32,900,000 people are.
“Life’s too short. Have an affair.” That is the motto of Ashley Madison, the website of choice for people who want to cheat on their wife–or husband. (Predictably, 5 out of 6 subscribers are men.)
So, with the assurance that confidentiality would be thoroughly protected, nearly 40 million people signed up and made confidential information available to potential sexual partners. They took the risk because the illusion of safe, clandestine adultery was too much to resist. Now hackers have broken into Ashley Madison and have begun to make all that information available and lots of people are very nervous. Journalists are combing through the information hoping to find celebrities, politicians and other public figures whom they can “out” and further their own careers. (I wonder how many of them hope their Ashley Madison profile is safe?)
I have watched this story unfold over recent days and have taken an interest in how it has been analysed. One commentator today claimed that the main issue here is web security.
No it isn’t.
The main problem here is integrity.
A futurist recently claimed that, in the near future, it will be almost impossible to avoid being on the web–but the price we will have to pay is transparency. I don’t like the fact that Google and others have a lot of information about me. It leads to unwanted ads–and occasional concerns that messages to and from friends can be hacked into. Some of my friends have very important security concerns. But transparency is not a bad thing.
Transparency is closely related to integrity. Some sources define integrity as “adhering to a set of morals or principles”, but the root meaning is closely related to integer. That means a number that is not a fraction. A person of integrity is one who is whole, not a sum of fractions, the same at all times, whether in private or in public, No matter when you might see them, even if you have hidden cameras and microphones so everything they do is captured, there will be no surprises, no inconsistencies. What you see is what you get.
If there is any one reason for the disillusionment and cynicism about our politicians and other public figures today it is the lack of integrity. We see the image that their public relations experts project, but we don’t know who they really are. The flood of scandals involving public figures undermines any confidence that we might have had. Does it make us long for the days when information was not so readily available, when public figures could safely project an image that would not be shattered by some investigative journalist? I don’t think so, We want real integrity. But is it possible?
We are made in the image of God and He has given his Spirit to live with us and work with us so we become more and more like Christ Jesus. He was the very essence of integrity. His disciples lived with him in every circumstance, under unimaginable pressure and stress, in adulation and vilification. But they saw what a human being is created to be. And they so believed in him that they were willing to be martyred rather than deny him and what he represented–the one true human being. They gave their life and breath to be like him.
I can be a person of integrity. So can you. It does not require perfection, but it does require humility. I will not be free of error, shortcomings, failures and sins. But I can aim high and readily admit when I have failed–not covering up my imperfections, but exposing them to the light. The Apostle John wrote, ” God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness.” That is the path to increasing integrity.
I am sorry to read that there have already been suicides related to the exposures from the adultery site, Ashley Madison, but these tragedies are not primarily about internet security, they are about integrity. The lack of integrity and heart-fidelity leads to countless betrayals and tragedies every day. Sad as the suicides are, their numbers are dwarfed by the vast numbers of broken marriages, betrayed husbands and wives and damaged children.
Let’s be radical. That means we get to the root of an issue. Let’s not focus on protecting our private details, let’s concentrate with all our hearts on integrity! By the grace of God and the Holy Spirit with us, we can increasingly approximate Christ-likeness.