In today's culture, how can we speak about integrity?
No doubt our people need more virtue, but how do we address the issue without our sermons becoming modern Aesop's fables?
Stephen L. Carter's (integrity) (Basic Books, 1996, $24) can help us understand some nuances of integrity, but the book raised for me a larger, more critical issue: Why is there such an integrity shortage?
In the opening section, Carter, a professor at Yale Law School, outlines integrity's steps:
1.Discernment. People of integrity act rather than react. They do not understand "the right thing to do" through mere tradition or trends, but through strenuous moral reflection.
2. Consistency. Carter relates the word integrity to integer and concludes, "a person of integrity, like a whole number, is . . . a person somehow undivided," a seamless weaving together of understanding and action.
3. Forthrightness. "A person of integrity," he writes, "is unashamed of doing the right." We must be willing to say openly we are acting on principle.
Carter ends his opening analysis by demonstrating that integrity is much more than mere honesty or forthrightness. One can be honest about one's lack of integrity!
In the next section, Carter provides case studies of integrity in the areas of academ-ics, journalism, marriage, law, and sports. Although I found a dozen relevant, useful illustrations in these pages, I was somewhat disappointed. First, Carter never applies his definition of integrity to the world of business—a rather large omission. Second, most of the examples cited are obvious. So the book raises a burning question that it never answers: If integrity is so important for a strong society, and if the ...