I SUPPOSE all schools want to produce men and women of integrity. That’s the gem they want to extract from the ore that their students represent. This desire figures prominently in many of their mission-vision statements.
In one school manual, for example, we read: “By ‘men of integrity’ we mean persons who have acquired fundamental qualities that will enable them to live morally upright, happy, fulfilled and useful lives.
“We want to equip our students with the knowledge, skills, values, ideals and convictions that will make them truly human persons, able to use their freedom and their sense of responsibility to participate in the task of building the Filipino nation and to take their proper place and task in the world.”
Nice words, indeed! But before they dry up simply as nice, but anodyne if not dead words good only for sloganeering, it might be good to examine once again the substance and context of this concept that’s even touted by dirty and cheating politicians.
We have to realize that integrity has a long, complicated history. We need to know its drama so we would also know how to properly understand and handle it, and more importantly, how to achieve it.
Integrity evokes a sense of completeness and wholeness as well as order, harmony, consistency, honesty. For us, it is crucial because it is something to work and live out, protect, defend and even fight for. It does not come automatically with our DNA.
We have to know its real essence, its firm basis and real source. We have to know the different elements involved in achieving it, as well as the techniques and skills to get the act together. Hopefully we can develop a clear and correct science about it, both in its theoretical and practical aspects.
Offhand, we have to be clear that the ultimate foundation, source and goal of our integrity is God, our Creator and Father. Hence, we have to understand that the pursuit of integrity cannot be done outside of this original religious context. Any understanding of integrity outside of this would be compromised right from the start.
Even if our concept of God and of how to relate to him is not yet clear, we have to hold it as a necessary prerequisite, at least theoretically, because it would be funny to look for the origin, meaning and purpose of integrity simply in ourselves or in the world.
That way of pursuing integrity would make it a mere human invention, and given the way we are, we could help but be subjective and therefore prone to have different versions of integrity.
But all the elements that we so far know go into the making of integrity all cry out for the need of God. That we are persons, that we need to have the right values, that we form convictions, etc.—all these have God, not us, as their basis.
Our integrity has to reflect the integrity of God because we have been created in the image and likeness of God. God’s essence and life are therefore to be known by us by necessity.
More than that, we are supposed to participate in the very life of God, which is Trinitarian in nature—one God but never alone nor idle, because there are three persons eternally and consubstantially relating themselves with each other in the perpetual act of knowing and loving within God.
We should not be afraid to enter into this mystery. We are asked to let ourselves be led by our faith, more than our reason, and much less by our senses and feelings. It’s faith, which requires humility on our part, that will bring us to an understanding and living with God that defy our power to describe.
With our Christian faith, we know that the original integrity we had at our creation in Adam and Eve was lost because of sin, that of our first parents which we inherit, and that of our own.
We have to understand then that the building of integrity would always involve effort, sacrifice, penance and atonement. We need to continually rectify our intention and go to the sacrament of confession to regain what we lost through sin.
Another pertinent view would be that since we have been created in the image and likeness of God, we have to reflect the integrity of God also through our own efforts, but always with God’s grace. We can never do it simply on our own. But, yes, we have to do our part also.
May we know how to use all occasions to build our integrity!
By: Fr. Roy Cimagala
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