Wednesday, April 19, 2006

shifting meanings

A little over two years ago, I wrote a few posts dealing with word pairs that I believe have become confused with one another, or have rendered one another meaningless. This happens in several ways. Sometimes one of the words, in reality, represents a means to the other. Over time confusion sets in and the means becomes the end. When this happens, sometimes the result is that the real end, which was reached by the means that has become the end, is forgotten and we go about pointlessly performing a means as an end. Doing something is what we're about, but we have no idea that we were once trying to accomplish something with what we're doing. At other times, when the means becomes the end, the end becomes the means, and thus we twirl endlessly in a confused stagnancy, but don't realize that we are stagnant because we are spinning while we are going nowhere. We think that the movement of the trees stirs the air and causes the wind to blow, and completely lose comprehension of cause and effect. Sometimes the two words just begin to mean the same thing, and thus, are used interchangeably, or redundantly in pairs, while their meanings morph into some gray area somewhere between the true definitions of the separate words.
Since my rants a couple years ago, I've gathered more word pairs that I have noticed have begun to be misused and misunderstood, and that I'd like to discuss and get feedback on my observations.
I'm going to start by reposting my original post called "the integrity of integrity." I've never reposted something that I've written in the past, though I've referenced old posts. I figured though that I'd stand a better chance getting you to read if it were right here to see. So here it is, respond as you see fit.

originally posted January 20, 2004


Honesty and integrity – two words that go hand in hand. They are often spoken just like they are found in that sentence. If you think long and hard about them, there are just nuances that separate them. They are so close in my mind that I assign the phrase as just another redundant Christianese thoughtless word pair. Honesty and integrity. Mercy and grace. Fellowship and community. Awesome and wonderful. Always and forever.
Lately though, I’ve been seeing a modeled difference in the meanings of these two words. I think I would define integrity differently than honesty. To me, integrity implies adherence to high moral or ethical standards. I guess if the words need to apply to the same scenario, then honesty would be the willingness to admit failure to adhere to these standards. But a serious lowering of the bar occurs when integrity is defined as the ability to admit the failure, rather than the standard that was breached.
When the word integrity is used in this way, one needn’t have any at all. All one needs is honesty. Do as you please, but always admit what you’ve done. Now the difference between these two words is much greater.
There is a serious moral danger in coming to the place in which one has a peace because they’ve got nothing to hide, but they’ve got nothing to hide because nothing causes them shame. A simple act of confession erases conscience. Sure God forgives the sins we confess when we repent, but if we confuse sin with a sin, what are we confessing? Will a confession of each act while we willingly live in sin get us any closer to holiness?
I think the problem boils down to a confusion of confession and repentance. Confession is the honesty part; repentance, the return of integrity by ceasing to do that which was confessed, and begin again to adhere to the standards that were broken.
Hold integrity up for what it is. Its something we want. If we are convinced that all we need to do to have it is admit our lack of it, then there is no goal, no standard, nothing to strive for. We develop an honest immorality and pat our selves on the back for it.

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