The term “missing link” occasionally makes headlines in terms of a skeleton or fossil being unearthed. But it also fits the human profile for success in such arenas as business, politics, and faith.
When we educate people nowadays, we tend to focus on competencies. When a university builds its business department, for example, it makes strategic hires in accounting, management, marketing, and human resources. The same principle holds from kindergarten through graduate and professional schools. We want people to master certain knowledge, skills, and functions.
Yet it continues to amaze us – or, so we say! – that CFO’s rob their companies blind or CEOs tank them for some version of a double life. Late-night television makes fun of the same phenomenon with mayors, governors, and presidents. Then there are the well-publicized scandals involving priests, rabbis, and pastors. These men and women are smart, well-educated, and have far-above-average skills that let them rise to prominent and influential positions.
So why do such bright and talented people wind up in jail? Disgraced? Made the butt of jokes? They lack the integrity that allows a person to function well. Whether leader or follower, CEO or new hire to the company, it is who the person really is rather than what the person can do that makes one’s lasting impact.
In his helpful book Integrity of a few years back, Henry Cloud points out that integrity is much more than honesty or reliability. He traces the word to its Latin root that means intact, integrated, undivided, uncorrupted. “When we are talking about integrity, we are talking about being a whole person, an integrated person,” Cloud writes, “with all of our different parts working well and delivering the functions they were designed to deliver. It is about wholeness and effectiveness as people. It truly is ‘running on all cylinders.’ ”
This sort of integrated personality and lifestyle is the “missing link” in the skilled athlete who can’t resist the temptations of drugs and sex; the physical discipline necessary to be in shape isn’t integrated with his psyche. It is the same with the brilliant theorist or dynamic speaker or winning vote-getter who can’t resist being corrupted by money or power over others.
Before you get carried away by the things you can do or the influence you can wield, it is a good thing to be sure about who you are. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things” (Galatians 5:22-23 NRSV).
It is neither brain nor brawn that makes someone truly great. It is character.