A Man of Integrity

Preface: Many thanks to Triple O (@TripleOmusic) for motivating and encouraging me to write this. Being the first blog of the year, I hope this sets the tone for what this year means for my development.

Of the many things my mother has told me over the past 20-something years, there is one that has always stayed sharp and resonant in my mind. After once complaining about her many spies and the reports they returned to her, she simply said to me: “Be a man of integrity.” A strange saying that didn’t make sense till she qualified it with the following statement:

“Be known for what you’re known for.”

While this seems very simple, easy even. There was something I discovered – there is a distinct and remarkable difference between Integrity and Consistency. You can be consistently good/great/excellent or consistently bad/wicked/evil but Integrity? That’s a different ball game entirely. It can only be closely approximated as a virtue; although I would go a step further to say that integrity is God-gifted and maintained.

So what does it mean to be known for what you’re known for? As a young man (a boy even), I tried to create my own consistencies based on several carefully layered personalities. I tried to create variations of myself that would be revealed at different times to different people. I was always under the impression that a man had to have a complicated character, an air of mystery that lent itself to unpredictability. If you’re in that position where different people see different ‘sides’ of you, let me save you the trouble –

It’s not worth it. You are only defrauding yourself!

We have a funny habit of calling these states of being “defensive walls” and other names that makes it sound like a noble attempt to guard and protect oneself from the dangers of the world. This is not integrity. This is not what makes a man. These are the constitutions of a boy.

I want to make this clear; I am not claiming to have this figured out. Like you, I am still on a journey – a long one at that. I am just seeking to share the things I have learned in order to make your journey easier and help you arrive at your destination quicker.

What does it take to be a Godly man?

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” – 1Corinthians 13:11 (ESV)

As a husband to be, one of the things I have to do is learn how to be a man who can both build and lead a household. I have to learn what marriage truly means and what Paul refers to when he writes to The Ephesians (Chapter 5, 22nd to 33rd verses)*. Being a Godly man is one of the many things the church teaches and it all starts with holiness, or simply put (since it used to baffle me for a while), obedience to God’s statutes, commands and teachings. Disobedience is seeded in a lack of knowledge for most. We do not read our Bibles, attend fellowships (outside of Sunday services – if we go at all or with frequency) and we are left unprepared for the daily rigors of life when we are instructed to “preach the word; be ready in and out of season…” (2Timothy 4:2).

How can we possibly preach what we do not know? How can we know when we do not learn? How can we learn when we do not read?

Why are so many men lacking in Integrity?

This is a two-fold problem. Partly responsible are the men themselves (of course) but also, the structure of the church. One of the things I learned from my church family (Gateway Chapel) is that it is important crucial to be under mentorship and to be accountable to somebody – but that’s a different topic for another blog.

The reason many men lack integrity is because they do not understand what it means to be a man. We see manhood and husbandry as two distinct phases of life. I would contend that they are not. Whether or not you intend to get married (again, an issue for another blog at another time); you must learn what it means to be a husband in order to learn what it takes to be a man.

Why you may ask? The aim of every Christian should be a transformation into the image of Christ (2Corinthians 3:18) and so in doing so, we look to Christ’s attributes, His character and His instructions and teachings. One aspect of Christ’s character that often gets overlooked until it is “time” is His role as husband to the Church. He did not all of a sudden assume this role, He has ALWAYS been husband to His people (the book of Hosea gives a very clear picture on this issue).

As men, it is not only important to build ourselves up as men of integrity – being known for what we are known for; it is even more so important to do this concurrently in developing ourselves as husbands as well as Godly men. It will not only help us understand Christ better but also help to understand our sisters better and how to appropriately treat and relate to them. This, in my opinion, is where the church must accept culpability. They, by and large, do a very good job of instructing and raising men but rarely is this coupled in anticipation of and with the intention to drive a man towards an understanding of husbandry (with the notable exception of when he is ready to seek a wife).

The importance of Integrity – what about our sisters?

In some ways, Christianity is no different from other aspects of life. One such way is “standards”. There are standards to be maintained in Christianity. Entry is free. Everything from then on has to be worked for and maintained. Yes, we’re human – I know. God knows too. Integrity is one of those crucial elements that enable us to truly be what we are called to be on Earth – Ambassadors. I mentioned Ephesians 5 earlier and those who are already within the faith will have varying opinions on how they choose to interpret this scripture.

It begins with instructions on how women should treat their spouses and I’ve found over the years that the middle section is generally glossed over and we arrive at “Therefore a man shall leave…” To interpret verse 25 in its fullness, according to my understanding, is to recognise the love we have for our wives must be in harmony with the love Christ has for the church – even to the point where we are willing to die for her. A man of integrity understands what it means to be the “covering” of his wife. He knows the implications of this because he has read and understood Numbers 30. He knows this responsibility is not something to be taken lightly.

Walk in this mind-set and you will not only be a man of integrity but also a man who is obedient to God’s precepts, teachings and commandments.

Max Lucado once said: “A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.” The more I have thought about this, the more I have concluded that if this should hold true then shame on us men. Shame on us indeed. As future heads of a household, if we have to find God to find her, we’ve missed it – by far!

The Resolution – a change for the better:

So, the questions now are: Where do we start? How do we make a change for the better? I would advise all men to examine the patriarchs of the faith – men that had Integrity. Men that were known for what they were known for, despite their faults and failures. They were human too and God knew that. It is, however, not enough to just know about them – study them and be familiar with their lifestyles. Consider Abraham – known for his faith; Moses – known for his humility; Joshua & Daniel – known for their faithfulness to God’s commandments, David – known as a man after God’s heart, Paul – known for his ministry of The Gospel.

For our sisters who are reading, the same principles apply to you. Look to the matriarchs – Sarah, Rahab, Ruth, Esther, Deborah, and Mary of Bethany set good examples.

The question now is: What do you want to be known for?

* 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.