The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
There are a thousand ways to go off-course. That’s why aircraft, rockets, and ships have internal guidance systems to help correct for the buffets of wind and current. People likewise are buffeted by unforeseen circumstances, distractions, and temptations to stray. In business we face a constant stream of pressures to veer off-course. Some of the most dangerous moral hazards come in the form of opportunities to make a “quick buck”—short-term gains that can have long-term repercussions.
Most scandals begin with very small deviations from a true course. A thousandth thousandth of a degree off-course, and the Curiosity spacecraft never would have reached Mars. Similarly, small miscues in business or relationships can lead to ruin if not corrected.
The biblical word for sin (ἁμαρτάνω) means, “to miss the mark;” in other words, to veer off-course. What keeps us on the right course? How do we know when we are straying?
We might think of integrity as the “internal guidance system” that keeps us on the right path, keeps us moving in the right direction. Integrity is like a gyroscope that helps us maintain our bearings. The gyroscope’s stability comes from its large, angular momentum, oriented around a central axis. Similarly, integrity gains momentum when a person lives a life in alignment with God.
The test of any moral choice is to ask how it aligns with God’s will: Does this decision point to God? How will it demonstrate righteousness? How will it bear witness to God’s purposes? Does this decision bear witness to the self-emptying love of Christ? Each time we take a step in the right direction, we build momentum in the right direction. That’s how integrity grows and keeps a person on the right path.
Integrity is therefore relational. It cannot be reduced to a code or a method, as it depends on discernment of God’s will. Integrity is rooted in prayer. Practicing the habits of the heart that bring discernment helps us to maintain alignment with God’s will. Integrity is the capacity to see each choice in the greater reality of God’s will for us as individuals and as a community of work. When this sort of spiritual discernment grows in us and gains momentum in our lives, we’ll stay the course. That’s why the psalmist says, “The integrity of the upright guides them.”
© Bruce D. Baker, 2014
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