Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matthew 5:8).
Everyone claims to value integrity. Respect for authority continues to slide, and we get indignant over political double-talkers, corporate hoarders, and clerical hypocrites. The lack of integrity angers us. We like blowing off steam.
But the heat rises not just from frustration with the leaders above us but from the fragmentation within. When we look honestly in the mirror and reflect at the end of each day, the struggle to live with integrity, to live by the good we truly believe in tires us for bed as much as the passing of the hours.
Away from the mirror and out the window in the public square, perhaps actual integrity did not slide so much as 24/7 news rose, and journalists – despite their own integrity crisis – love a scandal…because we, their readers, do too. The integrity crisis gives us characters we love to hate.
But attending to them does not help. Attending to our own characters, yours and mine, will do much more to address the integrity crisis.
What is integrity? We lament its loss when we get serious and want leaders we can trust, and we are suckers for marketing that manufactures its appearance. We need to define integrity at a level deeper than appearances, a level hidden in our hearts.
“Purity of heart is to will one thing,” declared Kierkegaard, and much scripture and tradition backs him up. He said we can only will “the good” with a single mind because we will everything else – honor, comfort, influence, and so forth – with a double mind. However noble the end I seek, only the good is diminished rather than enhanced by bonuses like fame, fortune, and flattery.
Willing the good with a single mind inevitably plays out in loving. Only love lets go of all those selfish add-ons to find my joy in yours.[i] Willing one thing, truly loving, we become integrated, not fragmented, no longer torn between this lust and that obligation, no longer holding tightly to this excess baggage or that. Willing one thing we become whole like an integer, not fragmented into fractions by contradictory desires. We develop integrity.
None of us have complete integrity. All of us have multiple mixed motives. In cynical moments, it seems I never met a motive that wasn’t mixed. All of us are fragmented, especially amid first world commercialism that coaxes us to weight loss programs with this ad and brownies with that one, to savings here and a luxury splurge there, to a gas-guzzling SUV one minute and organic toilet bowl cleaner the next, and so on.
But take heart if these fragmenting forces weary you. Confessing regular lapses into mixed motivation, the pure in heart nevertheless struggle to love despite the gales that blow in unloving directions. If that tires you by the end of the day, then rest assured Jesus addressed you by name when he said,
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
[i] Soren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing, Douglas Steere, tr. (New York: Harper & Row, 1938, 1948).