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The Virtue of integrity
“Who among you is wise and understanding?
Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (Jas 3:13)
As part of the human condition, we all undergo trials in life. Some may seem more extreme than others, but everyone handles their challenges in different ways and it’s not up to us to judge the severity of another’s travails. Indeed, situations can test us physically, mentally and emotionally. How can we persevere through these hardships?
Challenges build our character while also providing an opportunity to prove what we’re made of. The best qualities within us are virtues, cultivated by our loved ones, our experiences and our faith. The Catechism defines a virtue as a “habitual and firm disposition to do good” (1833), which helps us stay true to God’s call and on the path to holiness. While the Church formally identifies seven moral and theological virtues, we can expand on these by considering characteristics we want to espouse to be our best selves.
Let’s take a look at a virtue, or “trait of excellence,” that helps define us as a child of God: integrity. Possessing integrity gives us the ability to keep steady in times of tumult. Honesty is a big part of the definition of this virtue. An honest person has strong moral principles – and keeps them. From a Catholic point of view, the moral principles that underlie our integrity are deeply grounded in faith.
We show integrity when we name our co-workers who helped us, even when taking all the credit would impress our boss. We show integrity when we who are able-bodied don’t park in a handicapped space at the supermarket, even if we never see a car there and it would bring us closer to the entrance. We show integrity when we do the things we should do even when no one is watching – when we do the things God has called us to do.
Integrity enables us to stay centered in tough situations and helps us defend our faith. It’s a guiding light that anchors us in turbulent waters. Nourishing our integrity takes perseverance and prayer. We should rely on the courage that the crucified Christ gives us, remembering that, like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, trusting in God’s will gives us the strength to carry it through.
As the saying goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Integrity helps keep us standing upright and standing up for what we believe.
Veronica Szczygiel, Ph.D., is the director of online learning at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education