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  • Writer's pictureStephen Percy

Integrity Matters

You may have been following the ‘Phil and Holly’ saga. Alternatively, you may have a life.

Either way, the headline that Phillip Schofield had left ‘This Morning’ is now old news. Little by way of explanation was offered, though there had been no shortage of speculation in the build-up.

In an interesting-but-unsubstantiated piece, The Times’ writer, Ben Dowell offers his view. Whatever has happened in the most recent of weeks, he suggests, has only surfaced underlying problems in the presenter’s career which, he claims, had been in decline for some time. The root issue, he suggests, is an incongruity between Schofield’s public words and the private, different reality.

To use common parlance, Schofield lacked authenticity.

A TV insider said “Schofield’s issue is one of authenticity. This wasn’t the front he presented to the world. In the long term it has created a problem.” Mark Borkowski [a PR expert] adds: “Many felt let down by his failure to be more authentic about who he really was, in his private life.”

As viewers – or not (guess which camp I fall into!) – of morning television, or as fans – or otherwise – of Philip Schofield, this scenario raises an important point: Integrity matters.

It’s easy to criticise from our armchairs, but engaging in a pretence is not reserved for celebs and those whose faces grace our TV screens; it’s a trap into which we’re all capable of falling. Actually, it’s a state most of us live in, to one degree or another, albeit probably unknowingly.

The word ‘integer’ may elicit a cold sweat, triggering memories of secondary school maths lessons, but put simply it means a whole number (literally ‘intact’). From that root word we derive the word integrity. Integrity relates not only to a person’s external behaviours (think trustworthy, consistent, dependable), but to their internal state. A person of integrity is a person whose inner life is intact, whole, not divided and compartmentalised.

In his book ‘The Undefended Leader’, Simon Ponsonby writes about the reality that many of us act out of disintegration as opposed to integration and wholeness. Building upon Erving Goffman’s ‘Dramaturgical Model’ of understanding human behaviour (I’m dredging up A-Level Sociology here, bear with me…) Ponsonby develops the ideas of public and private personas which we all carry around with us. Neither Goffman nor Ponsonby were onto anything new with their insights. King Solomon observed that:

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. (Proverbs 11:3)

Put another way, who you are and how you act when there aren’t people to impress with your polished Christian performance matter. Greatly. Integrity matters.

We place too much importance on the ‘me’ that people see, and too little on the ‘me’ when no-one’s watching.

Who are you when the door closes behind you?

Obviously the door is metaphorical. Private and public isn’t just about the sanctity of our own homes where no-one can see us, but the ‘lived out’ (how we act) v the inner thoughts, attitudes, reactions we engage and entertain which can be playing out in our minds, thoughts and emotions even when surrounded by a great crowd.

So, let me ask another way: If your inner life was played out on a big screen, how big a gap would viewers note between the screen and the ‘you’ they perceive? Would your ‘got-it-all-together’ persona be shot to pieces by the unveiling of your inner state?

The challenge to us is to not only recognise the existence of a gap between our private and public lives, but to reduce the gap - to strive towards a great sense of integrity leading to a consistency in the lives we lead.

Are you aware of aspects of your life that are inconsistent? Aspects which look different to the audience we present to than they do behind closed doors?

I am.

So how do we close the gap?

The answer is far more easily said than done. We allow people access to the ‘private’, the ‘back stage’. We allow them into the parts of our life that are not polished, not refined, not as together as we’d like. We push back where shame presses us to hide and conceal. We choose the risk of being vulnerable with our failures and shortcomings, our unknown insecurities and the parts of our lives we wish we’d grown out of. We choose to allow ourselves to be known by others.

Shame makes this sound intimidating. Too much. Thoughts of ‘what will they think of me’ and the whisper of ‘can you really trust them to know that about you?’ make us inclined to clam up and continue living with the public/private gap. We perpetuate what the group ‘Casting Crowns’ call the “stained-glass masquerade.” Their song (listen) challenges the ‘nothing to see here’ attitude that pervades the church, and invites us to find the grace of being a people of integrity – known and knowing; loved and loving. What if we engaged with the challenge of their invitation, the invitation of Jesus, to drop our guards and stop playing the part:

Or would it set me free If I dared to let you see The truth behind the person That you imagine me to be?

Or would your arms be open? Or would you walk away? Or would the love of Jesus Be enough to make you stay?

Time is too short for playing charades. Duplicity undermines us. Let’s be real about being real.

Be blessed,

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