What It Means to Be a Person of Integrity
Going wholeheartedly after what is right

This story is about a crime, and it involves yours truly. Now it’s not what you think—Mr. March, what crime did you commit? I did not commit this crime, but I was involved.

The year was 2002. I was a 20-year-old college sophomore. I was in a band—not a college pep band or a marching band, not an ultra-sophisticated jazz band. I was in a rock band. I was deep in the weeds of pop music—listening to it, creating it, and performing it. Of course, at that time, I wasn’t in the Church, and my parents had no affiliation with the Church.

The college I attended was in a small town called Kirksville. The college campus was seated just south of the town square, which was lined with large, two-story brick buildings full of shops. Just off the square, there was another set of these buildings, and the second floor of one of those buildings was my band’s practice spot.

The great thing about that spot was that we could leave our equipment out—no set up and tear down. There was a community of musicians that would leave their things out. If you know anything about drums, guitars, cases and amplifiers, it’s a lot of equipment, so leaving it out is very efficient for practices.

Something else to understand about equipment like this is it can be very expensive. It really helps your credibility when you have quality gear. You can be a mediocre musician, but if you play using the best equipment, people think you’re better than what you are.

One guitarist in a rival band had purchased a beautiful amp. It was a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier Amplifier (I know it’s a funny name, but the guitar guys knew what that was). The other guitarist in my band and I drooled over it every time we saw it. So at some point during my band’s practice session, unbeknownst to me, our lead guitarist began to hatch a scheme to steal this $2,500 piece of equipment.

When he carried out his plan—committed this sin, this felony—he had to take it to a city about three hours—175 miles—from our practice location.

Our lead guitarist suffered a complete lack of integrity.

Integrity is a virtue. It is a hallmark trait in history’s best leaders, and if we’re going to be leaders and teachers in the World Tomorrow, we must come to possess integrity. We need to learn what it means to be a person with integrity.

The root of the word “integrity” is Latin. It comes from the word integer which means “intact.” Integer also looks identical to the mathematical term “integer.” An integer is a whole number. This is important for us to understand what it means to have integrity. It implies whole or complete.

The American Heritage Dictionary has three definitions for the word “integrity.” The first definition reads, “a steadfast adherence to a strict moral, or ethical code.” The second definition is, “the state of being unimpaired; soundness.” In construction, when they’re testing the integrity of a structure, they want to know how strong it is, how sound it is. The third definition is, “the quality or condition of being whole, or undivided; completeness.”

Integrity is completeness. It is singleness, wholeness.

Integrity is also seen throughout the Bible. Psalm 25:17-18 says, “The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses. Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.” David was in a time of trouble and difficulty. He suffered for doing wrong, and he also suffered for doing right. Sometimes, doing the right thing or going fully or completely after God’s way of life and His law will cause you to encounter difficulty. It’s hard to do in Satan’s world, and you can make enemies quickly, so being a person with integrity also requires courage.

David continues in verses 19-20, “Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.” David is pleading with God, saying, “Look at me. Bring me out. Forgive me. Consider me. Keep me! Deliver me!”

In verse 21, David says, “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.” This word “integrity” in the Hebrew means “completeness; moral innocence, perfection, or uprightness” (Strong’s Concordance). David says to God: “I want to go completely your way. I don’t want to hold any part of myself back.”

In Acts 13:22, God says, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.” In The Former Prophets, Gerald Flurry writes: “David wanted very much to fulfill all of God’s will. He didn’t say, Well, I’ll keep two of the commandments, or nine of them. He wanted to keep every one of them, and to fulfill every little detail he could to obey God.” Mr. Flurry explained that the word after means “extension through a space from top to bottom,” “throughout … total saturation.” He continues, “It’s not easy to be ‘after’ God’s own heart—trying to think and act exactly as God does with all your might!” So David was a man of integrity!

When you put your focus on doing the right thing, then actually do it, that is integrity! Remember, that word also means a steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.

In 1 Kings 9, we see God’s assessment of David. God says to Solomon, inheritor of the throne: “And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel forever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, there shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel” (verses 4-5).

David’s throne is linked with integrity of heart—a complete, whole and sound heart that is pursuing God’s way! There’s ample evidence in the Bible that there were times when David lacked integrity, but he knew how to repent. He knew how to get back to God and go wholeheartedly after Him. We too can get back on track if we ever suffer a lack of integrity.

I found out through a family member of our lead guitarist that he had acquired a new amplifier. About the same time, I found out that the rival guitarist had contacted the police and reported a theft. The police were actively investigating the crime, calling and questioning other musicians that were practicing in our space. To be honest, I was afraid they were going to call me. I wasn’t going to lie to them; I didn’t want to get into trouble.

I called our lead guitarist: “They’re calling people. And if they call me, I’m going to tell them what I know. I know what’s happened here.” He admitted to me that he stole the amp. I told him I wasn’t going to cover for him and that the amplifier needed to be returned. I didn’t know how he would respond, but I think that he could tell from my voice and from knowing me for many years that I was serious.

We made an agreement to return the amplifier. He got the amplifier to me, and I contacted its owner. I got it dropped off; he was grateful to have it back, and he didn’t press any charges.

The guitarist in our band ended up quitting college, moving back home, struggling in life, but eventually found a good job and worked his way up the chain. A lot of things in his life are going well now, and I would assume that he’s turned around in some ways. It looks like he grew in integrity.

We can grow in integrity too—we must. Here are three steps:

1. Learn what is right.

You have to know what the right thing is. What’s the standard? What does it mean to do it right all the way? That can be a particular action or rule you’re trying to follow, or it can even be a jump shot on the basketball court. What is right?

2. Accept that only right is right.

We can’t pretend that close enough is good enough. We humanly tend to think, Ah, it’s good enough. It was almost there. I’ll take it easy. That’s the same spirit of compromise that can take over our lives. You’ll start to compromise in God’s law, which leads you toward destruction. A person with integrity doesn’t schedule a day off from doing what is right. There’s no day off. You do what is right all the time because it is right.

3. Strive to do what is right.

Like David, like my friend, there will be times when we fall short. We will make mistakes. But we must own those mistakes and get back on track. We strive to do the right thing fully, completely.

A few examples that can apply to you: You have a job, whether at home or in the workforce. When you’re on the clock, stay busy and work! Make sure that the time you’re clocked in is devoted to the job at hand. Don’t be distracted. Do the job. Integrity is doing what you’re supposed to when nobody is looking. So even when no one is watching, if you’re a person with integrity, you’re still doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

Another example is if you have an instrument or play sports. When you practice—especially if you’re practicing on your own—give it your best! Don’t relax; go into “beast mode”! When you practice, give it your all. Do what is right when no one is looking.

If your reputation takes a hit because you make a mistake—if your integrity takes a hit—you can change that by pursuing the standard, by going after it.

You have big and heavy responsibilities lying ahead of you. Remain steadfast in your adherence to God’s way of life. Go after it completely with all of your heart! Keep a singular focus. God will help you if you ask Him to do this. And as you do, strive to do what is right and become a young person with integrity.