with our deeper values and beliefs, which are centered on pursuing all that is true, good, and beautiful.
Without integrity we cannot be trusted. And without character we fail to bring more life and goodness into the world. We need both.
In the end, be a man of integrity. And add to your integrity character. In this way your strength can be trusted and serve as a light in a dark world.
Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash
I am that which I now am,
and not what I’m supposed to be;
in this way I play the man,
living with integrity.
I do the things I know are right,
not from love of holy laws,
but rather a plumed jousting knight
trained to cultivate applause.
I sin my days, then sin again,
and atone by virtue-airs,
wondering what might remain
of the tender cares
that God placed, so fresh and whole,
so long ago, in new-wrought soul.