Watching a rocket take off into the night sky is a spectacular memory that lasts a lifetime. 

My husband and I had never seen a space shuttle launch at night, so when my in-laws visited we planned a trip to Cape Canaveral to see NASA’s shuttle Atlantis and its crew of seven take off for the International Space Station.

Tickets to the Kennedy Space Visitor Center were purchased online and we arrived full of anticipation. We spent the afternoon with a sold-out crowd watching space videos, looking at the exhibits of rocks brought back from the moon and… waiting.

As it got dark, the crowds moved outside. Some people had chairs and blankets while others sat on bleachers. We talked to the people around us and sipped hot chocolate to help us stay warm. People were everywhere and excitement was in the air.

There was a huge screen set up on the field so that we could watch the commentators and lift-off up close.

At about 9:00 p.m. the astronauts finally boarded the STS-116. We watched with excitement as we waited for lift-off.  We were at the T-9 countdown, which is a built-in hold that allows ground teams to resolve any unexpected issues that may crop up. We listened enthusiastically as the launch director began polling the mission management teams for a go/no-go launch.

One by one the Commander began calling out the initials of each of the team’s positions.

“1. TBC is go… 2. PTC is go… 3. LPS is go… 4. Houston Flight is go… 5. MILA is go…”

“So far, so good!” we thought as he continued.

“6. STM is go… 7. Safety Console is go… 8. SPE is go… 9. LRD is go…”

Here it was! The culmination of the day’s events. The final call came down…

“10. SRO is no-go due to weather-ceiling violation.”

Just like that, the mission launch was scrubbed. The Superintendent of Range Operations who monitors weather near the launch site had terminated the launch without the slightest hesitation. He knew the world was watching and the crowds had waited for hours. He knew his team members had worked for months to make that shuttle take off, that night. None of that mattered now.

My first thought was, “Wow! That must have been incredibly difficult for him to make that call.” Then I realized how much that is like each of our own lives. The Superintendent of Range Operations knew exactly what was required of his position. He had studied what it takes to make a mission successful and bring a crew home safely. He committed, a long time ago, to what the criteria would be for his decisions. That night, when he was called upon to make his recommendation for lift-off, he didn’t hesitate.

It dawned on me that our integrity works much the same way. If we are clear about what we believe and how we will live, what we will choose in the critical moment, we won’t have to stop and decide what course of action to take when temptations arise or we feel peer pressure. Instead, we will follow our values without stress, confusion or fear because the choice has already been made.

John Maxwell once wrote, “Integrity establishes the ground rules for resolving these tensions. It determines who we are and how we will respond before the conflict even appears. Integrity welds what we say, think and do into a whole person so that permission is never granted for one of these to be out of sync.”

It’s been said that the hardest pain to live with is the pain of regret. By living with integrity, the risk of regret disappears.

Integrity keeps us whole.

Written by Robyn Edgerton