Integrity In Life and Leadership

At the memorial service for Gerald Ford, President Bush paid a touching and well- deserved tribute to the former president as being a “synonym for integrity.”

Integrity is a quality we expect and cherish in leaders. The Psalmist certainly did, praising David as one who shepherded “with integrity of heart” (Psalm 78:72).

Integrity involves truthfulness in matters of honesty: how we handle finances, keep our promises, live out our relationships.

But how often do we think of integrity in terms of wholeness? Yet that is essentially what integrity signifies. The root word (“integer”) is related to “touch”, so integrity describes a quality that touches all of me – both the “light” and the “dark” – and integrates the whole around my true Center.

For Thomas Aquinas

… beauty also included the notion of integrity, integritas. He understands
that each thing is alive and on a journey to become fully itself. Integrity is achieved
when there is a complete realization of whatever a thing is supposed to be. Integrity is
the adequacy of a thing to itself. There is a sense of achieved proportion between a
thing and what it is called to be. (John O’Donohue in Beauty)

As Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote in his lovely poem As Kingfishers Catch Fire

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same
…Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

His words are not about the self-absorption of narcissism, but about the longing to become all that God uniquely created each of us to be, and in our uniqueness to reflect our Lord.

For Christ plays in ten thousand places.
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

We miss integrity not just by shading the truth in our dealings, but by fearing to become fully who we most truly are made to be. Some day, promises John, “we shall be like him,” and fully reflect the beauty of Jesus.

Meanwhile the pursuit of integrity means bringing all I know to be true of me into all I know to be true of Christ.

Leighton Ford,

January 2007

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