The following is the first of a four part morning prayer on Integrity.
We talk a lot about community at Trinity School. We talk a lot about what we do together. That is right and it is fitting. As Mr. Wacker has been reminding us, we are a little outpost of the Kingdom of God, and maintaining this outpost is a group effort. We work together. We get things done.
But this week I want to talk about integrity – and integrity is something you have to cultivate in the depths of who you are as an individual. People might be able to help you foster and preserve it, but its something that can really only begin with a good long look in the mirror – and I'm not talking about making sure that your hair is sticking out at just the right angle.
Normally, when people talk about "integrity" they really mean "honesty" – or maybe honesty raised to the Nth power. In this way, you would describe someone who always kept their word as a "man of integrity." Sometimes it is also used to describe someone who is morally upright. And those are certainly important, but they’re not what I want to talk about this week. I want to talk about integrity in a far deeper sense.
Webster’s defines "integrity" as "the state or quality of being entire or complete; wholeness; entireness."
But what does it mean to be a whole person? To be complete?
Tommorrow I will talk about how one might begin to pursue this wholeness or completeness, telling some stories about my own quest for integrity in this sense.
But this morning I just want each of you to think about one simple question.
Who is the real you?
Take a moment to really imagine yourself.
I would suggest, and I think you will agree with me, that there are probably many "you"s to choose from when you’re trying to answer the question, "Who is the real you."
Let’s start ticking some options off here.
Is the real you the person who everyone, including your teachers, sees in the classroom?
Or is the real you the person only your class sees in the hallway at the lockers or after school at Caribou?
Or is the real you the person that your sports team knows on the field or in the locker room or from rides home from practice and games?
Or is he the person that your parents know as their son? The brother your siblings know? The co-worker the people at your work know? The youth group member your friends at church know?
Is the real you that person your whole class sees at a class party?
Or is he that someone that only a few of your closer friends know, the ones you share at least some of your struggles, emotions, difficulties and frustrations with?
Who is the real you?
Is he the one who confidently walks through the day, defining yourself in as cool a fashion as our uniform allows? Cool enough hair. Cool enough walk. Cool enough.
Or is it the you who secretly wonders if anyone really likes you for who you are?
Is the real you the one who wakes up in the morning thinking you've pretty much got it going on?
Or is it the one who goes home at night kicking himself again and again for that stupid thing you said that your friends just wouldn't let go of?
Is the real you the person you know yourself to be?
Or is it the person you want to be, deep down?
We all know there's a big different, but who is the real you?
Or, is that still an open question?
Is it possible that with all these different "you"s running around, even in your own head, with all these different "selves" that all certainly feel genuine when you’re living each of them them but that don't really fit together all that well when you step back and look at the big picture, that you might not really know who the real you is yet?
Or is it at least possible that you struggle – as all of us do no matter what age – to be a person of integrity, to be a man of a single-minded purpose that informs every one of your many selves and holds them together?
Let me throw out a few snapshots for you of the interior life of a boy that I once knew, struggling with his own lack of wholeness and integrity.
As a 7th grader, this boy that I knew, the son of a blue collar father sacrificing to provide his children with a private education, gets upset at his mother for trying to stitch a name brand emblem onto his shorts so he could fit in at school. He feels really bad afterwards. But he doesn't even know how to begin to apologize.
As an 8th grader, there he is sitting on the back steps of his American history classroom between bells. And he jokes in the context of a lecture he had just heard that we should have just nuked Vietnam. When a 7th grade girl, who he had forgotten was adopted from Vietnam, runs away crying, this boy that I knew felt disgusted with himself, but laughed all the same and said, "She’ll get over it."
As a 9th grader, this same boy that I knew is in the basement of his church when two of the coolest guys in his school ask him to skip youth group with them and to go the 7-11 down the road. Maybe get a slurpee. And a hot dog. He skips youth group and walks the whole way feeling equal parts guilt, exhilaration, freedom and fear.
That's enough for now about the boy that I knew, but I want to close by acknowledging this to you before I go any further this week.
Finding integrity, finding wholeness, bringing these parts of yourself together, is hard.
And it's is probably a life long work.
On the other hand, it begins today or it doesn't begin at all.