by Will Peycke
What does it mean to be a man of integrity?
That’s the question a group of Kossuth fathers and sons considered two weeks ago. Starting last fall, this group of dads has been partnering together as a fellowship of “man makers” endeavoring to guide our sons (ages 11-17) toward true manhood. In addition to one-on-one conversations between father and son, we meet together periodically to explore one of six defining characteristics of manhood: courage, integrity, excellent action, kingdom focus, protective leadership, and purity.
Our most recent “Manhood Night” focused on the subject of integrity. At the core of integrity is the idea of being whole and true. (In contrast, “disintegration” means to come apart.) Integrity is about being completely true to who God made you to be. This means doing what’s right, even when it hurts.
Whenever we meet for a Manhood Night, we try to connect the topic with a real-world experience or example. For our integrity conversation, we met in Kossuth’s newly-renovated neighborhood house. (Watch for more updates about the house coming soon!) Many of these same fathers and sons had helped to clean out the house back in January, and now we got to enjoy seeing the transformation of the finished project. But even more, this house contained a perfect example of integrity.
Here is how Nathan, the contractor who did the renovation work, shared the story with our Manhood Night group:
When I started to remodel and repair this house, one of the first things I did was cut out and knock down the walls that we didn’t want to keep. That’s when I discovered a big problem: the last men who worked in this house didn’t have integrity in the way they fixed the electrical wiring. I won’t get into the specifics, but the summary of the problem was that they had fixed the “shell” to make it look good to anyone who opened the electrical panel, but they left the nasty “guts” of the wires—old deteriorated fire hazards—just the way they found them. To truly fix the problem the right way would’ve taken far more time and money, and it was simply easier to cover up the problem and move on. Eventually, however, the bad wires left in the walls almost certainly would have caught fire, and the entire house could have burned to the ground. In other words, the previous workers’ lack of integrity had severely compromised the integrity of the entire house.
When I realized what the previous electricians had done, I knew it was going to take a lot more time and money and hard work to fix it the right way. If you’ve never been in an attic with old insulation in the summer, let me help you understand what that means. An attic can get up to 150 to 160 degrees when it’s only 90 degrees outside, and with no breeze to cool you off, your clothes are soaked with sweat within minutes. The insulation from 60 years ago was manufactured from old ground-up newspapers, so every movement you make sends thousands of tiny particles into the air. You must wear a heavy, thick face mask to avoid inhaling the insulation as well as eyeglasses that fog up within seconds. Wearing thick canvas work pants in the unbearable heat doesn't help the matter any. The ceiling joists you crawl on are 16 inches apart, so you must do a spaced-out pushup on your hands and knees to avoid falling through the ceiling in the middle. You are dripping with sweat, so this invites the particles of ground-up newspaper insulation to stick to you like a second shirt, causing itching like I can’t describe. I’ve come to affectionately refer to this process as the “electrician’s tar-and-feather torture.”
As bad as this all might sound, merely enduring the discomfort isn’t enough—you have to withstand the heat and irritations while actually accomplishing technical work. It’s takes a great deal of effort to run the correct wire to the correct locations throughout the house. All in all, I probably spent eight to ten hours in these conditions in this house to get the job done the right way. I’ve done it many times before, and I’ll likely do it many times again. If you’re going to wire an old house properly, attic torture is just part of the job.
But this isn’t unique to me or my job. Nearly every job, every position in life, is like this. If you’re going to be a man, an employee, a student, a husband, a father, a leader of integrity, you can guarantee that there will be parts of your responsibilities that are just plain difficult and unpleasant. And as you go about your typical day, you’re going to encounter opportunity after opportunity to choose the easy way out, to avoid the discomfort.
In reality, very few decisions you make are going to be earth-shatteringly big. In fact, the majority of choices in life are so small that they don’t seem to matter that much. But over time, your choices—and the way you make your choices—forms your character, who you really, truly are on the inside. It shapes what you will do when you think no one else is watching or will ever see. Your character is shaped by your choices and habits.
For Nathan, being a man of integrity meant doing the hard work no one would ever see and not just making the house look good on the outside. As a result, his work itself has integrity and is built to last.
And as Nathan pointed out, the same is true for all of us. In last Sunday’s sermon passage, Jesus saw through the hypocrisy of the religious leaders (Mark 12:15). They tried to impress people with their morality, but their hearts did not match their good front. It may not have been obvious at the time, but their lack of integrity was leading toward the catastrophic collapse and ruin of their entire nation (Mark 13:1-2).
Without integrity, manhood—and everything founded on it—crumbles. In contrast, integrity creates a life that holds together. In a very real way, biblical manhood creates the “structural integrity” that makes the family, the church, and even society itself hold together. According to Proverbs 11:3 (ESV), “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.”
Church family, would you pray today for our fathers and sons? Pray for our fathers to be men of integrity who are whole and true. And pray for our sons to grow as men of integrity by making the hard choices to do what is right, even when it hurts.