Integrity Matters
October 1, 2003

Love makes integrity a possiblity

Question: (S-013)

Dear Jim:

When you write your column, how do you know what is ethical? On what basis do you select the values that support your position? I read that you were a clergyman; does that mean you have a Christian bias?


My answers and responses come out of the clarity and confidence that emerge from the single most important human relationship possible: a marriage partner. One way to describe how this connection to values and insight works for me is to talk about a movie that means a great deal to my wife, Jane, and me: A Beautiful Mind.

In 2002, Ron Howard, directed this Academy Award-winning film. Actor Russell Crowe portrays the mathematical and economic genius John Nash. Russell Crowe played Nash, and Jennifer Connelly played his loyal and dedicated wife, Alicia. The power of unconditional love was the cradle for the film's messages.

Nash received the shared Nobel Prize for economics in 1994 for his mathematical discoveries and contributions to "the pioneering analysis of equilibria in the theory of non-cooperative games," which has impacted 20th-century business and economic activity. Most important of all, he remembered when he won the Nobel Prize after decades of struggling with schizophrenia, the most serious and debilitating of the mental illnesses, that it was his wife's understanding and support that provided him with a context, connection and clarity.

What makes this story so moving can be found in the words Nash shared, at least in the film version of his life, as he accepted the Nobel Prize at the awards ceremony in Sweden:

"I have always believed in numbers, in the equations and logics that lead to reason. And, after a lifetime of such pursuits, I ask: What truly is logic? Who decides reason? My quest has taken me through the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional and back. And I have made the most important discovery of my career; the most important discovery of my life. It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reason can be found. I am only here tonight because of you. (addressing his wife.) You are the reason I am. You are all my reasons. Thank You."

These 101 words, when recast through my own experience, help me to form the basis for the knowledge and awareness essential to restoring trust in society, rebuilding faith in institutions and guiding integrity-centered leadership.

Here, then, is my response to how my own life and work have unfolded. Nash's words served as a template: I have always believed in the potential of the individual, in the capacity of human beings to achieve and contribute. During decades of encouraging integrity-centered actions, for people to be the best they can be, I ask, what is integrity? Who decides which values support appropriate behaviors?

My quest has taken me through theology, teaching, pastoral care, preaching, leadership counseling and now writing. And, I have made the most important discovery of my life.

It is only in the mysterious equations of interpersonal connection, mutual respect and unconditional love that an integrity-centered life is possible. Restoring trust and confidence in the leadership of any society, regionally or globally, rests upon legitimate interpersonal relationships.

The credit given to me regarding my constructive impact upon the lives of others was made possible because of the unconditional love provided to me by Jane, who is not only my wife but also my best friend, role model and mentor. Her integrity is the source for any trust-restoring leadership counsel that I am able to provide. Indeed, I am fortunate.

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