“Integrity is the ability to carry out a decision long after the moment of making it is gone.”
Loren C. Dunn.
I fell in love with this definition of integrity the moment I heard it 18 years ago. So many of us float through life making promise after promise, commitment, and covenant. At the moment we sign up, we fully intend to follow through, but then life’s baggage and misadventures successfully detour us. Elder Dunn’s declaration implies that integrity is a skill that can be acquired through observation and practice. I’ve collected several anecdotal stories over the years about righteous men and women who have developed this skill. Here are just a few manifestations of integrity that could be familiar to most LDS readers:
- My father promised the Lord one month that his Elder’s quorum would achieve 100% home teaching, The last hour of the last day of the month, he waited in the dark in a parked car in front of that last member’s house who had not received a visit, hoping they would return before the stroke of midnight (they did).
- Two quarreling spouses met with their bishop for advice. Instead of focusing on particular points of contention or encouraging improved communication, he separately asked them to remember the covenants they made with the Lord over the sealing room altar many years ago. Were they prepared to break them? (they were not and decided to try harder)
- A young man applies for his first fulltime job after graduating from college. During the interview, he explains his value to his potential employer as follows: “I am neither a rocket scientist nor a highly skilled professional. However, I will always do what I say I will do, and be where I say I will be, when I say I will be there.” (He was hired)
- A young married LDS supermom has made sacred covenants with God throughout her lifetime to respect and honor priesthood authority. She detects defects in the LDS male culture that seem to encourage, or at least tacitly allow, unequal treatment of women. While she does not completely concur with her bishop’s characterization of how the priesthood universally blesses all of God’s children, she nevertheless agrees to quietly, patiently, and personally work it out with the Lord rather than go public with her concerns.
Today’s world is so starving for integrity that we are too often impressed by the mere promise of it. Hence, we elect leaders who write checks with their mouths that their actions can’t cash. Only the daily, challenging practice of integrity exercised through the sum of kept promises reaps results. Righteous traditions are the glue that bridge moments of inspiration across oceans of life’s harsh and constant ebb and flow. Whether it’s Captain Moroni’s promise to defend freedom, or President Reagan’s promise to not negotiate with terrorists, I suspect it was their daily commitment to principles of liberty, freedom, and human decency that led the transformation of motivational words into solid action. Both of these gentlemen could honestly list “integrity” on their resume of valuable skills. Could you?