"The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity." Proverbs 11:3 (NIV)
I slipped the ring with the garnet colored glass onto my young finger. My hands clasped behind my back as my mom and I exited the store and climbed in our station wagon.
Once in the car with my mom's eyes on the road, I laid my hands in my lap and began admiring my new ring.
On some level I knew it was wrong because I didn't ask Mom if I could have it. And I surely didn't pay for it — I was only five. But it was my parents' store I took it from. Didn't that also make it mine? And it was my birthstone — it practically had my name on it.
Apparently age five is not too young to rationalize.
It's also not too young an age to learn about integrity.
I have often heard it said that integrity is what you do when no one is watching.
When no one was watching, I stole a ring.
My mom noticed the ring on my finger and asked me where I'd gotten it. I think I told her my friend had given it to me. She knew better. But she didn't say so yet.
Instead, she told me that if I refused to tell the truth she, and others, wouldn't be able to trust me. And she told me that if I didn't confess and correct my mistakes when I realized them, I'd feel awful with guilt. She gently warned me that ignoring that guilt would eventually harden my heart.
I asked my mom to turn the car around because I needed to go back to the store. When we arrived, she didn't let me quietly put the ring back on the display. She instructed me to tell the lady working the register what I'd done, and apologize.
I was torn. Part of me wanted to come clean. But part of me didn't want this lady to think less of me for stealing. I loved visiting our store—all the employees treated me so well. They cooed over me, complimenting my dresses and dimples. They gave me mints or gum from their purses.
I feared confessing would cost me their favor.
Billy Graham once said:
"Integrity is the glue that holds our way of life together. We must constantly strive to keep our integrity intact. When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. When character is lost, all is lost."
Proverbs 11:3 says it this way, "The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity."
I nervously set the ring on the counter and told the clerk I'd taken it earlier. She furrowed her brow and told me that was wrong, and never to do that again.
Then she smiled, reached down, picked me up, and told me that stolen things lose their sparkle, but that an honest girl never would.
My five-year-old heart wanted to be the kind of girl that sparkles. (And my grown-up heart hasn't changed much.)
If yours does too, pre-decide today to do the right thing. To tell the truth. To flee from temptation. To be modest, or to be gracious, and to never steal.
Although it may be hard—it may even seem to cost us something—integrity will guide us safely. Jesus said it will also allow us to see God (Matthew 5:8). And it will ultimately help us to shine.
Dear Lord, I want to shine with integrity. I want a pure heart that readily sees You. And I want You to be pleased when You look at my heart. Forgive my sins and help me walk in a manner worthy of my status as Your daughter. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
For more on how confession and integrity restores our sparkle and vitality, see chapter 10 of It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know by Rachel Olsen. This resource with Bible study questions at chapters' ends makes a great book for a women's small group study.
Reflect and Respond:
What recent wrong do you need to confess, apologize for, or make amends for today?
What do you need to pre-decide today?
Journal your confession and decision.
Proverbs 20:7, 11, "The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him! Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright." (ESV)
Proverbs 12:22, "The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy." (NIV)
© 2012 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
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Matthews, NC 28105