“I’ll lie, cheat, steal for this company, but I will not give up my integrity.”
Will you think I’m very weird if I say this is one my favorite quotes from the movie Brigadoon?
Throughout this past week I’ve been thinking about integrity—the character trait—and that quote from Brigadoon comes to mind every time I open the Integrity file in my brain. (It comes near the end of the movie, in the restaurant bar, modern day; Jeff overhears a man say it while he’s waiting to meet up with Tommy.)
What do you think integrity, as a character trait, means? And is it possible to increase, or improve, one’s own integrity?
The Integrity file in my brain is not a very full one. Another significant piece of information in it relates to construction, e.g. the integrity of a building, or a bridge, say. This might not seem related to the character trait, but it’s an object lesson illustrating what integrity is and isn’t.
In college I saw a film of the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Whenever I think of integrity, I think of that film. I also think of sound buildings and the 1911 Austin Flood which I learned about in the first book of the Judy Bolton mysteries series. I remember being aghast that people could compromise on safety, endangering the lives of others for profit.
I have a thought process that goes like this, “If something is bad for humans, other people wouldn’t sell it. Right? Like Twinkies. They must not be bad for us or people wouldn’t sell them.”
Inevitably I have to consider cigarettes. People sell those. Still, after all these years, I can’t get it into my head that anyone would deliberately sell something harmful, or do something unkind on purpose. I know people say and do mean things when they’re provoked, but they wouldn’t cold-bloodedly harm someone else, especially a child.
When I was a little girl I remember getting my hands on a church book and seeing a picture of Jesus on the cross. I didn’t understand it. It was horrifying to me. No one would ever do such a thing to someone else!
Gut reactions—do they show us our integrity? What about casual conversation? The guy in Brigadoon, who was willing to lie, cheat, and steal, but not give up his integrity. What kind of termite-y, soggy, unsound stuff is he made of? (The quote is obviously a play on Job 27:5, “till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.”)
Integrity is more than honesty. Courtesy of Dictionary.com, integrity is a noun meaning:
- adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
- the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.
- a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship’s hull.
Integrity is the stuff we’re made of. That’s why I asked if we can change it. There are definitely things we can do to improve, yes, always. But there is one sure source of integrity that we all tap into. And it makes us enough—sure, steadfast, immovable.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
“We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23)
I can’t eliminate scriptures from my thoughts when I think of integrity. Two days ago, 27 March 2018, would have been my dad’s 99th birthday. He died ten years ago. It’s interesting to me that I miss him more as the years pass. This is the legacy he gave me: “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him” (Proverbs 20:7).
And this is simply beautiful: “Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the Lord; therefore I shall not slide” (Psalms 26:1).
May I be a person of integrity! (And also of charity.)