As I enjoyed indulging some of our grandchildren this holiday season I couldn’t help but marvel at the lengths to which their parents went to train them and to protect them. I was reminded of the mother Thetis in Greek mythology who took her baby Achilles to the River Styx—which offered powers of invincibility—and dipped his body into the water.
But as Thetis held her baby by the heel, that spot on his foot was not washed by the water of the magical river. Achilles grew up to survive many great and dangerous battles but one day, a poisonous arrow lodged in his heel—his one area of vulnerability. It wasn’t long until he was dead.
Every mother, like Thetis, would like to find the secret of protecting children and making them invulnerable from the fiery darts of the adversary. Unfortunately, we cannot even protect ourselves from the slings and arrows of misfortune.
On December 6, 2011, Elder Tad R. Callister told students at a major university that integrity is what defines greatness in a man or woman. I believe that if we could teach that one principle to our children, in the eternal scheme of things, it would be a powerful shield and a protection to them. Elder Callister shared seven principles that help to develop the attribute of integrity.
First, integrity is the foundation of one’s character and all other virtues. “If there are cracks in that foundation,” he said, “then it will not support the weight of other Christ-like attributes that must be built upon it.”
Second, integrity is not doing just that which is legal, but that which is moral and Christlike. “Adherence to the highest moral code is a hallmark of a man and woman of integrity.”
Third, integrity makes decisions based on eternal implications. “The man of the world has his heart focused upon his temporal net worth: the man of integrity has his heart focused upon his spiritual net worth,” he said. “It is through focusing on those things that are eternal that individuals are able to increase their resistance to temptation and purify their inner motives and thoughts.”
Fourth, integrity is disclosing the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He said that he believes that a loving God can live with our weaknesses and mistakes, provided there is a desire and effort to repent. But he went on to say that he believes that God cannot easily tolerate a deceitful heart or lying tongue.
Fifth, integrity knows no alibis or excuses. “There is something ennobling about the man or woman who admits his or her weaknesses or takes the blame ‘square on’ without excuse or alibi.”
Sixth, integrity is keeping our covenants and our commitments, even in time of inconvenience. “Integrity is the courage to do right regardless of the inconvenience,” he said. “A man of integrity does not yield or succumb merely because it is hard or expensive or inconvenient.”
Seventh, integrity is not governed by the presence of others. It is internally, not externally driven. “If it is wrong in the presence of others it is just as wrong in their absence. The man of integrity, who is true to self and to God, will choose the right whether or not anyone is looking because he is self-driven, not externally controlled.”
Elder Callister said that a lack of integrity is a major problem in the world today, undermining every business transaction and every spousal, family and social relationship it touches. “It is a day and age when men and women of integrity are in desperate demand but in short supply.” (Based upon an article by Marianne Holman, Deseret News staff writer, week ending Dec. 10, 2011)
“Like the fabled Achilles, who was immune to every lethal blow except to his heel,” said Dallin H. Oaks, “many of us have a special weakness that can be exploited to our spiritual downfall. For some that weakness may be a taste for liquor. For some it may be an unusual vulnerability to sexual temptation or a susceptibility to compulsive gambling or reckless speculation. For others it may be a craving for money or power. If we are wise, we will know our special weaknesses, our spiritual Achilles’ heels, and fortify ourselves against temptations in those areas.”
Yes, I believe that we can protect and fortify our children through example and by learning and applying principles of integrity in our own lives. Elder Callister summed it up when he said, “May the integrity of our souls have a sign which reads in bold, black letters, ‘Not for Sale at Any Price!’”
May we all become men and women of integrity, not because we have to, but because we want to.