This post on integrity is part one of a four-part series on character. The Bible has much to say on this issue, but one verse from the book of Proverbs stands out:
“Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.” (Prov 28:6)
Does it really mean that it’s better to be poor and have integrity than be rich and crooked? Yes, that’s exactly what it says. That’s how important integrity is. The adage shows us the significant value of integrity– that it’s worth so much that money simply cannot buy it. You can have a lot of success and money, but if that success is marred by a tarnished character, then down goes your reputation and your credibility. History shows us a long line of leaders whose lack of integrity demolished their image, sometimes even after they’ve died. Talk about a major loss. Dear leader, how can we influence somebody to follow our example if we do not uphold integrity in our own lives?
Exceptional leaders must possess character to ensure their credibility, and maintain their leadership. As business leaders, we should have a moral standard by which we measure truth, mercy, kindness, and justice in our dealings with others. Building character is not easy, but it is a worthwhile journey.
Webster’s dictionary defines integrity as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. This definition is okay, but I don’t feel that it gets to the heart of what integrity is.
This second definition from Webster gets us closer to the true meaning of the word.
It defines integrity as the state of being whole and undivided. That’s because the root word is integral.
You see, integrity is not just about speaking the truth. It’s more comprehensive than that. Integrity is about being the same person wherever you are, whether at work or at home. The person with integrity does not change his spots in order to fit in with the crowd. To have integrity is to communicate who you really are to others, not promoting yourself more highly than what you are. Not giving people the wrong perception of who you are. I call this the chameleon effect– changing spots in order to fit in or please other people. That is not integrity, that’s bondage.
Below are some tips on how you can lead a life of integrity in simple, but incredibly important matters of life.
First, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to better evaluate your integrity:
1. Do people at work or on social media know a different side of you than what you portray at home to your family?
2. Have you ever embellished your accomplishments to make yourself look “good” in front of others, especially when you knew you were just blowing smoke?
3. Would you be afraid if someone you respected sat next to you all day to observe how you spend your time on the clock?
4. Have you ever told a lie at work or at home to “save” yourself?
These questions may seem superfluous, but they serve as a good evaluation of one’s level of integrity. While reading the questions, you might have come across one or more that you know you struggle with. Again, only you know where you stand in regards to this standard. One thing I know is that everyone has failed in one or all of the points above. This does not mean that the fight is over. Today is a new day, and that means we can make better choices with integrity. This is how character is built- one choice, one decision at a time.
Three Tips to Help You to Walk in Integrity
1. Avoid Gossip (or Mind Ya’ Own Business)
“A talebearer [gossiper] reveals secrets, But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.” (Prov 11:13; emphasis mine)
Gossip is simply smearing someone’s character behind his or her back. Another way to think about it is this: whenever someone tries to make himself look good by making someone else look bad, that’s gossip. Repeating to another person something that someone told you in confidence, without their approval, is also gossip. Nothing destroys character faster than gossip. It is one of those vices that destroy the one who partakes in it.
Gossip is so dangerous that I have counseled hiring managers not to hire candidates who gossip about his or her former boss during the job interview. I believe that if someone is comfortable gossiping to you during a job interview then it’s only a matter of time before they start gossiping about you. So do yourself a favor and avoid gossip like a plague. You can even tell the person, “Sorry, I don’t feel comfortable speaking about this person behind his back, can we talk about X instead?”
A simple rule of thumb you can use is this: if you don’t have something edifying or helpful to say about someone, then it’s better to just not say anything at all.
And remember, bad company corrupts good character. You may have a friend or colleague who is not living as they should. Try to confront them in a kind and helpful way. If they refuse to heed your concerns, then it might be time to find another friend or distance yourself from that colleague.
2. Be faithful in the small things
“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” (Luke 16:10)
Whereas gossip destroys character, faithfulness in the small things in life builds up character a great deal. We are all at different stages of our lives. Regardless of which stage you are in today, endeavor to be faithful in the small things of life–whether at work or at home. I saw the importance of this rule when I worked as a recruiter many years ago. My boss gave me a one-month contract position. When placed against the backdrop of all the other high profile positions that we needed to fill, this one seemed truly insignificant.
Naturally, I did not feel motivated to work hard on it. But I decided to give it my all anyway. I succeeded in finding a qualified candidate for the position. Even better, my candidate received a 3-month contract extension after he completed the initial project. Our firm was able to establish more credibility with the company we were working with because they saw that no position was beneath us. This experience taught me a valuable lesson: if something must be done and I have the means to do it, then I should.
3. Stop seeking praise from people
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them.” (Matthew 6:1)
The trap that many people fall into sometimes is that they become obsessed with pleasing other people. It’s not necessarily wrong to want to please someone you care about and make them happy. In fact, that is honorable. As a married man, for example, I seek to please my wife. The problem, though, is when we become so obsessed with getting praise from other people that we are tempted to compromise our integrity. “If I tell the truth so and so may be upset with me, so let me bend the truth a little.” That little bending of the truth will send your life into a tailspin, so avoid it at all costs. When something goes wrong, be quick to take responsibility for your portion of the mess. Apologize sincerely when you’re in the wrong and then move on in the right direction.
After reading this article, you might have noticed areas where you have fallen short. The good news is, though you have sinned in this area, you can find freedom by asking Christ to forgive you, and with God’s help, turn away from doing that again. My goal is never to leave people in a perpetual state of sorrow and guilt but to find freedom from their shortcomings. We’ve all felt that heavy regret that digs a deep pit in our souls and there seems like no way out. Clearly, it’s not profitable if you only feel the guilt and conviction, yet do nothing about it.
On the contrary, the Bible says that sorrow that pleases God brings one to repentance. Repentance that leads to forgiveness comes from God. And it is through believing that Jesus Christ paid the penalty of that sin that we can find freedom.
– Led by the Book