Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Few Thoughts on Integrity and Writing

This week, Glenn has encouraged the staff of VOMC to take some time to think about integrity, which is one of our mission's core values. Specifically, he encouraged each of us to think about how a commitment to integrity is reflected in our life and ministry. So I'd just like to share a few of my thoughts on what it means to write with integrity (taking a few cues from Glenn's words about integrity below).

To be a writer of integrity is to be committed to the truth---at all cost. As I see it, a writer can only be fully committed to the truth if he or she acknowledges that this task can't be taken lightly. Just because the Lord has given you a desire and a skill for writing doesn't mean that truthful writing will always come easy. In fact, writing truthfully can be a downright hassle. It can mean more work and it can take more time. Not only that, it can also increase your risk of provoking a negative or critical response from your reader. I mean, let's face it, there are (far too) many people who would rather just ignore the truth and go on believing whatever it is they want to believe about the world. These people are either going to ignore you for writing the truth or they are going to try and disparage you from doing so. But if you're going to write with integrity, you're going to write truthfuly, nonetheless.

To be a writer of integrity is to be committed to accuracy. This commitment is two-fold, not only calling for you to intentionally pursue accuracy but also calling on you to do all in your power to prevent unintentional inaccuracies. Intentional inaccuracies---grammatical errors, typos, misspellings---are just as damaging to your credibillity as intentional ones, and they're often quite easy to miss. One tpyo can throw off the most articulate writing (see?). Errors can only be prevented through rigorous proofreading and attention to detail. To put it simply, you have to care about carelessness. You have to be prepared to do the work, even if it takes hours of editing, revising, and rewriting. This is not to say that mistakes will never slip in (we are, of course, all fallen creatures and so are always at risk for mistakes). However, recognizing that errors will happen is not an excuse to let yourself lazily conclude that they should. If you are a writer of integrity, you will always be in pursuit of that completely clean, error-free piece.

Finally, to write with integrity means to ensure that your work is truthful and accurate even if your reader might not know otherwise. This means that you never, never give in to the temptation to shrug off little inconsistencies or mistruths because you don't think anyone will notice. For one thing, to do so is a breach of the trust between you and your public. As a Christian, however, you simply can't justify doing so because you are not only accountable to man, you are accountable to God. And he is all-knowing; he will always notice. I believe that knowingingly writing something that is not truthful or accurate is akin to giving Cain's offering instead of Abel's: you are not giving of your whole and best self.

Wow, reflecting on these things certainly reveals just how much work it takes to truly be a writer of integrity. So is it really worth all the trouble? In a word, yes. In fact, for VOMC integrity is not an option or a preference but an absolute necessity. I am certain that if it wasn't one of our core values, we would not be able to faithfully and effectively fulfill our mission. I pray that the Lord will provide me with the wisdom, strength and boldness that I need in order to do my part in making VOMC's integrity manifest. I can reflect on integrity and writing all I want, but if I don't put it into practice my work will be fruitless.

There's far more I could say on this subject (so much, in fact, that I suspect I'll end up coming back to it on a later date). For now, however, I just encourage you to also take a few moments to think about the role that integrity has, or should have, in your own life. Also, I welcome any thoughts or comments you have on why integrity has so vital a role in a ministry that specifically serves the Persecuted Church.


Anonymous said...

Adele, I very much appreciate your comments on this point. I find the pursuit of excellence particularly lacking in Internet journalism; I still don't understand why. I encourage you to continue in your pursuit of excellence ... proof-reading is so essential, as can be seen here -- you missed at least 5 typos in this article, besides the intentional "tpyo" one.

Glenn Penner said...

Thank you for pointing out the typos. Adele is away this week for classes and so I went ahead and fixed them. Much appreciated

Eunice said...

Adele,thank you for caring so much about integrity. So many times I read blanket statements about the church in the past that do not accurately reflect history. I appreciate VOM's careful reporting.