Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals act with integrity. The best place to learn about integrity is within the walls of our own homes, and the best way to teach it is by example. Parents must act with integrity in order to teach it to their children.
Integrity has been described as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness; the state of being whole and undivided.” Thus, a person with integrity has high moral principles and is undivided against themselves.
I do not agree with everything that Sarah Palin says or does, but I am highly impressed with recent news about her. A few days ago information was leaked that Palin was not “invited” to attend the funeral of Senator John McCain. Palin was McCain’s 2008 presidential running mate, and she made many appearances with him. She brought life and enthusiasm to an otherwise dull campaign. Palin considered McCain and his family as “friends” even after McCain supposedly wrote that he regretted choosing Palin as his vice president. Palin responded as follows to McCain’s death.
Today we lost an American original. Sen. John McCain was a maverick and a fighter, never afraid to stand for his beliefs. John never took the easy path in life – and through sacrifice and suffering he inspired others to serve something greater than self. John McCain was my friend. I will remember the good times.
Palin and her family declined to say anything else except, “out of respect for Sen. McCain and his family we have nothing to add at this point. The Palin family will always cherish their friendship with the McCains and hold those memories dear.”
I think that Palin’s response in the face of rejection by McCain and his family is a classy one. She could have given some negative comments about them, but she chose to stay positive. She showed integrity to herself and to her feelings for the Senator. She considered him to be her friend, and she chose to act like a friend should act. She chose to act with integrity.
Then-Elder Russell M. Nelson spoke about integrity in an address given at a devotional at Brigham Young University on February 23, 1993. Russell M. Nelson was a world-famous heart surgeon before he was called to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In his address he described the various parts of a heart, how they are supposed to work, and the problems that happen when they do not. He continues:
Cardiac surgeons speak of the heart in terms of its structural integrity. The word integrity is related to the word integer, which means “entire” or “whole.” Integrity may be defined as “the state of being unimpaired.” Integrity also means “incorruptibility” – a firm adherence to a code of values. Integrity denotes a state of completeness. If any component of the heart loses its integrity, the heart is impaired and a vicious cycle ensues. An anatomical flaw leads to improper function, and improper function leads to further failure. Therefore, the ultimate objective of any cardiac operation is to restore structural integrity to the heart.
Elder Nelson moves from a description of the physical integrity of the heart to the importance of spiritual integrity in each individual. He explains how integrity, or the lack thereof, makes us who we are.
A model of spiritual integrity can be depicted using the mitral valve analogy. For example, let the sail of integrity, tethered by cords, attach to us as individuals. And let us label each cord with a spiritual quality such as specific attributes of character mentioned in the thirteenth article of faith – being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, doing good, and seeking things of good report. Other qualities of character could be listed, but these will suffice to illustrate the principle. As we study this illustration, let us think of someone we admire greatly – someone with spiritual integrity. His or her integrity is characterized by the strength of each of these cords of character. As long as this model is unimpaired, the sail, cords, and attachments are all secure.
But imagine what would happen if one of the supporting cords breaks – the cord of honesty, for example. If that cord breaks, additional strain is immediately imposed on neighboring cords of chastity, virtue, and benevolence, in accordance with the law of sequential stress….
Integrity safeguards love, and love makes family life rich and zestful – now and forever. But none of us is immune to temptation, and the adversary knows it. He would deceive, connive, or contrive any means to deprive us of potential joy and exaltation. He knows that if one little cord of control can be snapped, others likely will weaken later under increased strain. The result would be no integrity, no eternal life….
If we are wise, we assess personal cords of integrity on a daily basis. We identify any weakness, and we repair it. Indeed, we have an obligation to do so….
Elder Nelson continues his address by discussing various ways that we can assure that each of our “personal cords of integrity” stay strong. One of the ways that he suggests is to assess our integrity through personal prayer. Through prayer we can discuss the various aspects of our life with Heavenly Father and receive assistance and direction from Him in our decisions and applications. We need daily communication with God in order to stay spiritually strong.
We need spiritual integrity in order to stay strong in stressful situations. Palin could have acted or reacted differently, but she stayed strong and showed a great example of kindness and friendship to the rest of us. When individuals stand strong in their integrity, they can strengthen their family, community, and nation.