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The Potato Field

“Integrity is what you do when no one is watching.”  -Tony Dungy There they stand in the middle of an empty field at dusk.  Husband and wife, peasant potato farmers with their tools, wheelbarrow, sacks, and basket surrounding them, their heads are bowed in reverence.  The church steeple in the distance along with the title of the painting, The Angelus, tells us why.  The man and woman have heard the bells calling them to prayer and they’ve obeyed.  They don’t have to.  God knows they’re exhausted from a full day of backbreaking work.  Their clothes are dirty, and their expressions sober.  Who would blame them for continuing to work in order to more quickly wrap things up for the evening, and maybe cut a few corners?  Would it even qualify as cutting corners?  For this couple it would be, and they’d know it; that settles sit.  So they stop.  Jean-Francois Millet’s iconic painting is a profound statement about integrity. Integrity is about what you do when no one’s watching.  It’s about knowing and behaving as you should;  not because you must, or because you’re afraid, or because you are going to somehow be compensated with acclaim, or a promotion, or a bonus.  This moral discipline is the fruit of repetition, of practice...lots of practice.  Aristotle wrote that excellence is a habit, not an act.  Being generous on occasion, being merciful when it’s convenient, being sacrificial when you know there’s a pay-off, being faithful in most ways, loving people who love you…this might pass in today’s world as character, but it’s still not integrity.Integrity comes from the word that means “whole” or “complete”, and it’s about living in ways that make you whole, complete.  It’s about your walk and your talk being congruent; about consistency, trustworthiness, and truthfulness.  Integrity does not ask you to be perfect, but it does demand an ever-deepening, lived commitment to good habits; habits that lead to real happiness.   What are the “potato fields” of your life?  The places where you are not immediately accountable?  Where can you “cut corners” morally and probably get away with it:  your work, your finances, your interaction with others, the internet, the movies and television shows you watch? If you’re anything like the rest of humankind, you’ll have good days and bad days;  days you’re proud of and days you’d just as soon forget.  Work at seeing integrity as a process you begin anew each morning, and evaluate each evening.  And see integrity as a reward in itself; something you strive for because you can.  Question for reflection:  Who is your model for integrity?  

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