The following is an excerpt from one of Chaplain Sell’s homilies based on the question that Job’s wife mockingly poses to him: “Do you still cling to your integrity?”
Do you still cling to your integrity?
When I lived in Princeton, I used to jog the same route pretty much every day. And on my runs, I’d go past this engraved sidewalk that quoted Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
The sidewalk quote reads, “This above all, to thine own self be true.”
I would run by it and read it. “This above all, to thine own self be true.”
And every day I would think to myself, “that’s the most stupid, narcissistic idea in the world.”
I mean, I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve reached a point where I’m tired of people telling me that if I just be myself, than everything will all be great. Because that’s simply not true. People are true to themselves and it often goes terribly for them.
It turns out Shakespeare wasn’t an idiot, however. Go figure. I just was reading him wrong. The next line in Hamlet is this:
“And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
I think, maybe, that Shakespeare is talking about integrity here.
The word for integrity in Hebrew connotes a sense of wholeness and completeness. To be a complete person, to be a whole person, you need to be true to yourself. And you can’t be in a right relationship with other people if you aren’t true to yourself first.
Being a person of integrity means that you don’t change who you are depending on the circumstances you are in. You are who you are whether it’s popular or unpopular, whether you’ve got a crowd backing you up or whether you are alone. You are true to yourself. You are true even when tested. That is what it means to be a complete and whole person.
You could live your life in a fractured way. You can act like a good person while people are watching and then cheat when no one will catch you. You can pretend to be friends with people and then let them take the fall when things don’t go well.
But you will never be complete or whole if you do this. You will never have deep, and real and true relationships with others if you live a fractured life.
And you’ll never be the person God created you to be. That’s no way to live.
Do you still cling to your integrity? It might not always be easy. But you might find that wholeness and completeness are worth the cost.