My mother was a master at using meaningful quotes and funny Southern sayings. Some of this "gifting" transferred to me and I find myself remembering and using from time to time random sayings and phrases from my childhood. One such phrase popped up in my head just the other day and a little research reveals it as a quote from Shakespeare's "Hamlet", of all things. The phrase is, "To thine own self be true". As a child, I never really stopped to ponder the meaning, though I think even then I sensed it's meaning from the different contexts in which my mother chose to use it.
The Holy Spirit has brought this phrase to mind several times lately when I've been faced with difficult decisions. It probably has a different meaning to me than even what Shakespeare intended, but it has caused me to pause and reflect before making decisions on what I truly believe and who I truly am.
When all has been said and done, I am ultimately accountable to Him for the decisions I make and how I live my life. Being true to myself is choosing to live by the core values that I have adopted for my life, believing them to be how He has asked me to live. There are many decisions that I can make that will please others around me.....even well-meaning people. But when the dust settles, I have to face myself in the mirror knowing in my heart of hearts that I have followed Him to the best of my ability, and His voice has ruled in my heart over all the other clamoring voices.
The root word for "integrity" means "whole, complete, or undivided". Likewise, a person of integrity is whole, complete, and undivided in words, deeds, or standards. A person of integrity is the same in any given situation. We feel safe around these people because we can trust that they will not sway from their convictions. There are no double standards or double mind or hidden intentions. They are the same at home with their family as they are with their church friends or business associates.
James has some strong words about this in James 1:8 where he says that a "double-minded man is unstable in all he does". Being around a double-minded person is like riding a rowboat in a stormy sea. You never know which way you will be tossed or turned and there is no anchor that settles you into firmer ground.
Jesus modeled integrity and being true to Himself so beautifully. Though He was totally God, He was also totally man and experienced the gamut of human emotions, but He never swayed or veered from who He was or what He came to do. He so fully lived from His heart, loving those around Him unconditionally, yet also being willing to give a stern rebuke when words spoken by some of those closest to Him violated truth as He knew it. He wasn't willing just to allow the wrong mindsets reflected by their words to go unchecked to make them "feel good". He was not a people pleaser. He spoke the truth and trusted that His Father would take care of the rest.
Our integrity has to be based on something or we can become a standard unto ourselves. For the believer, the Word of God and an ongoing relationship with the Holy Spirit is the basis on which our integrity is built. We should remain accountable to others, but the Holy Spirit is wonderful at holding up the plumb line at which we are to line up our lives. If a person is unwilling to submit to this ministry of the Holy Spirit, then Jesus is not truly Lord of their life.
Calling Jesus "Lord" has become so cliche in the Christian community that we have often forgotten it's true meaning. The truth is that He is Lord whether we acknowledge it or not. Our choice is whether or not in our day to day life we will choose to submit to His Lordship. Following His leading is often choosing the narrow road or the "road less traveled". If we compare ourselves with others we will usually find we have lots of company and we may be tempted to think we are doing just fine in our choices. But sometimes, He requires an unpopular choice and you may find yourself walking away from the crowd. Though not always immediate, the fruit and reward of following His voice always pays off. Choosing to walk in His Lordship naturally produces integrity.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.