Most of us, at some point in our lives, will be guilty of judging a political, cultural or social group by its hypocrites – those whose actions and lifestyles contradict the values they purport to endorse. As unfair as it is to do so, it is perfectly understandable. Hypocrisy is deplorable, and was one of the few vices that seemed to get Jesus genuinely riled (see Matthew 23). This is because it has the potential to do enormous damage to a cause.
A pertinent example would be the march of various world leaders – arm in arm – defending freedom of speech, and standing in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo.
At first glance, the endeavour seems a noble one. However, it soon became apparent to the press that many of those marching were guilty of supporting atrocious violations of human rights themselves (www.globalresearch.ca/je-suis-hypocrite-enemies-of-freedom-of-expression-hijack-charlie-in-paris/5424470). Certainly, it would be illogical to argue that simply because many of those publically defending it are hypocritical, freedom of expression has no value. Yet that is what we do with so many ideas; it is what – ironically – those marching under the banner of Je suis Charlie are doing with Islam.
While I encourage you not to judge the validity of others’ creeds simply because they cannot adhere to them, I also encourage you to be aware of the damage you do to the credibility of your group when you cannot live the values you preach.
That is why I chose integrity as one of my core values:
Integrity: I will try to keep the gap between what I say and what I do as small as possible. My values will never be concepts only, but I will practise them.
I base my understanding of integrity on 1 Timothy 4:11-16
11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
As with all my core values, this is a standard I aspire to, not one I believe I have met. I get this one wrong far too often for my liking, and some of my deepest regrets concern the impact of some of my actions on the perceived credibility of the faith I profess. I hope that there are those who will see the beauty of Jesus’ teachings because of the life I live. If that can be true for the majority of my interactions with others, I will have lived a life of integrity. For the rest – those hurt by my hypocritical moments – I pray that you will come to see the beauty of Jesus’ teachings despite the example I have set.
Integrity takes years to cultivate, and can be destroyed with one lie, or one broken promise. The road of my life is strewn with both, to my shame. Still, I know that it is my lifestyle, and not my words, that will make me believable. I know that in Jesus I have found a treasure of indescribable beauty, and I would hate for others not to see it because I got in the way.
Thomas Leonard notes simply that “integrity reveals beauty”. Interpreted, that means that others will see the beauty of what we value when our actions truthfully reflect what we claim to believe. I pray that I – and you – may live lives that reveal beauty.