Skeptics abound nowadays. People like to show their wit by being skeptical about everything. In fact, there has been a resurgence of questioning our very existence and attributing it to a computer simulation. René Descartes, in his Principles of Philosophy (1644), wrote:
“If you would be a real seeker of truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt as far as possible, all things.”
This quote sums up perfectly the overall sentiment of skepticism, but a skeptic internalizes it as their default point of view. I would like to argue in this post that trying to maintain integrity in life is inherently more satisfying than having a skeptical one. However, I want to first make a disclaimer:
I agree with Descartes that, even if it is painful, “a real seeker of truth” will need to examine every belief, cultural practice, and (figuratively) unveil to themselves whether their home is built on a sound foundation or not, maybe values will need to be adjusted after the process, but it will allow your house to be stronger in the end. Obviously, people need to be realistically skeptical about the things they hear or read, otherwise they will be utterly gullible. And everyone needs to be able to decipher between fact, opinion, and biases. Plus, skepticism (questioning everything) is essential for scientific inquiry which leads to discovery and innovation.
Putting aside the inherent values I initially proposed for skepticism in my disclaimer, I will now demonstrate how integrity is better for human satisfaction.
I will use a classical definition of integrity, employing the etymological meaning. The word integrity comes from the Latin root: integer. In math class, when we talk about integers, we know we are referring to whole numbers; so it is with humans, a person with integrity is whole or compete. In other words, their values and desires align with their actions; they are not divided or fragmented by internal conflict. A man without integrity is much like a hypocrite: What they say and do, do not agree with what they actually believe. A man with integrity is honest to himself and to society. Besides having the trust of the people around you, what value does integrity have for an individual? I believe one of the blessings of integrity is peace of mind.
The Apocryphon of James: “Become full and leave no space within you empty”
In 1945, Codex I was discovered buried among the Coptic Gnostic Library. The second of the five tractates found in this codex is, what scholars are now calling, “The Apocryphon of James.” “The Apocryphon of James” is an epistle that recounts an appearance to the Twelve Apostles 555 days after Jesus’ resurrection. It seems as if they were in the process of writing down the sayings of Jesus when Jesus appears to them.
The disciples ask him, “Have you gone and departed from us?”
And Jesus said: “No, but I shall go to the place from which I have come. If you desire to come with me, come.”
They all answered and said: “If you bid us, we’ll come.”
He said: “Truly I say to you, no one ever will enter the Kingdom of Heaven if I bid him, but rather because you yourselves are full. Let me have James and Peter, in order that I may fill them.” And when he called these two, he took them aside, and commanded the rest to busy themselves with that with which they had been busy.
The Savior said: “You have received mercy. Do you not desire, then, to be filled? … Therefore I say to you, become full and leave no place within you empty… Therefore become full of the spirit but be diminished of reason.”
Other supporting examples
This excerpt about commanding his disciples to be full reminds me of some other examples in the scriptures:
Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for some water from the well. She was taken aback by the fact that he, a Jew, was willing to interact with her. He responded by saying, If you had known who you were talking to, you would have asked me to give you living water. ‘You do not have anything to draw water with, and the well is deep. How are you going to give me living water?’ she questioned him. He then told her:
Whosoever drinketh of this water [from the well] shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
Then, the story about how Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish is famous. In that same chapter, some Jews requested a sign from Jesus because Moses brought down manna from heaven and feed the Children of Israel while they dwelled in the wilderness; so, if he is the Messiah, he should do likewise. Jesus responded by saying:
I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
In the Book of Mormon, there is a story about the resurrected Lord visiting a faithful congregation in ancient America. He taught them to take bread and wine in memory of his body and his blood which he gave for them. Soon thereafter, he reappeared to them, but this time he provided the bread and wine miraculously. This bread and wine that Jesus provided must have been extraordinary, maybe this bread and wine was a physical manifestation of the metaphysical bread of life and living water because the Lord said:
“He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled” (3 Nephi 20:8).
Then the book recounts that everyone that partook was filled with the Spirit (3 Nephi 20:9). All of these examples, in my mind, support the same concept. Jesus Christ’s purpose was to direct his disciples to feel whole, without lack.
At the beginning of the Gospel of John, Jesus is referred to as “the word made flesh” (John 1:14). When early Christians speak of the word, they speak of the Law of God (i.e.: the Torah). They believed that the Messiah should fulfill all of the Torah, and they considered Jesus of Nazareth to be that person. Jesus invited everyone to follow him (e.g.: Matt 16:24). We, too, should try to live “by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God” (Deut. 8:3, D&C 84:44).
Skepticism looks for gaps, it searches for darkness. The chronic skeptic (and his older brother, the nihilist) feed themselves on the unknowable; therefore, their soul will always be empty. To the skeptic, this principle may be naïve. However, there was a point in my life when I questioned everything. I would reflect—the best I could—on my reasons for certain thoughts, beliefs, biases, and the cultural norms that were ingrained in me since birth. I studied philosophy, world religions, and the prevailing cosmological theories in science for a number of years hoping for a more complete understanding of the world or a truth I had never known. I realized that all of the possible perspectives in life at some point lead to a place where one needs to accept various assumptions for the path to make any sense. The person will need to buy into a certain ideology—take a leap of faith per se. Furthermore, once someone seeks to find satisfaction in the accumulation of wealth, prestige, honor, respect, power, materialism or pleasure, they will find there is no end. There may be happy moments, but they will unlikely never be satisfied unless they consciously set a measurable goal to end their quest. Additionally, one only can begin to find satisfaction when they become aware and mindful of the experiences they have, rather than constantly looking to the next thing. Nevertheless, Jesus is offering us a relief from physical needs and desires by following him.
“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.”
Christ offered his followers peace, not as the world defines it, but in a spiritual way (John 14:27). The key to peace seems to be fixing one’s eyes on the Light Eternal, “feasting upon the word of Christ” (2 Nephi 32:3), and “meditating therein day and night” (Joshua 1:8). Jesus Christ frees us from guilt while allowing to still contemplate perfection, holiness, and the divine. Paul reinforces this concept:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
I share this lesson as a testimony from personal experience. I pray that we fill our lives with light and “leave no space empty,” so we all can have peace. Godspeed!