A person claimed to weave “biblical principles” into his business. When his business went bad and the stock market dropped, he left his investors to pay his debts and his customers to pick up the pieces.
Another person talked about integrating biblical principles into her business. When her business fell on hard times and the stock market dropped, so did her livelihood. But she did not run away. She stayed and worked out a plan to pay back her investors and to care for her customers.
No one respects a person who talks a good game but fails to play by the rules. You will have a greater impact by what you do as opposed to what you say. Most people will forget 90 percent of what you say, but they will never forget how you live.
Dishonesty and Lack of Integrity
In a day when “the end justifies the means” has become an acceptable mode of operation, do you justify acts of dishonesty for valid reasons? Consider these examples:
- overpromise and under deliver
- exaggerate in job interviews to secure a job
- overstate budgets to get what you want
- understate values to get a better deal
- cover up mistakes so you don’t lose a customer
- call in sick because you don’t have more paid time off
Each of the above examples is an act of dishonesty which in the end reveals a lack of integrity.
Losing the Ability to be Trusted
It may seem like people can gain power quickly and easily if they are willing to cut corners and act without the constraints of integrity. Dishonesty may provide instant gratification for a moment, but it never lasts. What have you gained if you lose your ability to be trusted?
Maybe that is why Paul wrote to Timothy:
Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers. –1 Timothy 4:15-16
Paul tells Timothy to watch himself and his teaching. In other words, watch your life and your doctrine. Better yet, give careful attention to your behavior and belief. Make sure they match. Constantly examine yourself to see that your walk matches your talk and that your practice in life matches your profession of faith.
Integrity is Forever
James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book, Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, write, “If you step out into the unknown, the place to begin is with the exploration of the inner territory…”
If people are going to follow you whether into ministry, business, or the ballfield, they want to know if they can trust you. Do you keep your promises and follow through with your commitments?
Brene Brown in Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead writes, “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”
Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether anyone is watching. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences. It takes years to build a reputation of integrity, but it takes a second to lose it.
Integrity points to a consistency between what is inside and what is outside, between belief and behavior, your words and your ways, your attitudes and your actions, your values and your practice.
Does Your Behavior Match Your Belief?
So, the question is, does your behavior match your belief?
If the answer is “Yes”, every person who trusts you will spread the word that you are trustworthy, and the truth of your character will spread. The value of the trust others have in you is far beyond anything that can be measured.
At work, you will be trusted by colleagues and customers with more responsibility. In the home, you will be trusted by a spouse to be faithful and by your children to be present. It means you will have people willing to go the extra mile to help you because they know that recommending you to others will never bring damage to their own reputations.
When your behavior matches your belief, you will experience limitless opportunities and endless possibilities.
Maintain Your Integrity
So, as a leader, what do you do to maintain your integrity? You choose to be vulnerable and you develop your character.
First, choose to be vulnerable.
- Integrity is a choice. Choose courage over comfort. Choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. Choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them.
- Be accountable. If you slip up, apologize. Make amends and make it right. It might be uncomfortable but being accountable will build trust and credibility. Don’t let one integrity slip alienate everyone around you.
- Be transparent. Say what you mean, mean what you say and, of course, don’t be mean when you say it. Trust develops when people feel like they don’t need to keep up their guard.
Second, develop your character.
- Be kind to yourself. Stop the inner voice that is verbally and emotionally beating you up. Speak to yourself as you would speak to someone you love: your spouse, your child, your friend.
- Be the person you want others to be. Modeling integrity and good character are much more effective than telling your team what to do. Showing that you’re always willing to make the difficult, courageous decisions build connection and trust.
- Character is built one choice at a time. Integrity is all about consistency. It’s doing the right thing, for the right reason, even when no one is watching, even when you don’t want to.
- Integrity comes from the Latin word “integer,” meaning whole. In every moment, and at every decision, lead from a place of wholeness.
Do what is right and let the consequences follow. No one respects a person who talks a good game but fails to play by the rules. Remember, success will come and go, but integrity is forever.