Sunday, August 10, 2008

Word Picture - Integrity

I like word pictures. It's where you define a word, by building a picture, telling a story. The result is a more robust definition, something that sticks with you for a long time.

One such word picture surrounds my idea of integrity. Wikipedia defines integrity as being the concept of basing of one's actions on an internally consistent framework of principles. Back in June, I posted on character and I spoke of integrity by asking the questions "Does a person's walk match his talk? Does he do what he says he will do? Does he follow through?"

But a better word picture comes from a pastor I knew in Charlotte, NC. It's been on my mind a lot and I got to share it with some folks this morning. A little research (thanks to Google) told me that it comes from the Latin word sometimes interpreted sincere, which literally means "no wax".

The picture is that of pottery. Pottery is of course made out of clay. It is shaped carefully for a particular purpose, say carrying water. Then it is placed in an oven to bake it. During the baking process, the clay can shrink and sometimes leave cracks. Of course a pot with cracks is pretty useless, so it should be thrown away.

But some dishonest dealers found they could fill the cracks with wax. They might paint the pot, to make it pretty and then sell it to an unsuspecting buyer. The pot works fine until it ages or is heated and the wax melts out. Then the pot is fairly useless for carrying water.

The word integrity can be literally interpreted "no wax". It's a finer grade of pot and the seller has the integrity of only selling pots with no cracks.


Brooke said...

Very interesting, Randy. I love hearing theory on the etymology of our language.

Anonymous said...

Integrity has so many different meanings and none consistent to be able to follow or practice. Try on that integrity is your WORD...nothing else. The dictionary says Integrity is whole, complete, perfect condition. So when your word is whole and are. Honoring your word is to give your word when appropriate and when you know you will not keep it, Acknowledge that and then clean up any messes made by having not kept it. Thus you maintain your wholeness. You even can be whole and complete and not keep your word by doing this. Not bad huh?

Randy said...

Thanks Brooke. Just keep thinking "no wax".

Anon, "You can be whole and complete and not keep your word." Very confusing. But if you promise someone you will do X and later go tell them that you can't do it, I guess that's showing some integrity. At least you're owning up to it. But just acknowledging it to yourself doesn't cut it.

I think better to err on the safe side and not try to confuse things. If you give your word, go through with it (unless it breaks some law or moral issue - then at least have the decency to explain it).