When we think of ‘lairs’, we tend to think of people who either make up stories about their lives in order to make themselves look a certain way or people who lie when confronted on facts and information about themselves and things they’ve done. But I’ve learned there’s a big difference between someone who tells lies and someone who lives one. And people who live lies often do tell the truth. At least, they tell what they believe is the truth which gets really confusing when it isn’t actually the truth. But before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to back up and get some ideas straight. First, let’s look at integrity.
Webster defines integrity in three different ways:
1: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values
2: an unimpaired condition
3: the quality or state of being complete or undivided
I think when people think of integrity, their understanding stops at the first definition. But I want to focus on the second and third definition because there’s a deeper understanding of integrity that often gets missed. Having integrity doesn’t just mean having strict control over our behaviors or saying/doing all the “right” things – whatever that means. And in my experience, people who live the deepest lies often have a very surface level of integrity (and they often like to promote this about themselves). A lot of really bad people know how to be their own good PR agents…
But true integrity doesn’t speak to our external behaviors but primarily to our inward selves. It speaks to being whole, unimpaired, and undivided. A person of integrity doesn’t just do or say good things, they have a wholeness and completeness on the inside of them from which they live. They have wholeness of being. They are honest not just with their words but also with their actions. They are honest about who they are not just what they do. They are integrated. They are both wholehearted and single-minded. And they are the opposite of James 1:8, which says that “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.“
The Bible says of God, “‘ Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.’ (Psalms 51:6).
Truth in the inward being – I think this is one of the most beautiful and pertinent phrase in all of scripture, as it relates to our relationship with God, ourselves, and others. We must have truth in our inward being before we can be people of integrity. It’s the crux of being a Christian, even – to have truth established not in our heads, but our hearts. Not just a facade of external behaviors, which can be faked by anyone, but in our inner being.
What is our inner being? It’s our soul. The Bible calls it our heart. It’s our thoughts, our emotions, and our will. It’s also our beliefs, our desires, and our motivations/intentions. It is the sum of the immaterial parts of us. It’s all the “inner-stuff” from which all the “outer-stuff” flows. And it isn’t enough to just have the “outer-stuff” because that can be faked. Like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, a lot of people have a lot of “good” outer-works which cause others to esteem them highly and assume them to be ‘good people’ – whatever that means. But on the inside they are nothing but “white washed tombs” of death and decay. And we have to remember that God looks at the inside.
‘But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. ‘ Matthew 15:18
What we say out of our mouths proceeds from our inner being. Jesus was clearly saying that our words extend from what is on the inside of us, and it’s what’s inside of us that defiles us. A double-minded person will constantly say one thing and do another. Either their words will always contradict themselves, or their words will be consistent in one direction while their actions are consistent in a totally different direction. One day they’ll feel 100% one way, but the next day the feel 100% a different way. Maybe they aren’t lying in the moment when they say one thing, but because there is no truth in their inward being that “thing” will shift and change with the winds. They’re unstable and untrustworthy down to their very core – not because they seek to deceive others (although that’s exactly what they end up doing) but because they are double-minded and unstable in all their ways. They have no rock to stand on and therefore they are divided in their inner-being.
Our words are the manifestation of what is on the inside, so if we do not have truth established in our inner being, then all we are capable of doing is speaking nonsense that changes with the wind. If our inner being is not comprised of the truth, then what does it contain? For most people, I’m afraid it’s nothing more than wishful thinking and fantasy…or a conglomeration of whatever lies they believe. And believe me, nothing is more traumatizing than dealing with a person who’s entire self is made up of lies, wishful thinking, and fantasy.
The Bible is clear that the heart is the most important part of us and the seat from which ALL life flows. (Proverbs 4:23) When the Bible speaks of “the heart” it is speaking to the wholeness of the inner man. In Hebrew, it is the word lêb, which means the seat of our will, desires, passions, emotions, and the seat of courage. It’s far more than just our minds and thoughts. It’s far deeper than just our words. It’s the heart that holds our truest beliefs – and it’s the heart where God seeks to live and establish truth so that we can be an honorable people worthy of carrying His name – something impossible to do as long as our inner being is made up of lies, nonsense, or wind.
But if we’re not even aware of our own feelings and belief systems, how can we have truth established in our inner being? If we don’t even recognize the lies we’re feeling or believing as truth, how can we have truth in our inner being? If we can’t even be honest with ourselves or others about how we really feel and what we really want, then how can we have truth in our inner being? If we’re so busy lying to ourselves about who we are, what we feel, and what we want, how can we have truth in our inner being? If we’re too busy ignoring what we REALLY think/feel/believe/want and continually try to force ourselves into what we think we SHOULD think/feel/believe/want – how can we have truth in our inward being??
The answer is, we can’t. The sad reality is so many people are so disconnected and detached from their own hearts that they don’t even know how to be honest with themselves anymore. And obviously, if we can’t be honest with ourselves then we can’t be honest with others either and deception is the inevitable result. Not because we seek to deceive, but because we ourselves are deceived. And it’s not until we’re willing to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves…and with God…about what’s really going on in our hearts that we can even hope to begin to have truth established there.
Note that the Psalm doesn’t say that God delights in a people who praise Him with their mouths but not in their hearts. He doesn’t delight in people who say all the “true” things with their mouths that they don’t actually live out in their lives. Nope. It says He delights in TRUTH in our inward being…which means He’s delighted in our honesty even if that honesty is less than pretty. So maybe that truth isn’t what you want it to be or think it should be? That’s okay. Maybe the truth is that you’re hurt, confused, frustrated, or feel disconnected. Maybe the truth is that you’re afraid, insecure, or feel totally incompetent or unqualified. Maybe the truth is that you’re angry. Maybe that truth is that you feel shame. That’s okay, because God didn’t say He delighted in joy, faith, happiness, or even love in our inner being. He simply delights in truth in our inner being, which means He’s delighted by our truth no matter how ugly we judge it to be.
In the end, God desires authentic relationship with us. Psalms 103:14 says that “…He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust.” If God knows our weaknesses, our failures, our shame, our doubts, our fears, our distrust, our anger, our pain, our grief, our sorrow, our skepticism, our cynicism, our guilt, and our regrets…and all He asks of us is that we have truth in us so that He can have a real authentic relationship with us and that’s all it takes for Him to delight in us…then why are we so dang afraid to bring all our junk to Him?
If we have any hope of being an honest people or a people of integrity (wholeness/completeness) then we MUST begin with the truth. And we MUST confront that truth, however unpleasant or shameful we think it is, knowing and trusting that as long as it is the TRUTH, God will delight in it. Why? Because only there…and only then…can we start the process of authentic relationship with Him. And that is what God desires more than anything in the world. An honest and authentic relationship with His people. And you know what? That’s what we all desire more than anything as well. We ALL want and need to be fully seen, fully known, and fully loved – right where we are – junk and all. But we can only meet other people to the same degree that we have met ourselves, and if we are deluding ourselves and ignoring our hearts and being totally dishonest or even deceptive with ourselves…then that is the only way in which we can meet other people – and that’s not just dishonest, it’s hurtful. And that isn’t what God or anyone else wants.