Saturday, August 23, 2014

Integrity, or Words Matter

 Quakers don't swear to tell 

the truth, they just do it.

Most of the people I know value honesty or integrity. It seems like a simple concept until you really try to analyze your words and actions.

One of the things that attracted me to the Quakers was the importance they place on integrity. Although integrity seems to be important in numerous Biblical writings, and throughout many philosophic writings, the Quakers, to me, seemed to historically take this principle very seriously. Probably, most of us consider ourselves to be honest and truthful people. But when you think about every word or action, sometimes it's not as easy as it appears on the surface.

A few Biblical quotes that emphasize the value of honesty gave me reason to think that to live in the “Light” or spirit with God, one should consider integrity part of daily interactions and decisions. Proverbs 2:6-8 For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.

From the New Testament,Titus 2:7-8 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Historically, Quakers have refused to swear in court to the tell the truth, instead “affirming ” that their word, as always, would be truthful. Quakers were often able to conduct affairs with the Native Americans successfully because they could be trusted to stay true to their word. They were successful in business dealings for this reason as well.

Integrity is central to being a Quaker. In the words of George Fox, you should “let your lives preach.” Living “in the Light” means every word or action should be guided by the Spirit of God. This is a great idea, but in everyday life it's often difficult to stay on the path. There will always be others, or yourself, trying to encourage you to be less than honest to make life easier. I was recently faced with several situations where this was the case. It was not that hard for me to stick to my principles, and I found out, once again, that things work out better if you just tell the truth.

But, there are other times where my words have been less guarded, especially when I am upset, or gossiping. I guess we all have our Achilles' heel, and this seems to be one of mine. But, life is a spiritual journey, and being mindful takes practice.

I'm so glad that I have the wisdom and example of others to help guide me, either through their writings or actions.

I'll end with a quote from Bob Marley: “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”

I will have more to say on integrity in another posting. 
-- Karen W.


  1. thanks so much for this, Karen - your words really speak to me this morning!

    one thing I struggle with, is listening for divine guidance when my view of the truth differs from someone else's -- Quaker silence can be a real gift in this regard -- I wish I'd remember to exercise the gift of silence more, when I'm just in ordinary conversations with people!

    Vaya con Dios, Amiga!

  2. Here's an integrity dilemma:

    Yesterday I was emailing with a Friend whose family is experiencing a serious health issue. I ended my post to him with something like "you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers."

    He wrote back to me, asking about what I believe about the EFFECTS of these "thoughts and prayers" -- I did my best to describe my experience and beliefs -- and then in a later email he wrote to me:

    "Yet the language we use reflects an earlier understanding of supplication to seek a change in the actions of another, with all the guilt when it does not eventuate and all the false confirmation of election if it does."

    There are no simple "outward" solutions to the question of how, exactly, to speak with integrity of our spiritual experiences; indeed Quakers' traditional avoidance of creeds reminds us that there is no one-size-fits-all truth claim about God.

    I suppose the bottom line for me (so to speak!) is to always pray for divine guidance as to what to say to whom and when, trying to remain in God's Truth and Love. And, equally, to pray for divine guidance as to how to hear and understand what others say to me, looking and listening for God's Truth and Love coming through other people as well.

    I'm thinking a non-Theist Friend might say something similar without the God part:
    perhaps, centering down in truth and love, waiting for the right words to come, looking for the truth and love in what others say, as well.

    So here's the integrity dilemma: what I *do* is pray for divine guidance, for divine help; I give thanks to God for what I understand as God's blessings. Should I leave the "divine" or "God" language out of my communications to those I know or suspect don't speak of their spiritual experiences in this way? what if I think the person might find God language offensive? Surely one ought not speak with the *intention* to offend?


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