The Cornerstone

So… Integrity. Apparently that’s something I should want as a college Freshman. At least, according to Benjamin Franklin.

I finished Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography promptly at 9 am, but after I closed the cover I was ready to go back to sleep. There didn’t seem to be anything of his narrative I could grab onto or apply to my life other than random, useless facts.

I put the book down and went to church. It was Sunday, after all. That meant Church. And college football.

After the Gospel, our pastor began the homily with a parable about how God called two men to forsake their businesses and follow Him. The first man immediately rejected the idea, but a few days later dutifully left his life and followed Jesus. The second man God called immediately accepted, but a few days later had yet to make any effort to change, much less follow His way. The pastor commented on this, saying that integrity was when our words matched our actions and asked the congregation which of the two men had done God’s will. Many agreed it was the first, but if so, was he a virtuous person? Was he still a man of integrity, a man worthy of following God?

 Was I who I said I was?

Suddenly doors in my mind clicked open. I pondered if I was the first or the second man called, and what this meant. Of course, I made theological connections about “worthiness”. I suppose these were deep for a college freshman. What I was really asking myself, I realized, was if I was who I said I was.

Was I who I said I was?

If I said yes, was I being truthful, or was I a liar, no more worthy to follow Christ than the next sinner? If I said no, where did this inconsistency begin?

I realized this theoretical contradiction between my public self and my real self bothered me. A lot. A few moments of introspection revealed just a few immediate examples. I’d been saying to my floormates I was a good cellist, yet I haven’t seriously practiced since I arrived on campus. I said I was a runner, yet I haven’t run any of the school-sponsored 5Ks. I said I was a good friend, but when was the last time I Skyped my high school buddies? These are just to name a few.

If I was not who I said I was, who was I?

Believe me when I say I had a momentary existential crisis. It was kind of a big deal.

I pondered this a bit longer. Who was I? Well, wouldn’t every college freshman like to know. My college philosophy classes have discussed the “Assigned” and “Asserted” identity debate: how our sense of identity is constructed out of what other people assign us (based on characteristics like appearance and socioeconomic class), or what we assert for ourselves (based on our upbringing, our beliefs and our culture). Could I assert for myself a better self? If I did that, would people reciprocate and assign me as a person with integrity?

Could someone “construct” the perfect identity? If it was “constructed”, was it true?

I was determined to find out.

Like Franklin, I decided to make out of myself a “truer” me. In order to give myself this boost of Integrity, I decided to do as Franklin did and begin to habituate this virtue . To do this, for the next week I will change specific actions in my routine, in what I do and what I say. I will strive to make my words match my actions in an effort to become a better person and follower of Christ.

 So now, the fun part. Homework.

  1. Say what I mean and mean what I say. (Even in response to “Hi, how are you today?”)
  2. Do what I love to be who I am. (Run and practice cello daily)
  3. Be an honest Christian person. (Strive to rise above gossip and genuinely put others before myself.)

By doing these things, I hope to better understand the concept of integrity…and myself a little bit too.

This is Ryan, signing off.