The integrity of the honest keeps them on track; the deviousness of crooks brings them to ruin. (Pr. 11:3)
We can so easily get off course - caught up in all the things that vie for our attention. The writer of Proverbs says the integrity of an honest man or woman keeps them on track - we may veer off course, but we are soon able to recognize that we have drifted and then correct our course. The soundness of our character (words, actions, thoughts) and the undivided heart are what "pulls" us back whenever we wander a little.
A thick bankroll is no help when life falls apart, but a principled life can stand up to the worst. (Pr. 11:4)
The habitual devotion to right principles is what the writer has in mind here. The Word of God lays out these principles and is quick to point out for us where we have character traits that do not align with those God desires of his children. We can understand the forces of all kinds of evil by remaining true to the principles in the Word. God designed the written Word to give us a foundation for our safety, long life, and intelligent choice.
Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances. (Pr. 11:14)
In between these verses, the writer has elaborated on the fact that a good person is saved from trouble, while those who do not possess the character God desires actually run toward trouble with a passion. He also spends a great deal of time explaining the power of the tongue in both building up and tearing down a man, a business, and a town. Then he sums it up with the statement above - without good direction, we lose our way. How true! We often trudge off in the direction of what we think will offer us fulfillment, only to find it to be a disappointment to us. When this happens, we become disillusioned about the circumstances. God provides wise counsel in our lives - we just need to have ears to hear and a heart to respond.
Counsel is defined as a plan of action or behavior. Counsel can be revealed to us in the Word, through the words of a friend, or in something like a sermon we hear. Counsel is also guarded thought or actions. It is the ability to "filter" what we see/hear and then to apply what we know to be true about God before we take the action. It is that which protects us from making rash decisions. How valuable it is to not only have (possess) good counsel, but to live by it (act on it).
Integrity is developed in the midst of good counsel - first through the Word of God made real in our lives, and in the wisdom of those who have developed good character themselves. A principled life is a valued treasure. It is something we both relish and put on display. Others learn from what they see - so don't be ashamed of the principles God develops in your life. They may run a different course that the mainstream of society, but they are the examples God wants society to see. The principles he places deep in our heart act as wise counsel to those who most desperately need it.