As we continue to look at relationships through the accounting analogy and the idea of relational equity we turn to a principle that I believe is the foundation of relationships, integrity. In Chapter One of my “Principles of Accounting” textbook it states “In accounting, ethics and integrity standards are based on a broad commitment to honesty, impartiality and objectivity.” These three parts are what make up integrity; honesty, impartiality, and objectivity.
Honesty should be a familiar topic for those who have been reading this blog since the beginning. Honesty between two people is the only way a relationships can grow. If we aren’t being honest with one another than we aren’t really in a relationship. It reminds me of that movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith where two spies are unknowingly married to one another. Secrets kill relationships and in their case, it almost kills them.
We all wear masks. We tend to innocently call these “first impressions” because we are intentional to put our best foot forward but a relationship cannot live there. There must come a point in which we remove our mask and reveal our truest self to the person we are in relationship with. Otherwise the only person receiving love is the character we portray. I think this is why so many comedians commit suicide. Everyone loves the part they play so the real person that they are remains hidden behind it feeling alone and unloved feeling like they have to keep the charade up; eventually they run out of the energy it requires and give up. If we want to succeed in relationships we have to be honest, even if it hurts.
Impartiality is a word we are probably less familiar with. Webster defines it as “treating all people and groups equally.” The Bible also talks about impartiality in that it commands us to be impartial and reminds us that God relates to us in this way. We are called to be a people of justice who represent a God of justice and so we must allow honesty to guide our judgements. This is why scripture speaks against judging others. When we judge we are pronouncing a final verdict on a person’s character. When we do this we crush the hope that they can become different. But God, the creator, is a God of hope, who is able to change a person until their last breath. Hope is never lost in God. We must not look at people and assume they are too far gone. Madeline L’Engle said it this way, “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.” God will not lose hope in us, therefore we must lose hope in one another.
Finally, objectivity. Many would believe that being impartial is the same as being objective but they are in fact different. Impartiality speaks of not taking sides with the person while objectivity is directed toward a bias of thought. It calls a person to stick to the facts. So for example, my wife and my good friend have a disagreement about the color of the sky being blue. I am partial towards my wife’s opinion because of the nature of our relationship and the priority I put on her as my wife but I can also remain objective in that I stick to the empirical facts rather than my individual interpretation. Objectivity is void of emotion, or context, or opinion; rather it is concrete.
So as it pertains to relationships, objectivity requires that I approach each relationship without projecting things onto it that aren’t there. For example, I grew up in a home where guilting was a common form of manipulation. My mother in the height of her disease would often use her sickness as a means of getting me to do what she asked whether it was coming home from school or going and getting her something from the store. Now, sometimes I come home and my wife shares with me her long day or her trouble at work and my knee jerk reaction is that she is trying to get something from me. In relationships I cannot assume that everyone is the same or that everyone wants to be treated the same. I must be objective and not assume things of others.
Honesty, impartiality and objectivity are important to any relationship because without them the relationship loses its integrity. We long to know others and be known but that cannot happen without integrity. As you look over your relational equity, have you been keeping honest accounts? Are you being intentional about treating others equally? Are you being objective and seeing a person for who they are rather than who you assume them to be? The road of integrity is the long and hard one, but it’s also the only one that leads to relational riches. I hope you find the courage.