by Roger Edwards
Into a fancy, big city dinner party for the elegant and privileged, there slowly strolled a stunning young woman, whose radiant physical attractiveness and obvious poise absolutely dominated the room.
She looked perfect -- golden flowing hair, lovely face, dazzling smile, with a great figure made readily evident in her snug fitting, somewhat high-cut formal dress, her every step revealing legs to die for. No man's eyes could stay off of her for long, even among all the celebrities, models and other fine ladies at the gathering. No woman's eyes could withdraw either, for in beholding her seemingly impossible charm, beauty, style, grace and smoothness of both form and demeanor, their envy raged hot and barely contained below surface. Throughout the evening, the striking woman was either the center or subject of all conversation.
After awhile, one sharply dressed and confidently handsome man, who had been casually admiring the scene from across the room, managed to usher aside the gorgeous blond socialite for a discreet conversation.
"Forgive my directness, but you are the most beautiful woman I've seen in a long, long time -- maybe ever. I have been admiring you from afar all evening long, and frankly, I can't take my eyes off of you. And it's not just the way you look. You have this dazzling presence I can't explain, but that every other woman here wishes for. Would you like to accompany me to the grand ball tomorrow evening?"
She responded with a subtle wink and that bright smile, "You flatter me so. I'm sorry, though; as tempting as your invitation may be, I will be going with my husband. He's only absent from here tonight because he will be arriving on a flight from Paris tomorrow afternoon."
Calmly and with no hesitation, the man pointed an open palm past the picture window to his Rolls Royce in the valet parking. He pulled a folded booklet of large denomination bills just far enough out of his jacket vest for her to see. As he was doing so, he looked straight into her eyes and quietly said, "If I were to give you $100,000 right here and now, and another $100,000 tomorrow morning, would you spend the night at my mansion, in my bed? I'm serious."
For the first time, her previously unflappable poise broke a little; she stammered and faked a smile, composed herself and pondered this request for a few seconds. "Wow. Uh, hmm...I shouldn't but...For that, yes. When shall we depart?"
The man replied, "Not so quickly. Will you sleep with me for ten dollars instead?"
Her glowing, sky colored eyes narrowed, slicing into him with razor sharpness, now the frigid, hard blue hue of deep polar ice. "Absolutely not! What kind of woman do you think I am?"
Still very calm and direct, he responded, "The kind you're now pretending not to be. The kind who would cheat on her husband and sacrifice her integrity for the right price. Hey, I was just negotiating that price down. Truth be told, I thought your perfect-princess act was phony from the start. Now I've confirmed it. See, I wouldn't be with you for any price. Your poor husband, having to live with the likes of you... I'm just glad not to be in his shoes. Good-bye."
This is a prosaically enhanced story, which I adapted from a brief parable told recently by my pastor. It speaks a powerful message about idealism, honesty, and temptation. Its message applies to selling out one's integrity in any facet of life.
Where have you compromised your ideals to impress someone, jockey for a job promotion, seal a business deal, gain a favor, avoid controversy or confrontation, lure a bed partner for the night, gain financially, or most commonly, for pure convenience or laziness? How is that any better than the woman in the story?
Think about it.
I believe one's soul is priceless, eternal, and never should be auctioned up for the highest bidder in any situation. The "costs" of unyielding integrity and honesty are often inconvenient, painful, financially burdensome, or involve loss of "status" or opportunity. Any and every hardship -- brought about by maintaining idealism and honesty in the face of any temptation or easy way out -- is indeed well worth every one of those costs. There is a better path. More difficult, no doubt...but also, far more truly rewarding and fulfilling.
Integrity: Whatever your religious inclinations, whether you believe it is a gift from above, or generated within, seek and find it. To abuse it is to lose it. Never compromise integrity or yield to artifice for any price. Hold true to integrity, no matter what, no matter when. That is the real strength of anyone, the rock of conscience, the mighty mountain of one's identity. And as such, integrity is the truest measure of any man (or woman).
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