A few years ago I was introduced to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. I had wandered in with a group of friends as we were visiting Washington D.C. and was completely unprepared for the experience. Under most circumstances, I have a hard time justifying paying $12 for a steak and Ruth's Chris's steaks started at $30 each. So I was very skeptical about dishing out that much money. But this steak came out piping out, bubbling in butter and extremely tender. As the meal ended, I gladly dished out more than I'd ever paid for a single meal in my life and began plotting how to return. When I got home and my wife wanted to go to a local restaurant where I normally ate steak, I discovered that the old steak wasn't any good anymore after having Ruth's Chris's steak. I had been ruined for steak. But as the months progressed and I continued to order steaks knowing they weren't going to be as good, my distaste for them slowly lessened. Eventually, I found normal steaks to be edible and even began to enjoy them again.
Believe it or not, integrity is a lot like my taste for steak. And the psalmist expressed that sentiment when he wrote, I will pay attention to the way of integrity. When will You come to me? I will live with a heart of integrity in my house. I will not set anything worthless before my eyes. (Psalm 101:2-3, HCSB). Desiring a life of integrity, the psalmist vowed not to put worthless things before his eyes because he knew that the more you expose yourself to something undesirable, the less objectionable it becomes. Just like those inferior steaks that were horrible compared to my Ruth's Chris experience but slowly became palatable and then enjoyable as I continued to expose myself to them (and slowly forgot the better experience), the more we expose ourselves to objectionable and sinful behaviors, the more palatable and, eventually, enjoyable they will become to us.
The more we read books that describe romances that cross the moral lines, the more palatable and desirable they will become. The more we watch television shows where sinful behavior is viewed as funny, the less objectionable and the more acceptable it becomes. The more movies we watch where barbaric behavior is portrayed, the less our guard is raised when we observe or experience it in real life.
Integrity is not simply a matter of behavior but is influenced by the things to which we choose to expose ourselves. In many ways, integrity begins with the eyes. What will we choose to see? What kinds of behaviors and attitudes will we choose to entertain us? Jesus warned us, "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell" (Matthew 5:29, HCSB). In other words, if the things you see lead you into sin, stop looking at them, and if it takes getting rid of your eyes then so be it. Wouldn't it be easier for most of us if we simply chose not to look?