Integrity seems to be on the ballot this election season, maybe as much or more than it has been in recent memory.

The dominant issues identified by the analysts and pollsters – abortion, the economy, immigration, crime, even “threat to democracy” – ebb and flow in their relative importance to the likely voting public.

These are very real concerns, and they deserve as much careful discernment as they can get regarding their place in our corporate decision making.

But there is another glaring issue in our public life that weaves its way into a consideration of all the others, and it may be a more basic indicator of the health of our political process than any other.

Ten years ago, in the midst of another contentious mid-term campaign where misinformation was rampant and a regard for the truth seemed a secondary motive, a column I wrote was published in this space, asking, “When did ‘bearing false witness’ fall off the top 10?”

That season was mild compared to the present one, where lies and liars have become so normalized that “truth telling” seems almost irrelevant to the process of making decisions about leadership.

Our long history, from the ancient philosophers and prophets to the modern historians who keep reminding us of our heritage, teaches us that “integrity” is more than just factual accuracy, though it certainly includes that.

It is more than just “telling the truth” in our formal and informal communication. It is more deeply a “serving of the truth,” as in decisions and actions that align themselves with what is known to be consistent with a common good for both humanity and the rest of creation.

This deeper integrity involves both a commitment to values that promote healthy community and a humility to accept the partiality of understanding that is open to new wisdom emerging from a courageous following of what is known of truth’s path going forward.

Integrity precludes the use of falsehood in the pursuit of goals that are not aligned with an understanding of what is “good and true.” It also discourages the kind of ideological purity that claims to know with absolute certainty what that “good and true” might involve.

This helps us avoid the idolatry of greatness over goodness and the idolatry of certainty over confidence and trust.

A few decades ago, in a search committee’s effort to select leadership for a particular community, there were the natural concerns that candidates offer “strong leadership” and a good “public face” for the community, and that they be a smooth and effective communicator.

Applications and interviews provided many possibilities, and the candidates at that level were well prepared and polished for the opportunity.

In the course of the deliberations, the committee’s thought evolved beyond the qualities with which we began by placing more value on the qualities of personal maturity and integrity in the sense described above.

As a result, the selected candidate offered more than a first impression, more than promises for success going forward, and something other than a profile of a “strong leader.”

Instead, the committee selected a person who, by his manner and evident character, reflected a commitment not to his own success but to our becoming the kind of community we could be – a commitment to goodness more than to greatness, and a style of leadership that would lead from within rather than from above.

In short, he personified the kind of integrity that our history has shown us leads to healthy community and to the pursuit of goals that reflect what we understand to be the “good and true” in whatever context happens to be involved.

We have a national “search committee” in process right now, in which a significant number of the positions are sought by persons who embrace and defend the “big lie.”

Our “committee” is charged with the task of selecting leadership for the next season in various and crucial parts of our common life, and integrity is clearly on the ballot. Two things are certain: (1) we will get the leadership we choose, and (2) we will get the consequences of those choices.

We can hope that with integrity on the ballot, there will be some consequences that will help us move in a truthful direction.

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