“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching” (C. S. Lewis). Someone else said that integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gain. But the most practical definition is from Brene Brown: “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”
A person with integrity firmly adheres to a strict code of moral and ethical values. Integrity is needed in every career, calling and profession. Whether you are a physician or a plumber; a carpenter or an attorney, a coach or a pastor; integrity is essential.
Parents especially need integrity. Children are not born with it, but learn it as they observe their parents. Above all, people who name the name of Jesus must display integrity. It is part and parcel with godly character and a Christ-honoring life. So, how can we develop and maintain integrity in life?
Paul helps us in Philippians 4:8, as he addresses things that happen in our minds—because integrity begins there. Howard Hendricks used to say, “You are not what you think you are—what you think—you are!” People are what they are and do what they do because of what they think. Every deed begins as a thought.
So, if God can help the way we think, it will impact what we do, and alter the way we live. Paul shares six important traits for godly living that we must consider, if we would live with integrity. You must dwell on…
1st “Whatever is TRUE”
Things that are true are opposite of dishonest, deceptive, and phony things. People who speak truth, regardless of feelings or company, always stand out, often alone. When Paul suggests thinking on whatever is true, he is not talking about academic truth, but a lifestyle of honest, godly conversation and living.
A true Christian will seek to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). Truth and love always need to be kept together. If you cannot speak truth in love, you may not need to speak at all. Don’t be the one who “speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword,” but like “the tongue of the wise [that] brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). Soften the truth with love and blend it with a lot of grace.
2nd “Whatever is HONORABLE”
This word means noble, dignified and worthy of respect. If you want to live a life of holiness and integrity—begin with honesty. Being honorable means, not only speaking truth but also possessing proper motives, manners and morals.
We are surrounded by a cesspool of vulgar, shallow and shameful things that dishonor God and man. Words and statements with double meanings pollute the mind, but noble and honorable thoughts lead us to higher ground. Honorable people have nothing to hide and nothing to fear because their lives are open books. Focus on—dwell on—doing things honorably.
3rd “Whatever is RIGHT”
Being right or just is connected with conforming to God’s standard or character. It means seeking to do what Christ would do…doing what God would approve. Dwell on being fair in dealing with others by treating them with respect, kindness and thoughtfulness. Churches should make it their goal to be honorable in dealing with all people; that is to do what is just and right for them.
4th “Whatever is PURE”
Think about—dwell on—things that are pure and undefiled. The word for pure is related to the word translated “holy.” We need to keep our minds scrubbed clean and disciplined enough to resist tempting thoughts about promiscuous things. If you struggle with this in your thought-life, stop and think of the effects your failure would have on others—defaming the Lord who redeemed you; disappointing the wife or husband who trusts you; destroying your example with your children; bringing shame to your family; hindering your testimony to the lost; hurting your church family and its reputation; and on and on. Start doing what is right. Focus your mind on things that are holy and pure.
5th “Whatever is LOVELY”
We are also to dwell on things that are lovely—pleasing or pleasant. God wants believers to live attractive lives of generosity, kindness and compassion. This results in them being agreeable and amiable—living lives that bring pleasure and delight to others. The word “lovely” almost sounds feminine, but basically means to be congenial and enjoyable. It is what promotes peace rather than conflict. Christians who have lovely character attract believers and unbelievers alike.
6th “Whatever is of GOOD REPORT”
This word speaks of things that are admirable, commendable or praiseworthy. We are to consider ways to maintain a godly reputation and give a good report. We would rather be around people who give good reports than those who constantly judge and criticize others. I can make a list of people who have made a difference in my life, and almost all of them were admirable, encouraging and shared a “good report.” That is what we need to think about!
No matter how many difficulties and disappointments we face, focusing our minds on things that build our character and make us more Christ-like will bless our lives and others. If you look closely, you can see the Lord Jesus in all six of these traits. Everything that is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy is found in Him. And we are called to follow him, and strive to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Dwell on these things!