The Testimony of Integrity, or Truth Testimony, is the Quaker (also known as Friends) belief that one should live a life that is true to God, true to oneself, and true to others. Integrity is commonly associated with honesty and fair dealings, which are key components of it, but to Friends integrity has more to do with personal wholeness and consistency than with these common associations. From personal and inward integrity flow the outward signs of integrity, which include honesty and fairness.
Explanation of the Testimonies
Like all of the Testimonies of Friends, the Testimony of Integrity is not a fixed and formalized creed. It is rather a set of principles and practices generally agreed on by Friends. Like the other testimonies it has developed gradually and is open to modification by Quakers as they are led by God. It is also known as the Testimony of Truth, or Truth Testimony.
Early Quaker practices
Early Quakers developed two distinctive practices that involved integrity:
- They said simply “yea” or “nay” to questions rather than swearing or taking an oath. They recognized the truth of Jesus’s teaching (Matthew 5:34-37) that swearing is often a way to avoid telling the truth while appearing to do so. A person’s word should be accepted based on his or her reputation for truth-telling rather than on his or her taking an oath or swearing to tell the truth. By some this practice is also considered a part of the Testimony of Simplicity.
- They set a fair price for goods on sale rather than setting a high price and haggling over it with the buyer. Quakers believed that it was dishonest to set an unfair price to begin with. By having fair fixed prices Quakers soon developed a reputation as honest businessmen, and many people came to trust them in trading.
Integrity and truth-telling
The Testimony of Integrity is not simply telling the truth. Rather it is applying ultimate truth to each situation. For example, Friends (Quakers) do not believe that one should trick others by making statements that are technically true but misleading.
Spiritual aspect of integrity
The essence of the Testimony of Integrity is placing God at the center of one's life. Quakers believe that the Spirit is in everyone. Integrity means focusing and spending time listening to the small voice of the Spirit and being open to being led by it - whether the Spirit is speaking within oneself or through another.
The Testimony of Integrity also means refusing to place things other than God at the center of one's life - whether it be one's own self, possessions, the regard of others, belief in principles (such as rationality, progress or justice) or something else. It is the understanding that even good things are no longer good when they supplant God as one's center.
The Testimony or Evidence of Integrity includes such practices as. . .
- making sure that one's words and actions flow from one's beliefs
- speaking the truth, even when it is difficult
- paying people fair wages for their work
- giving one's employer the right amount of labor for one's pay
- saying difficult things with grace and tact
- receiving difficult sayings gracefully
- guarding one's reputation for honesty, fairness, and fidelity
- taking responsibility for one's actions and their results
- fulfilling one's commitments
- taking care of items entrusted to one
- being open to the ideas of others but not being too easily swayed by them
- confronting lapses in integrity in oneself and in others
- giving credit to others for their contributions
- assessing people and situations fairly and accurately
- avoiding spending beyond one's means through the use of credit
- Cooper, Wilmer. The Testimony of Integrity. Pendle Hill, 1991.
- Pym, Jim. Listening To The Light: How To Bring Quaker Simplicity And Integrity Into Our Lives. Rider Books, 1999.
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