This is the fourth in a series of Reflections posts about Quaker testimonies.
The Quaker testimony of integrity forms a foundation not only for all the other testimonies, but for how Quakers want to live their entire lives. The Quaker.org website says “The testimony of integrity is not simply telling the truth; it is speaking and acting in and from the divine in each situation.”
Matthew 5:37 is considered to be the Biblical basis for the integrity testimony: “But let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these comes from the evil one.”
It’s the basis of why many Quakers do not “swear” to tell the truth. They believe swearing that you’ll tell the truth in a specific situation, such as for a court testimony, means there are times you will not tell the truth. And they even expand that to include not making statements that are misleading, even if they are technically true.
Early Quakers became known for their integrity in business dealings. Years ago, it was common for shopkeepers to not put prices on their products. They would negotiate with their customers to get the highest price they could on each transaction. Quaker shopkeepers thought it was unethical to charge different prices to different people for the same product. They would set a fair price and charge everyone the same amount. This approach gave them a reputation for honest dealings, and usually led to profitable businesses.
Anita Lucia Roddick DBE (1942 – 2007) was a British businesswoman and the founder of the British version of The Body Shop, a cosmetics company based on ethical consumerism. Roddick admired “those Quakers who ran successful businesses, and made money because they offered honest products and treated their people decently.”
The QuakerWiki website says, “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 integrity testimony is a difficult one to live up to, but our lives and our society will be better if we try.