Just after putting on his puts on his vestments in preparation for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, every Orthodox priest washes his hands and offers six verses of Psalm 26 as his prayer while doing so.
The Psalm begins with the words, “I will wash my hands in innocence. I will proclaim all of Your wondrous works as I go about your altar…. I will walk in my integrity; redeem me and be merciful unto me.”
“Integrity” is a word that is not only important to priests, but to every one of us because we claim to be Christians—followers of Jesus Christ. Integrity must be the hallmark for all that we are and do.
In past years, it was common to witness integrity in action. When an agreement was reached between two parties, a simple handshake “sealed the deal.” Formal documents, attorneys, prenuptial agreements, etc were considered unnecessary for most earthly commitments. Before the dawn of checking accounts, electronic banking, etc. a promise to pay the other person as agreed included three months for all payments to be made. Thus, “ninety days is cash” was a phrase used to describe the terms of the agreement.
In today’s society, the word “integrity” is seldom heard or taken seriously. A few years ago, in a copy of the New Yorker magazine, an illustration appeared with the following text: “We hold ourselves to the highest standards required by law.” So much for societal integrity! Lying, cheating, stealing, being manipulative and dishonest, destroying the reputation of others—often with false accusation–are but a few of the ways that seem to have replaced “integrity” as societal norms.
Jesus taught that His followers must live in this world, but not according to the standards accepted and applied by many in this world. Whatever is good can and should be accepted. But, whatever is evil must be shunned.
Recently, I came across a number of reflections on “Integrity” that I want to share with you. The authors are unknown, but their words speak volumes.
* The first key to greatness is to be in reality what we appear to be.
* Integrity is not so much what we do as much as whom we are.
* Image is what people think we are: integrity is what we really are.
* The measure of a man’s character is what he would do if he would never be found out.
* Integrity is not a given factor in everyone’s life. It is a result of self-discipline, inner trust, and a decision to be relentlessly honest in all situations in our lives.
* Integrity is the glue that holds our way of life together. We must constantly strive to keep our integrity intact. When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.
* Integrity is the factor that determines which one will prevail. We struggle daily with situations that demand decisions between what we want to do and what we ought to do. Integrity establishes the ground rules for resolving these tensions. It determines who we are and how we will respond before the conflict even appears. Integrity welds what we say, think, and do, into a whole person so that permission is never granted for one of these to be out of sync.
May you always walk with integrity bringing honor to God and a good witness for Him to man.