One of the great debates of the last few years has centered on character. Some people believe that it’s possible for a person to possess both a public and a private character, even if the two are very different. What you do in private, the reasoning goes, is your own business, as long as it doesn’t affect your public performance.
There’s only one problem with this thinking. Once you divide your personality and your actions into two or more categories or compartments, you deviate from the very definition of character. At its root, character is defined by integrity, and at the heart of integrity is the idea of wholeness.
Imagine a big marshmallow. It’s white and fluffy on the outside. However when you pull that marshmallow apart, what do you see? You continue to see white and fluffy marshmallow all throughout the inside.
Therefore, if your character – which defines who you are – is broken into two or more pieces, you no longer have integrity. And without integrity, you don’t have much character.
Remember the movie Titanic? One of the primary reasons the big boat was considered unsinkable was because of the compartments in its hull. The theory was that flooding in one compartment due to a breach in the hull wouldn’t affect other compartments because of the high walls between them.
What the Titanic’s designers did not anticipate was that the collision with the iceberg slashed through several compartments at once, so that the sea water spilled over the walls from one compartment to another until the mighty ship tragically sank.
The same thing applies to life. You think you can keep a break in one part of your life from impacting the other parts, but it just doesn’t work that way. An integrity breach in one compartment of your life quickly spills over to another until your entire life begins to sink. History and present day leadership give us a plethora of the examples of this principle of pride. And just like the Titanic, those who are dishonest will eventually meet the same fate.
So how do you keep your life from flooding? It all has to do with integrity. Keeping your life together. Living your life in private the way you do in public, and vice versa. When you live your life as a whole rather in parts, you can handle breaks (and you’ll have them) because the damage will not be hidden but be open, accessible, and obvious. What needs to be treated will be sautered and fixed. There aren’t any hidden compartments (or agendas) because you’re living a clean and honest life, desiring only to please God.
One of the best ways to keep your life whole is to pay attention to the little things. Do what it takes every day to develop your character and preserve your integrity. Keep your word. Follow through on your commitments. (Matthew 5:37) Most of all, don’t live your life to please others. Live your life to please God.
“May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in you.” Psalm 25:21
Dr. Christy Demetriades