20 October, 2015

It's All About Integrity

In the day and age we live in, it seems the people really do not concern themselves with personal integrity as they used to. People will lie to you, lie about you and cheat you while looking you dead in the eye and calling you "friend".  That's sad. I still live by a simple rule... you can do almost anything to me and I'll get over it. Lie to me or about me however, and I'm pretty well done with you. I can forgive you, but it will take me a long time to ever trust you again. You're going to have to earn my trust the second time. Until you burn me, I'm a pretty trusting guy. In fact, my wife tells me I'm far too trusting. She's probably right, as I've given people the benefit of the doubt even though others have told me not to trust someone. I figure everyone deserves a second shot... right? Lord knows that I got one after blowing up the whole trust issue with everyone who knew me. I've been burned many times... but I figure that (most) people gave me a second chance, so I owe it to others. But it sure does hurt when someone tells you they are your friend, that they have so much love and respect for you... and then they intentionally burn you and rip you off. But they will stand before the Lord and give account for what they have done... as will I... and I know I can stand there before the Lord and tell him that I gave it my best shot and thank Him for His grace. 

It bothers me deeply that people today just don't seem to care about their good name. The Bible says in Proverbs 22:1 "A good reputation and respect are worth much more  than silver and gold." (CEV) In the King James Version, it reads "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches."  I learned the hard way that you can lose your good reputation in one fleeting moment and it will take years to rebuild that good name... and with some people, you can never regain their confidence.  Integrity should be something which we all desire... but it sure seems that a lot of people today care nothing about integrity or their own reputation. I cannot wrap my brain around that.

I was talking with someone earlier today and I mentioned this whole issue and they asked me just what it meant to have integrity. They said that people are going to talk about you anyway, so what difference does it make.  I'm reminded of something an older, wiser minister told me 30 years ago when I was just beginning in the ministry. I said something to him very similar to what this person said to me today and this man said to me, "Darrell, you are right people will talk and there is nothing you can do to stop that, but what you can do is make absolutely certain that what they are saying about you is not true." He went on to talk about living your life in such a way that your life silences your critics, not your words. I've never forgotten that and tried my best to live up to that which he spoke into my life.

One thing I've learned over the years is that integrity and a good name is not earned in the "normalcy of life." No, the reality is that people will see if you are a man or woman of integrity by how you handle the storms of life. It is how we respond in crisis that will tell people if we are real or not. The paradox is that you cannot wait until the storm comes to become a person of integrity. If you do, the sad reality is that by that time it is already too late to fix what's wrong. Integrity is a state of being and living that is within you but is usually only seen when the pressure is on us. If you wait until that pressure comes, it's too late to build it.

So, my friend asked me this morning how you can know if you are lacking before the storm comes your way. I've been thinking about that, and this is what I've come up with that will give you a good indication if your integrity is weak or lacking.

1.  Is everything is usually all about you?  You can say with your mouth that it's about glorifying God or helping others... but the reality is that only you and God know your own heart. We must be brutally honest and evaluate if we are a selfish person. You see... selfish people almost always eventually bring harm their employer, their church or civic club, their families and/or friends.  
Ask yourself if you are a person who will finish the job and go all the way.  If you are a selfish person you won’t go the distance. You SAY you will, that you are committed and faithful... but eventually you bail out, seeking something better for yourself. OR... you may stick it out... but you’ll hurt a lot of people in the process and you’ll never know what could have happened if you had really made it about God and others.

2. Another way to know if your integrity is at risk is if your self-worth or self esteem rises and falls with the opinion of others. You see, a person of integrity will stay the course even if everyone else bails on them or talks negative to them. A person of integrity can see the right way and stay the course even if going it alone. A person with weak integrity will bend with every change in the tide of public opinion and follow the crowd. 

3. A great way to know if your integrity is in danger is if you are hiding things. OK... let's be clear, NO ONE should tell everyone everything. I mean, that's just not a healthy way to live. But there should be someone in your life who knows EVERYTHING about you. Hopefully, that's your spouse.  When you come to the place that you are keeping secrets, BEWARE!!! You’re heading for a fall.  Between my wife, close friends and fellow ministers, I have an inner circle of support that knows everything about me. Those who know me or have sat under my ministry have heard me speak of "accountability partners." This is vital! If you are not accountable... your integrity is weak or lacking.  

4. BIG ONE... If you tell someone you are going to do something and you did not do it.... your integrity is in major danger!  Let me be clear on this...this is not simply just about keeping promises... It is about KEEPING YOUR WORD IN EVERYTHING!  I sometimes have people get angry with me because I will not commit to something, but here's the fact of the matter. If I cannot say with absolute certainty that I will do something or be somewhere, I will say, (and I quote) "I won't promise you that, but I will tell you that I will do my best to be there if I can."  I have found that it is even better to say nothing and surprise someone by coming through for them or attending than it is to say that you will do something thing that chances are you may not be able to fulfill.  Some people will accuse you of being non-committal but the reality is just the opposite. If you tell people you WILL be there or do something and then don't do it, people will lose confidence in you when you fail to deliver.  It’s a trust issue.   
A fairly easy way to address this is to say less and deliver more.  Another key element is to follow up. Say for example someone asks you to come to their concert or ball game and you tell them you will try; if it turns out you cannot make it, send them a text, a note or say to them, "I'm really sorry that I could not make it. Maybe next time."  This goes a long way in letting a person know that you did not simply blow them off or forget them. 

5. Last one.. but equally important... Don't make a lot of compromises. By this I meant that we should not do things that we really don't want to do in order to make people like us. Being a man or woman of integrity begins with being true to yourself. Your compromises will eventually show. If you are not into dinner parties, rather than go and be a sourpuss just be upfront enough to tell the person that you appreciate their invitation, but this is not something you you really enjoy. Being a person of integrity is not at all about getting everyone to like you.. Nor is it about finding the easiest path and doing things that you don't like or enjoy. The truth will come out.  Suppose you went to "Mary and Fred's" party  and Larry and Lucy know that you don't like parties... they lose faith in you because they see your compromise and wonder if you are lying to them as well. If you make too many compromises your authenticity will come into question and people will not know when you are being honest or compromising yet again.

This may seem far fetched to some of you... but I challenge you to think of what’s at stake. When the storms or crises' hit (and they will), you won’t be left standing.  Simple as that.  When you attend to these personal matters of integrity, you integrity grows with others. 

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