The Grace of Integrity: Chapter 4 {Grace of Yes Book Club}

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Welcome to the Grace of Yes Book Club! We’re reading Lisa Hendey’s new book, The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living.

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I was struck most by Lisa’s prayer which ends the fourth chapter on integrity, particularly the words:

“I am learning, Lord, that this is a burden too great to carry on my own, and that it is a weight under which I cannot falter.”

Reflecting upon the chapter, Integrity became a stand-in for what we might more traditionally call an examination of conscience. The post-millennial social media version of this is “Am I my Avatar?” This opens up a whole list of things and situations that calls us to express more clearly who we are openly and honestly.

Lisa points to hypocrisy as undermining integrity. Whether it is online images we project outward about ourselves or the societal norms that press inward upon us, ultimately integrity is an ACT: a daily decision to be honest, courage to be authentic, doing the right thing/not doing the wrong thing even when no one is watching, etc.

When I was in graduate theology school for ministry, we were required to participate in a Formation in Ministry process. We were taught to view ourselves as having Personal, Professional, Spiritual, and Ecclesial goals/aspects to our ministry. We were asked to integrate these 4 areas and thus integrity of identity meant integrating different aspects of discipleship to Christ. So for example, developing a deeper prayer life might be a boon for our Spiritual formation, but if it meant we weren’t spending enough time with our family or loved ones, that would minimize the importance of our Personal life. And since there were 4 areas of formation, thing were not always as easy as deciding between just this or that.

Additionally, aspects of ministerial identity were not just categories inside our heads. Our examination of conscience amongst these areas was not just internal, but had external/outward signs as well. Our relationships in the world mattered as much as what was going on inside of us. So Lisa is quick to point out how her spouse is among the most important signs/sacraments in her life for discerning her integrity. I must concur. My wife is Jewish. And I know that I am what I am today because my wife is a much better person than I am. As I strive to be better, I am more aware of who she is as God’s gift and sacrament to me in my marriage and who I am meant to be in response to that.

Integrating different areas of our lives requires discernment. It also requires having a moral compass rooted in Christ’s example and verified by the quality of our surrounding relationships that may confirm our inward impressions, challenge our perceptions of ourselves and others, and cause us to act anew to be a person of integrity. In essence to act in faith as our YES to who God calls us to be.

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  • Are there times that acting with integrity is a challenge or is met with resistance? What are the competing parties? Who can we appeal to for assistance?
  • Who do you struggle more with/with who do you need to integrate the most: yourself, others, social/spiritual relations?
  • Do you have people or relationships that you trust to help you discern the authenticity of what is going on inside you or the value of what is going on in the world around you?

A Prayer to Share

LORD, you want and will for us to be the best person we can be.
Through the act of integrity we are able to glimpse that
And strive to make that more real in ourselves, in our relationships, and in the world around us.

We cannot do everything, yet we know we are responsible for something.

LORD, thank you for giving us this smaller part.
May our YES to this bring forward the greater-ness of Your Glory.
Now and forever…

AMEN!

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 5: The Grace of Humility. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Grace of Yes Book Club page.

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Copyright 2014 Jay Cuasay

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About Author

Jay Cuasay is a freelance writer on Religion, interfaith relations and culture. A post-Vatican II Catholic father with a Jewish spouse, he is deeply influenced by Christian mysticism and Zen Buddhism. He was a regular columnist on Catholicism for examiner.com and a moderator and contributor to several groups on LinkedIn. His LTEs on film and Jewish Catholic relations have been published in America and Commonweal. He currently ministers to English and Spanish families at a Franciscan parish. He can be reached at [email protected] or at TribePlatypus.com.

11 Comments

  1. It was a challenging chapter for me as well, since I am very aware of wearing different hats: the Director of a religious program, or the parent dropping my child off at one, a person shopping in a store and then bumping into a parishioner, someone just waiting for a ride, who then overhears a conversation where some pastoral counseling input could be helpful. Certainly, at no time am I not a disciple “on call”, but there are certainly times when it would be more helpful if it didn’t seem to always fall upon me when I’m the last/only one at church or wherever it may be.

