The topic of integrity is something that has been coming up a lot in our circles here both in my teaching, as we’re walking through Acts, and in circumstances related to our overall community. The following are simply thoughts I have on integrity, so as you read, please don’t think I’m trying to be exhaustive and say all there is on the subject. As a matter of fact, when you’re done, I’d love for you to add your thoughts on the subject in the comments section.
I am big on integrity because, not only does it define you, it’s what defines those whom you represent. For instance, I am a Jesus-Follower. That means that in all I do, I carry His name. My level of integrity can affect how others see Him. I am also a Price. As such, I carry the name of my mother and father. My Dad once told me when I was a teenager (probably just after I had asked to borrow the car), “David, I have protected my name by living a life of integrity. A good name is one of the best gifts I have to give you. Protect it.” I take that seriously. So, I also carry that name and what I do with it, reflects on him.
Now, as we talked about in Journey Groups on Sunday, integrity isn’t necessarily the same thing as reputation. Sometimes we can live a life of integrity yet we can be misunderstood or opposed by someone who has a different view that, when spread, can lead to a “bad reputation.” I know in my own life, I have been confronted by people in the church who have just wanted to pick a fight. Rather than choosing to be a doormat (which is NOT a quality of Jesus, despite popular opinion), I tend to stand my ground and defend what I believe is right. As a result, I have been labeled by some as “unapproachable.” For those who choose to believe it without actually finding out for themselves, that becomes reality and affects my reputation. Does it define me? It might to them, but that is not who I am. If you ask others who have approached me with genuine concerns, they will give a different perspective (and that doesn’t necessarily define me, either). The point being, it may be impossible to always maintain a good reputation (which is subjective), but you can always be a person of integrity (which is objective). Jason reminded us in Journey Groups that integrity is who you are when no one else is looking. Are you authentic? Do you look the same in private and public? Are your desires, thoughts and actions consistent?
Further, being a person of integrity doesn’t mean you are perfect. It simply means that when you are wrong, you own it, admit it, and (when possible) apologize for it. Sadly, there are those who may not allow you to be fallible which means the moment you hurt them (which you inevitably will!), you are tarnished in their eyes and they just can’t take that. You then are no longer a person of integrity to them. The truth, though, is that your willingness to admit error and your desire to be forgiven speaks volumes of your integrity. What is hard is when that happens and they never tell you. They are angry or hurt with you and you have no idea. That happens way too often…can I get an ‘amen’?
I have found in my life that those who have integrity don’t have to prove it. They don’t spend their lives explaining and defending all of their choices and decisions. People who are faking integrity always seem to have to try and convince people that they have integrity. They spend all their time trying to chase people down to make sure they don’t think badly of them. It is their utmost concern and the thing that provides their self-worth. Being unconcerned about the rep doesn’t negate the need to approach someone if there has been a wrong, but if people know you…really know you…they’re going to give you the benefit of the doubt. Look at Jesus. He had a terrible reputation among the religious people. He spent time with the worst of the worst and was regularly accused of some pretty unflattering stuff. But his greatest concern was not a good reputation among the religious lost, but that His Father was pleased and the people who really needed attention were getting it. Those who knew Him understood. Man, that I can be more like that! That at the end of the day, when you’ve done all you can and know you are living a life of integrity, to have the attitude of that great philosopher, Dr. Seuss:
“Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind, don’t matter.”