It’s not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned; and not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity. (Francis Bacon, Sr.)
Ahh, integrity! The very word pulsates with moral consistency! It takes years to develop and achieve. But it can evaporate with one weak moment or foolish choice. Politicians, preachers, executives, teachers, and athletes have all ruined their reputations and relationships with momentary lapses in integrity. This validates the importance of diligently safeguarding our integrity.
Integrity is consistent, untarnished, courageous, and uncompromising morality. If a person is honest, reputable, and reliable, she has personal integrity. When a building is sound and built on a solid foundation, it has structural integrity. This same soundness applies to our relationships. Regardless of whether they involve mere acquaintances, lifelong friends, family members, dating and marriage prospects, or even employers, they all deserve integrity.
Characteristics of Integrity
Following Jesus’ example, here are some steps to help us develop, exhibit, and maintain integrity in relationships:
Be “real” – you’re the only one who can be you
Christ was approachable, honest, loving, and genuine as He interacted with people. He knew who He was and stayed true to His purpose. Other people’s doubt, accusations, or unrealistic expectations didn’t distract Him. Similarly, God made you with a specific purpose in mind (Jeremiah 29:11). He expects you to passionately fulfill it (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Find out who God created you to be, then get comfortable being that person. No one truly enjoys a relationship while wasting energy trying to be someone else. Excel at being the “real” you!
Do what’s right because it is right
Jesus described this moral predetermination in His parable of the man who built a house on solid rock (Luke 6:47-49). We develop integrity by establishing a firm spiritual foundation beforehand. We don’t develop morality in the heat of the moment. For relational integrity, nurture and safeguard a trusted and reliable reputation. Cherish the people within your relationships. Protect them from personal attacks, spiritual warfare, and sometimes even from themselves. Preserve the intimacy of relationships by not divulging secrets that undermine their confidentiality. “Loose lips” also erode your credibility.
Treat others better than you wish to be treated
Consider going a step beyond the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31). Enduring relationships require kindness, compassion, and forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32). Accept others for who they are. Step back from selfish agendas and desires. Demonstrate genuine compassion. Readily forgive while keeping no record of wrongdoings. Don’t project such high expectations on others that you set them up to fail.
Pay attention – be in the moment
All throughout Jesus’ life, He gave people His undivided, personalized attention. Relational integrity means we listen, value, and remain alert to verbal and non-verbal clues. Sometimes what isn’t said is more important than what is. To truly “hear,” listen and ask clarifying questions. Value your relationships by being emotionally supportive and available.
Christ knew some people had wrong motives and He didn’t get involved with them (John 2:24-25). In the same way, recognize that some relationships may be harmful to you. Develop the discernment to know when a relationship is pulling you down. Then, exhibit the courage to graciously walk away.
When considering all your relationships, ask yourself this question: Do people see and sense Jesus when they interact with me?
Biblical Integrity – Psalm 15
An awesome description of Biblical integrity is found in Psalm 15:
- Blameless walk. Demonstrate a lifestyle that consistently matches what you say (walk = talk).
- Righteous. Such morality in action is only possible once a person has appropriated God’s righteousness.
- Truthful. Be known as believable and reliable. Don’t exaggerate or boast.
- Pure in speech. Don’t slander, gossip, or make false accusations. Keep in mind “whatever is praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8)
- Neighborly. Be approachable, accepting, compassionate, helpful.
- Hate evil. Constantly remove evil, as well as evildoers, from your life.
- Fellowship. Honor your fellow believers and find strength in their fellowship and association.
- Trustworthy. Honor your word and commitments, regardless of price or cost.
- Beneficent. Don’t take unfair advantage of people or situations. Treat people fairly.
- Uncompromising. Stand for what you believe in. Never compromise your integrity.
(Some thoughts and comments are excerpts from Nate’s book Matched 4 Life.)