Nineteen-year-old Joey Prusak was on duty at the Dairy Queen counter in Hopkins, Minnesota, when a blind man placed an order. As the man paid, a twenty-dollar bill slipped from his pocket and fell to the floor. The woman behind him quickly snatched up the bill and stuffed it into her purse. When she stepped up to the counter, Joey asked her to return the money to the blind man. She refused, claiming she dropped the bill herself. Joey knew better, and when she still refused after his second request, he declined to serve her and told her to leave the store. He remained calm as the woman blasted him with an angry tirade and stormed out the door.
Joey went directly to the table where the man was eating, explained what had happened, and gave him a twenty from his own billfold. A customer who witnessed the scene e-mailed an account of it to Dairy Queen. The store posted the e-mail, someone photographed it, and put it on Facebook, and the story went viral. It was soon reported on newscasts and in newspapers across the nation, and Joey was inundated with calls and accolades. He even got a call from Warren Buffet, whose company owns Dairy Queen, thanking him and inviting him to the next shareholders meeting.1
Why did this teenager’s heartwarming deed draw so much attention? Because while we live in a world where cutting moral corners is the norm, our hearts know we were made for better. We long for a world in which integrity is our way of life, and deeds like Joey’s are the norm.
We may not see that world in our lifetimes, but we can create that world within ourselves. That’s what we do when we strive to live with integrity. Stories like this remind us that if a nineteen-year-old working at a Dairy Queen can live with such integrity, we can too. In these troubled times, that’s deeply reassuring.
There have always been people who boast about “getting away with it,” who cut moral corners, or believe the rules don’t apply to them. But today it’s different. Popular culture celebrates such people; and today’s technology constantly parades them in front of our eyes, discouraging our efforts to live more truthfully.
In 2012, successful businesswoman and investor Amy Rees Anderson wrote a short article in Forbes magazine, “Success Will Come and Go, but Integrity Is Forever,” about whether integrity still matters. Here’s her assessment:
We live in a world where integrity isn’t talked about nearly enough. We live in a world where “the end justifies the means” has become an acceptable school of thought for far too many. Sales people overpromise and under deliver, all in the name of making their quota for the month. Applicants exaggerate in job interviews because they desperately need a job. CEOs overstate projected earnings because they don’t want the board of directors to replace them. . . . Customer service representatives cover up a mistake they made because they’re afraid the client will leave them. Employees call in “sick” because they don’t have any more paid time off when they actually just need to get their Christmas shopping done. The list could go on and on, and in each case the person committing the act of dishonesty tells themselves they had a perfectly valid reason why the end result justified their lack of integrity.2
Integrity starts with what we tell ourselves. When we cut moral corners, there’s always one person who knows the truth—the person looking back at us in the mirror every morning. Sure, we can lie to ourselves, rationalize, make excuses, or deny. But when we do, what we’re really denying and running away from is the truth of who God is: He knows everything we do, think, and feel. Lying to ourselves may let us justify what we’ve done, but it never fools God.
The Oxford Dictionary defines integrity as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” Synonyms include honesty, honor, good character, fairness, sincerity, and trustworthiness—all virtues of a Christian life.
But if we read further, the dictionary’s second definition of integrity gives us a deeper insight: “the state of being whole and undivided.”3
Whole and undivided. To have integrity is to feel complete, to have all parts of your life integrated; to have them intact, interconnected, uncorrupted, and operating together as a single unit. A person of integrity has it so deeply woven into his character that it’s integrated into his innermost being as a consistent standard from which all his actions flow. Such a person amazes us. Such a person is who we want to be.
David Jeremiah, A Life beyond Amazing: 9 Decisions That Will Transform Your Life Today (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2017).
Check out our Bible Study on the Fruit of the Spirit based on David Jeremiah’s book, A Life Beyond Amazing.
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