Sometimes we don’t see the crack; we don’t know the structure is without integrity until the calamity of a collapse. If we do know, we can avoid the collapse through intervention of repairs and restoration that return stability to a building.

Deciphering the integrity of people, however, is a delicate task, a tangle of perception and history. What can we know about their integrity, about their internal structure, their foundation, how the load-bearing columns and beams are arranged?

“She’s not herself! That’s not the Pennie I know.”

Sure, we can base another person’s character on our history with them, but is a change a structural crack? Maybe you never knew that side of them? Who’s to say they’re without integrity just because they had a change of heart?

“But he always took the high road. That’s not him!”

Maybe we were shielded from the parts of them that favor the low road. Does straying from the high road equate to a collapse of integrity, or is it the unveiling of a more intricate truth?

“But what if I’m right? What if this ends in calamity? An emotional, physical, and spiritual collapse?”

These are the tricky days, when we ask ourselves if we should risk speaking up, if—to avoid the possible calamity—we can hazard an intervention that questions a loved one’s integrity.

“If I don’t do something, he’ll be dead in a year!”

Or maybe they’ll survive, but their restoration is shoddy, and their heart is full of regret.

The Intersection

This is the crossroads of love and accountability, where our intentions intersect with the frailty of our own integrity. Can we parse out genuine concern from our own biases and wounds?

I’m still sorting out my own authenticity, so who am I to wag an accusatory finger, even from a place of love? Who am I to criticize someone else’s hazardous behavior and choices? But then again, am I without integrity if I don’t? Who am I if I don’t speak up?

In the end, perhaps the true test of integrity lies not in questioning that of others, but in finding our own.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2024