By Peter Amsterdam
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Each of us is tempted to do things that are wrong. A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t do something in front of your child, your spouse, or someone you love and respect, then it’s probably not something you should do at all. If you feel you have to hide your action, then there’s a good possibility that you aren’t acting with integrity.
Something to keep in mind is that when we are around others who don’t act with integrity, it can influence our own behavior and morals. The example of others’ lack of morality can make it more likely that we will act in a similar manner. Of course, spending time with those whose moral standard is lower than yours doesn’t necessarily mean yours will automatically drop, but it might be harder for you to maintain your higher standards in such an environment.
It’s especially important to realize that your integrity, your example, can either positively or negatively affect others when you are in a position of authority or respect. As a parent, a pastor or spiritual leader, a teacher, a coach, a public figure, etc., you are an example to others. Others will look up to you and model themselves after you; therefore you bear some added responsibility to conduct yourself with integrity. As Christians, lack of integrity can damage our ability to share the gospel with others. If we are unethical in our dealings, if integrity is weak in our lives, it may make the message that we share appear untrue. It reflects not only on us, but on Jesus as well.
What does integrity look like?
Integrity is living according to scriptural principles. It’s being honest, noble, trustworthy, reliable, acting honorably, keeping your word. It’s acting or speaking with transparency, as if someone you love or respect is watching what you are doing. It’s not speaking negatively about others or gossiping. It’s treating others as you would want them to treat you. It’s living an honorable and respectful life.
When you live with integrity, you accrue numerous benefits:
- In proving to be trustworthy, you earn people’s trust, which can be a make-or-break factor in your personal and professional life.
- You gain people’s confidence and respect, which puts you in a better position to become a positive influence on them and add value to their lives.
- Your relationships with others are stronger, healthier, happier, and more satisfying.
- People will be more likely to listen to you.
- Because people trust you, they won’t worry about your motives.
- Others will be comfortable opening up to you, knowing that you will keep what they say confidential.
- You will experience more peace in your life.
- God will bless you.
When we have committed to living according to our moral values, it’s important to regularly remind ourselves of them—especially when we are faced with a moral challenge. There will be times when we are face to face with situations where one option might seem beneficial, may be something that we want or want to do, or could bring us rewards or gratification, but that we know is wrong or not quite right. But even though we know it’s not right, we can be sorely tempted. At times like that, we need to reinforce the standard we have committed to. This can be done by reminding ourselves of our values, by praying, by reading or quoting God’s Word, or whatever helps us to reconnect with our standards and affirm our commitment to them.
As a proactive measure, regularly connecting with the foundational touchstone—God’s values as expressed through His Word—is a means of consistently bolstering our integrity. Regular Bible reading, prayer, and communicating with the Lord not only draws us closer to Him but also strengthens our resolve to live His values, to make them our own, and to stay true to them.
What should we do if we’ve let our moral standard fall? What if we’ve had a temporary lapse in living our values, or have even ignored them for a long time? Perhaps we feel we’ve traveled so far from God’s values that we don’t know if we can reconnect with them. The good news is that we can go to the Lord, confess our sins, ask His forgiveness, and reconnect with Him and His truth. We can renew our relationship with Him and seek His help and strength to turn our lives around. By His grace and with His help, and perhaps the help of others, our lives can be turned around and we can rebuild our integrity.
Sometimes we have to pay the price for the damage that our lack of integrity has caused, through restitution as well as admitting our wrongdoing, asking for forgiveness, and working to restore trust and relationship. It costs something to repair such damage, but it is worthwhile, and there are benefits to reconnecting with God’s love and adjusting our values to His.
If we are people of integrity, when we share the gospel with others, they will be more likely to listen, as our example will show that we both live and believe what we are saying. Integrity is crucial to our calling of sharing Jesus with others. Living with integrity is a key to a better life, a better future, and a better eternity.
“Who may worship in Your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter Your presence on Your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends. Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the LORD, and keep their promises even when it hurts. Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever.”—Psalm 151
Originally published May 2014. Adapted and republished August 2018.
Read by Reuben Ruchevsky.