Posted: 1/26/18 at 1:47pm. Column by Ed Jordan.
Have you ever remembered a great quote, but can’t for the life of you remember who said it? Well, that is my dilemma today. Recently I read or heard a sentence that I felt was profound. So I wrote it down, but now I can’t remember where it originated. The context involved two people evaluating a man who was losing himself and his influence. One said to the other: “When a man loses his shadow, there ain’t much left of him.”
My mind jumped to the implications of this statement as it relates to the importance of integrity and reality in a person’s life. The shadow is normally what shows you the shape of the object casting it or in this sense, the shape of a person’s life. So when a person loses their integrity, there is not much left that’s helpful.
One disclaimer is that all of us are sinners; none of us is without flaws and failings. Few of us lack major failings. A lifetime is a long time to maintain a good reputation, and I believe only the living power and influence of God in our lives can enable us to accomplish that. A good reputation is priceless. It can’t be bought with money; it can only be earned by consistent vigilance and effort.
Real integrity is genuine, like a real diamond. There are manufactured substances which sparkle like diamonds but are phony. A real diamond is by nature a diamond—and not merely by appearance. This is why integrity is so hard to obtain, and even more difficult to maintain. Truth and consistency in goodness can only be maintained when they become the dominant methods of functioning.
When a person’s life and integrity begins to look like Swiss cheese, then it begins to lose its shadow.
Lack of substance begins to be more dominant than substance in one’s life. The more a person or organization functions out of character with its nature, the more its reality and influence are manifested.
In Psalm 26:1-7 we see some characteristics of a person of integrity. Psalm 26:1 (ESV) states: “Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.” Psalm 26:1 in The Message says: “Clear my name, God; I’ve thrown in my lot with you, God, and I’m not budging., and I’m not budging.”
This is a good translation of the thoughts of the passage. God, I rely on you to protect me, because you know I have been honest in my dealings with you and others. I live for you and attempt to live out your values in my relationships with others.
There is another aspect of integrity that is often overlooked. Have you ever eaten lumpy gravy? Would you hold up unblended gravy, filled with lumps of raw flour, as being a gravy with integrity? No, you wouldn’t. Integrity is conceptually related to our English word integrated, meaning blended so the mix is consistent. The various parts that make up the whole of a substance are consistent throughout the substance. In the same way, a person of integrity is consistently made of the same stuff.
Think of a bridge: a bridge must have structural integrity across its whole span. It can’t be sound in one place but have a big gap in another place. An unreliable bridge is a bridge with no integrity. Similarly, to be considered a person of integrity, one must be consistent and reliable. Again, there is no person with perfect integrity other than Jesus. However, when we have Jesus living within us, and attempt to have him permeate every area of our life, then we have a greater chance of maintaining a higher level of integrity.
What kind of shadow do people see when they look at us? A sketchy shadow? A “craters on the moon” shadow? The more substantial and consistent our lives are, the more solid the shadow. The flakier we are, the more likely our lives are full of holes. If we are losing our shadow, we are likely losing the reality and substance in our lives. Our shadow cannot manufacture nor portray a picture that is not really there.
As Neil Gaiman has said: “Everything that is, casts a shadow.” What does your shadow reveal about you? And what does my shadow say about me?