Are you honest and truthful in all you say and do? Do you maintain strict integrity in business transactions and in your dealings with individuals and organizations? Do you use money and information entrusted to you with discretion and responsibility? Taking oaths implies a double standard of truth; in choosing to affirm instead, be aware of the claim to integrity that you
– Advices and Queries #37, Quaker Faith & Practice
Typically, the concern for integrity is articulated in terms of honesty and truthfulness. Quakers are known for their history of refusing to swear an oath, in recognition both of Jesus’ clear statement on the subject (“Let your ‘yea’ be ‘yea’ and your ‘nay’ be ‘nay’,” Matthew 5:33–37) and of Friends’ opposition to two standards of truth-telling.
Indeed, Friends’ concern for integrity has been reflected in a reputation for honesty. Quaker merchants flourished, in large part because of their innovation of a single price system for products. Customers knew they could trust the quality of the Quakers’ merchandise and that it would be fairly priced. Similarly, Quakers became involved in the banking, accounting and insurance industries as people entrusted their funds to these honest brokers. Barclays, Lloyds, PriceWaterhouse and Friends Provident are results of these financial endeavors.
More than honesty and truthfulness, though, the testimony of integrity points to a fundamental Quaker impulse to “let your life preach,” to be authentic enough that others might see what one’s beliefs and commitments are by the way life is lived. John Woolman, the 18th century “poster child” for Quaker integrity, writes in his Journal, “The substance of true religion is to harmonize practice with principle.” For him, that meant using nothing connected with the slave system he deplored—even wearing undyed clothing to avoid the slave-produced indigos. It meant walking 200 miles of Pennsylvania wilderness at the height of the French and Indian War to meet with Native Americans—because he felt a motion of love toward them.
Thomas Kelly, a 20th century Friend, writes in A Testament of Devotion, “If the Society of Friends has anything to say, it lies in this region primarily: Life is meant to be lived from a Center, a divine Center.” The Quaker testimony of integrity might be compared to a circle, the definition of which is “a locus of points, each of which is equidistant from an invisible point—the center.” For Friends, God is that invisible Center. The circle of one’s life is to be organized around the will and nature of that Divine Presence: a will characterized by the desire for a restored harmony in creation; a nature defined by love. Quaker integrity is about integrating those values into one’s life.
Expressions of this testimony at Guilford College
The honor code. Students are asked to affirm their honesty on academic work by including the statement “I have been honest and have observed no dishonesty” in the materials they turn in to professors. Implied in this statement is a responsibility to maintain personal integrity and to encourage others to do so. In recent years, Guilford has also been moving toward developing a social honor code, “The Community Agreements Initiative,” that would reflect a more authentic attempt to live in community based on shared values and commitments.
The academic curriculum. Quaker principles and testimonies are embedded in the college curriculum, integrating the values of Guilford’s heritage into the core mission of the institution. From the introduction of these principles in First Year Experience classes to core requirements in diversity, social justice, environmental responsibility and multicultural awareness, Guilford courses reflect Quaker commitment. Such majors and concentrations as African-American studies, international studies, women’s studies, environmental studies, peace studies and other areas reflective of Quaker testimonies give further witness to this integration, as does a focus on interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge.