Sunday, February 12, 2017


                                                                           February 12, 2017

Before man are life and death, good and evil,
whichever he chooses shall be given him.
SIRACH 15:15-20

Trash TV is forever giving some of the weakest people in our culture a place to show off their ignorance. I must confess that I get sucked into watching it sometimes – usually with a jaw dropped in amazement. Just when you think you’ve heard and seen it all, the ante is usually upped in one form or another.

One of the themes that get regular coverage is our inability to say “no.” Pathetic examples of humanity tell the audience in a million different ways that if the temptation is there, one must act on it because one is totally powerless to do otherwise.  Likewise, if the opportunity arises to commit adultery, defraud the government or take something from work, we are told that a person would be foolish to pass it up.

A person of integrity knows right from wrong and has the strength of character to choose what is right  - even when no one is looking and even when it is possible to choose what is wrong and get away with it.  The opposite of a person with integrity is a small, self-centered person, always on the make for personal gain or pleasure, regardless of how it affects those around him. 

If you are interested in bucking this trend and becoming a person of integrity, let me share a few thoughts with you from a favorite book called, Virtuous Leadership: An Agenda for Personal Excellence.

The ability to say “no” to opportunistic situations is one of the most basic abilities of a person of integrity. A person of integrity declares his independence from the terminal egoism of popular culture. He responds to life from well-defined principles, not the basest of addictions. He is guided by a set of outside principles, not by moment-to-moment, internal chaotic impulses.  

A person of integrity also says “no” to the cynicism that says that the end justifies the means. When we buy into this perspective of “the end justifying the means,” we are willing to use deception, manipulation and even death to accomplish our so-called “good” goals. Consider Lenin, Hitler, and Mao who killed millions of innocent people in the name of an ideology that promised a better way of life for the masses and then consider much of the pro-abortion and assisted suicide rhetoric. They all buy into the principle that "the end justifies the means" - that one can accomplish some favorable outcomes by using evil methods to attain them.  These “solutions” are presented to us as "perfectly reasonable” and “economically sound.”  Killing off people in nursing homes would indeed save us a whole lot of health care money, but does the lofty goal of saving money justify the mass killing of old people? Not yet, at least!

A person of integrity also says “no” to glorified materialism – that driving passion to “own,” “possess” and “have” at any cost, even at the expense of other individuals and the community as a whole. Our system of capitalism is a good thing (I am all for it), but surely even it has its limitations. Slavery might keep down labor costs, but that alone does not make it good. A materialism that sees other persons simply as cogs in a machine, devoid of spirituality and transcendent value, ceases to be a good thing. 

A person of integrity also says “no” to radical individualism. Radical individualists focus on serving themselves, always taking and never giving back. We are social beings by nature. We are interdependent.  We are keepers of our brothers and sisters. We were created to live in communities and therefore we never free to do whatever we want in an absolute sense. Those who are wealthy and wise know that "to whom much is given, much is expected." 

A person of integrity also says “no” to “group-think” and to what “everybody else is doing.” Be your own person and respect what is unique in your own self. People unable to love and respect themselves, are unable to love and respect others. Unable to love and respect others, they cannot sustain life within their families and, in fact, find family life and communal responsibilities stultifying.            

My fellow believers! We have a lot of choices in front of us each day. Just because we have the freedom to choose, does not mean that we will always choose wisely. A lot of the choices we make are evil, not because we are basically evil, but because those choices are presented to us in shiny new packages that try to convince us that they are good when they are not! As a result of a dramatic expansion of personal freedoms, we are now seeing more and more people being forced to live with the consequences of their bad choices. 

Yes, we have the right to choose, but with that right, we also have the responsibility to choose wisely! Only a person of great integrity can balance the freedom of choosing with that responsibility of choosing wisely! Everyone else goes the way of the worst of  opportunists, grabbing, hording and defending no matter the cost to those around them.

My friends, if being a person of integrity and principle sounds terribly counter-cultural, it is! Be counter-cultural! Choose to be a person of integrity and principle, no matter how few follow your lead! Be discerning! Look below the surface of things! Don't be fooled and manipulated by popular culture! Choose, yes, but choose wisely! 

"Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought".
Pope Saint John Paul II

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