Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Peace of Integrity

Whenever we live in a spirit of honesty and kindness, we experience greater peace of mind. Many cultures today do not honor business or political leaders or employees who are trustworthy. Whistleblowers are fired. Banking regulators who expose fraud are ridiculed. Leaders who steal from their customers are rewarded with huge salaries and bonuses.

To be a truly peaceful person, we need to select values that promote true happiness and then choose actions that reflect our values. When our values and our actions mesh, we are living with integrity.

Although few are totally honest, and some are so brutally honest that they offend others with their rudeness, we can live lives of integrity and still be kind and merciful to others. Job, who lived in Old Testament times, was such a man.

We know that Job suffered great adversity, losing his children, his wealthy, his health, and the respect of his wife and friends. Even though he had lost everything that he held dear, he still retained his integrity. He refused to curse God and die, even after his wife counseled him to do so. He was one man on the earth who held fast to his integrity, even when no one seemed to appreciate or honor his courage—no one, that is, but God.

God rewarded Job for his integrity and his faithfulness, restoring his health, doubling his riches, and giving him seven sons and three daughters. But, if Job had never been rewarded for his integrity, he would have continued to remain faithful to his God and his values. Job said, . Job said, “Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.”

So how can we live with greater integrity and how will integrity increase our peace of mind?

First, we can keep our promises. When we follow through on our commitments, we feel greater serenity and those who trust us feel more peaceful as well. Today I had to decline a request that I really wanted to do but which I felt I could not complete to my satisfaction. When I declined the offer, my loved one stated, “Thanks for being honest. I would rather hear now that you cannot complete this assignment rather than learn later that you are unable to do so.”

Sometimes we may over-commit ourselves and find it impossible to do everything that others want us to do. In those situations, we either need to delegate, decline the offer, or discuss with the person to whom we have committed our services how we can work out a solution. Often the kindest thing we can say to someone who asks something of us that we are unable to perform is “I’m sorry. I wish I could help you, but right now, I’m unable to do it.”

Next, we need be financially honest. Living with credit card debt, evading taxes, and spending more than we earn does not increase our peace of mind. I have learned that I can be happy living on minimum wage in a restored chicken coop as long as I am free from debt. I can wear second-hand clothes, eat simple meals, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life and still be happy. Media attempts to convince us that a new house, car, wardrobe, or furniture will make us happy. It suggests that having the best foods, electronics, vacations, or “stuff” will make us happy. Certainly, these things may provide immediate gratification, but if they are purchased with funds that we cannot repay, they will not provide lasting peace. Nearly three thousand years ago, Lao Tzu said, “Be content with what you have. Rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

Finally, we need to be faithful to our spouses. Integrity in any relationship is so precious that it is invaluable. In a world that celebrates promiscuity, nothing brings greater sorrow that knowing that our loved one has broken his or her marriage vows. Like Joseph of old, we need to flee when we are faced with temptation, whether it appears on a computer screen, in our place of business, or in a chat room. Thankfully, we worship a God who is quick to forgive, but many broken hearts could be avoided if husbands and wives chose integrity over instant gratification.

When our actions are consistent with our values, we become whole. We experience greater serenity and inner peace. Imagine the number of marriages, jobs, homes, and lives that would be saved right now if spouses, businesses leaders, mortgage brokers, and politicians lived with a spirit of integrity. W. Clement Stone, a successful business and philanthopist, said, “Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity."

© Carol Brown

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