Integrity

A note from Japan:

We share supplies like water, food and kerosene.  We sleep lined up in one room, eat by candlelight, share stories. During the day we help each  other clean up the mess in our homes. People sit in their cars, looking at news on the navigation screens, or line up to get drinking water when a source is open. If someone has water running  in their home, they put out a sign so people can come to fill up their jugs and buckets. Utterly amazingly where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines. People leave their  front door open, as it is safer when an earthquake strikes. Quakes keep coming. Last night they struck about every 15 minutes. Sirens are constant and helicopters  pass overhead often. We got water for a few hours in our homes last night, and now it is for half a day.

Electricity came on this afternoon. Gas has not yet come on. But all of this is by area. Some people have these things, others do  not. No one has washed for several days. We feel grubby, but there are so much more important concerns than that for us now.       I love this peeling away of non-essentials. Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition, of caring, of what is needed for survival, not  just of me, but of the entire group.

Why was the writer amazed? Is that kind of integrity unusual? Are we skeptical that it could be widespread or lasting?

Integrity is defined as uprightness of character, virtue tested and confirmed, soundness or wholeness, honesty, trustworthiness. People of integrity are not easily traumatized, nor do they stoop to traumatizing others.

N. T. Wright in his book subtitled “Why Christian Character Matters” identifies Captain Sullenberger who guided his disabled passenger plane to a safe landing in the Hudson River as a person of integrity. Due to lifelong habits of discipline and training, the pilot’s calm, cool judgment and determination to do the right thing had become “second nature” no matter the situation. Wright cites findings from brain science regarding development of “moral muscle.” The main thrust of the book shows how Jesus goes beyond Aristotle’s cardinal virtues of courage, justice, prudence and temperance to include humility and love, without which integrity easily goes awry.

Psychologist Erik Erikson identified eight stages in human life with a major conflict in each, the last being integrity vs. despair. Conflicts from previous stages are never completely resolved, and many people do not reach the last stage, old age. However, some become people of integrity in young or middle adulthood. Three Christian therapists, authors of Healing the Eight Stages of Life, read Physician Luke’s description of Jesus as a record of his precocious human integrity: “he increased in wisdom and in favor with God and people” (2:52). The book’s last chapter gives poignant examples including that of Alfred Nobel. When his brother died a newspaper accidentally printed Alfred’s obituary. Shocked to read that he was remembered for making a fortune by enabling armies to achieve new levels of mass destruction, Alfred determined to change his life’s direction before he died. He founded the Nobel Prize to annually reward research and actions that benefit humanity.

Integrity, like all of my Mulled Words, is another beam in the brilliance of God’s Word, closely fused with many others. People of integrity are free of fear and addiction, always growing in hope, joy, love and peace.

This spring I pray for seeds of kindness and integrity (also known in the Bible as righteousness). “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness”(James 3:17, 18).

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