See how many enemies I have and how viciously they hate me!
Protect me! Rescue my life from them!
Do not let me be disgraced, for in you I take refuge.
May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in you.
(Psalm 25:19-21, NLT)
The psalmist is making a statement outside of our normal way of thinking. He claims that integrity and honesty can protect him against his adversaries. Integrity is not naturally our go-to response when we think about protection against those who despise us. Yet, this seems to be a powerful force in Scripture when it comes to our safety.
Few people can effectively define integrity. The online dictionary defines integrity as the “quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.”
This definition is useful but does not explain how to live in integrity. Let’s look at a few ways you can practically show integrity.
1. Doing the correct thing even when it hurts
Compromise is easy. Especially when nobody is looking. The hard part is usually doing the right thing when it might lead to some pain. Particularly with money, people are seldom willing to do the right thing if it means they will lose on the deal.
I know a gentleman who was a building contractor. He had so much integrity in his business dealings that his clients would make verbal contracts with him. They were so certain he would be honest in his dealings that they would trust him with the work. His good reputation surely went ahead of him.
2. Admitting mistakes and correcting them
For parents to apologise to their children is often very difficult. Especially when the parent punished the child for doing something wrong but the punishment was too severe. When a parent can learn to be humble enough to ask forgiveness, it has a profound impact upon the child’s character.
Being able to keep your confidence while admitting your mistake is a true sign of Godly character. God calls this repentance. It is a major part of knowing God. We should repent because we did something wrong, not because someone else apologised first. Most of the time, we refuse to take responsibility for our part because the other party also did something wrong. It takes a lot of integrity to own your part of the mistake without expecting the other party to do the same.
Integrity owns responsibility without bargaining.
3. Praising others for their accomplishments
One of my coaching clients recently explained to me how he cannot think creatively at work because his boss would take all the credit for his ideas. He explained how the pecking order at work is so competitive that it started creating a sphere of gossiping.
When you praise someone for what they have accomplished, you create an atmosphere of creativity and productivity. Selfish people will ask “but what if they become better than me and I don’t get the promotion”. This brings us back to the first point - Doing the correct thing even when it hurts. If your current subordinate might be a better manager or boss than you, will you allow them to do it?
Never let an opportunity to encourage someone pass you by.
4. Do not use others for your own pleasure
This is especially relevant in marriage. I know a man who consistently made fun of his wife and belittling her. It is honestly the worst I’ve ever seen. When people would talk to him about it, he refused to receive correction because he was only “joking”. Degrading your spouse for the sake of having fun might cause you to have the same result as this gentleman. After too many years of receiving one joke after the other, she divorced him just to save her own self-worth.
Don’t use other people for your own pleasure. Have an attitude of upliftment and encouragement. Especially towards those who are closest to you. People will see your behaviour and trust you.
Just as damaging as a madman shooting a deadly weapon
is someone who lies to a friend and then says, “I was only joking.”
Proverbs 26:18-19 (NLT)
5. Putting trust in people
There is a big difference between having discernment and being sceptical. There are two reasons people might not trust someone. The first is simple. We cannot trust someone because they are dishonest. Like the guy who told me he had this great job and elaborated every week about how well he is doing. After three months I found out he has been sitting at home the whole time. No matter how you look at it, it will be difficult to ever trust him again.
The second reason people don’t trust is harder for someone to admit. People don’t have the ability to trust. In Belgium, I have had many people telling me they cannot trust me. At first I took it really personally because I tried my best to act with integrity and honestly. In the meantime, I’ve learned to ask some diagnostic questions. Most people got hurt by other pastors and churches and now suddenly don’t trust me based on their past experiences with other people. Most of them do not even know me well enough to make such a claim of distrust. The reason they do not trust is that they don’t have the ability to trust. When you cannot trust, you generally project your distrust upon the other person.
When you trust people, it will often bring out the best in them. God is a good example of this. Just look what great responsibilities God gave to very young people in Scripture. Solomon, Jospeh, David, etc. They were too young to be trusted, yet the trust they received turned them into trustworthy people. You need to learn to trust people. It takes a person of great character to take risks on someone else. Be the person of great character.
6. Keep your word
You are only as good as your word. If people cannot trust what you say, they cannot trust anything you do. No matter how much it will cost you, keep your word.
7. Look after your environment
Your external world reflects your internal life. I visited a friend this weekend to braai together. Without being control freaks or overly perfectionistic, their house is really tidy. I love it. When we left, he told me how the people in the neighbourhood would eat and drink and just leave everything right where they were sitting on the park bench. When he would confront them, they reason that the city will clean it. They do not feel it is their duty. This expresses how much value they put on their surrounding. This expresses how much value you put on themselves.
When you take care of your environment, it reflects on your integrity.
To live with integrity will protect you. Trust is your most valuable asset in relationships. Take good care of it.