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Quaker Testimonies This Month's Blog Post

Integrity for Our Time

Everywhere I turn today, I encounter the issue of integrity. Our political climate and deep divisions keep raising questions about integrity: who has it and who doesn’t, whether journalists have integrity or are manipulating the truth, and whether candidates are lying or obfuscating. Integrity, it turns out, may be one of the most compelling issues of our day, and an important topic to consider as we head into the next national election.

Quakers consider integrity a fundamental principle. As the Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Faith & Practice says: “The testimony of integrity calls us to wholeness; it is the whole of life open to truth. When lives are centered in the spirit, beliefs and actions are congruent, and words are dependable.”

These are simple words, yes, but living fully in the spirit, speaking the truth as we individually discern it, can be a demanding discipline. As Faith & Practice says, integrity means being responsible for our words and actions. It means “living a life of reflection, living in consistency with our beliefs and testimonies, and doing so regardless of personal consequences.” To me, this means keeping an open mind, looking for truth in evidence and knowledge, and sifting through information to sort fact from fiction. And once we discern truth, it means speaking up, even if that takes courage. Especially if it takes courage.

At the same time, integrity means maintaining an attitude of loving kindness. Just speaking the truth, without considering the feelings and sensitivities of those who will hear it, can be cruel and useless. Perhaps the central challenge of living a life of integrity today is discerning how to understand those who see the world differently than we do. When confronting those on the other side of the political divide, it helps me to remember that most people share some core values – like decency, caring for the needy, longing for peace – and then I try to speak toward that common ground. Consider these words from an early Quaker, Edward Burrough, who wrote in 1659:

“To the present distracted and broken nation: We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government, nor are we for this party nor against the other… but we are for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom, that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness, righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with God and with one another, that these things may abound.”

Righteousness, meekness and temperance, side by side. Perhaps that’s a fitting place to start.

Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting

(The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.)