  2. What an important topic! So glad she dedicated a chapter in the book to it. “The courage to be authentic” is a constant daily challenge.

    • My struggle with this authenticity is that Allison at home – the one that is busy, multi-tasker, often sleep deprived and not always making the best use of God’s grace to live a virtuous life, and the public Allison who re-writes her posts 10 x before hitting send, is always on her best behavior (well almost always). I am not Joan Crawford at home of course but I would like my family to see more of the God-fearing , God-loving Allison that knows how blessed she is by their existence in her life. Likewise, to be authentic is to not mask my imperfection (hence I am NOT re-reading this post .. that will probably be evident)!

  3. Thanks Lisa and Gina for your encouragement!

    Lisa, your thoughts about our avatars are delightfully reassuring. Often I wake up before daylight and head to my studio. It’s only when I realize it is lunch time and pass by a mirror that I notice I am still in my robe sporting my “mad scientist” hairdo!
    Creativity and spirituality sprout from within, and the intensity of that sprouting can reveal itself like stitches on the back of a tapestry. Straggly, but strong threads holding it all together by sheer accidental binding. Miraculously by grace and our yes, consistent effort reveals something beautiful on the finished side. Thank goodness for avatars!

  4. This chapter embodies the challenges we all face, according to the “hat” we are wearing at that moment, to be an authentic person of integrity and character. I was taught that character is who you are when no one is looking. Well, we all know God is always looking and that we are never alone.
    One challenge that is the hard for me is to be a great, not just good, role model for my nursing students. Students see enough “bad” nurse role models when they are working with nurses on the floors of the hospital. They learn how not to be a nurse from those nurses and it is my job to help the students think through how they can make a positive difference to that nurse and his/her patients. They can help bring constructive change to that nurse’s actions, which may influence the nurse’s integrity in a positive direction. My enthusiasm, passion and encouragement is key to motivate the students in accomplishing this task.
    I am a WYSIWYG—what you see is what you get, so I also have to be wary of sharing too freely with the students—there is a fine line between helpful sharing and TMI (too much information). I have to not beat myself up when I fail to be the person of character that I want to be, no matter the situation.

  5. Integrity is very important to me. While I like to think I am a person of integrity i struggle with being straightforward. An example of this that whittles away at my integrity are the times I sit in silence out of fear and judgment. Fear causes all kinds of complications. I clumsily work toward overcoming this. This might tie in with the grace of no…hmmm
    I like to think that I am a mostly cheesy person with a smile and my cheesy avatar is a close fit. I can be real in person but my online persona is mostly uplifting and positive…and sarcastic or sassy at times.
    When I am down on life I tend to retreat and refrain from sharing this side of me. Those closest to me get a front row seat to that show…lucky them. It’s not that I am hiding the difficulties and my shortcomings, but rather I’m sorting them out as gracefully as I can. I believe we all value a little space and privacy in this regard.
    Integrity urges me to seek out that trusted confidant and listen with an open heart.

    I value integrity in others as much as I value integrity in myself.

    • Integrity/Integration is definitely relational–outward directed–as well as about your internal core of human dignity made in God’s image. I particularly liked your sentence “Integrity urges me to seek out that trusted confidant and listen with an open heart.” That is indeed a very special relationship where the one’s inner being finds voice and confirmation (as well as challenge and support) from the other. We listen to hear ourselves into these kind of wonderful relationships.

  6. I’ve been reading, and it was this chapter that resonated everywhere. There are so many roles, and some I’ve chosen, some I merely have, and all of them require I be authentic. It is first, a call to be our truest selves, and also, a command to be sure we prioritize so that all our acts reflect the person we are called to be, not the one we tend toward, if we are not vigilant about maintaining this virtue.

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