There is now just one year to go before I graduate with a degree in philosophy from the University of Cambridge.
Isn’t that strange?
Time does sometimes seem to go slowly and quickly all at once, and I am currently feeling like it’s very much going on the quick side – as finishing exams on Monday of this week landed me suddenly at the end of another year.
It’s been a year of good things and bad things and in the middle things and it has been so incredible in so many ways. As I’ve sat and thought about everything though, there’s one particular thing that has stood out to me as to what I have learned – and that is the importance of integrity.
Year 2 Life Lesson: pursue integrity
Last year I wrote (in A Reflection on Year 1) that what I felt I had learned was the importance, above all, of cultivating love.
I still stand by that. Reflecting on this past year though, the main thing I think I have come to learn is the importance, as part of living in that way, of pursuing integrity.
By this I just mean being faithful as I can in every action to reflect the characteristics that I want to have and the beliefs that I hold.
I watched a programme this week in which people with high food bills are taught to cook more healthily and cheaply, and one of them protested – “But life’s too short to grate cheese!“.
Something within me reeled at this declaration; I figure that grating cheese is not a hardship, it’s just one of the small jobs to be done in preparing a meal, and one that can very easily be done with joy.
However, I then also recognised within myself that there are a lot of things for which I take a similar attitude. I should know by now that a really really good indication of how my heart is doing is when and how I make my bed in the morning. It is either done immediately and without ceremony or, as in a few of the days this week, it is done much later and more begrudgingly later on in the day when I consign myself to the job to be done.
The same goes for washing up and replying to emails/messages and praying.
When these things start to slip it exposes a desire in me to try and take shortcuts, an unwillingness to be willing in the responsibilities of life. This desire doesn’t grow in me the character I want, and not having the right character prevents me from loving others fully, and that is of the greatest concern. Integrity is important.
What pursuing integrity is looking like
This is the little things like doing my washing up immediately after each meal, and waiting until the amber light at the crossroads at the bottom of Sidgwick Avenue regardless of how many other people go across just before or how late I am for the thing I am going to.
It is also the slightly bigger things, like having conversations that I’d rather not have to make sure that I’m on the right page with people rather than just assuming that we are (real life examples available on request, can’t think of any that I could appropriately detail here), and not making excuses when there aren’t any real reasons for my poor behaviour other than my being poor. (I find it incredibly and embarrassingly hard when I’m a few minutes late, for example, to just say ‘sorry I’m late‘ and not ‘sorry I’m late, x y and z happened’ or to confess when I’ve not communicated well with someone because I’ve just not been honouring that person in the way I should).
And finally, it’s also the big things, like examining what I am eating and changing my diet when my beliefs have changed as a result of doing that (40 Days of Vegan), trying to act in a way that follows what I already believe even when that is a bit uncomfortable for me – like making the decision to not shave my legs because the only reason I have ever done so is because it is socially expected. This is means thinking about what I want to do after I leave university next year. I want to be doing what I have chosen, something that fits my desire to use my life to serve Jesus, and not something that I settle for or fall into.
“What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
(i.e. the Lord requires integrity, for your actions to match up with your faith)