“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.” — Proverbs 10:9 ESV
“Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” — 1 Peter 3:16 ESV
I have a basic axiom for life: INTEGRITY ALWAYS WINS.
And I define integrity simply as Stephen Carter does in his book called “Integrity”
. Carter explains:
“As I define it, integrity involves three steps. The first is to discern what is right and wrong… The second step is to struggle to live according to the sense of right and wrong you have discerned, [no matter the consequence]. The third is to be willing to say what we are doing and why we are doing it.”
It was in leadership that I learned that INTEGRITY ALWAYS WINS. Anyone in leadership who is getting anything significant done has been ruthlessly attacked, maligned and lied about. It kind of goes with the territory. I learned early that the best response was always to respond with integrity. INTEGRITY ALWAYS WINS.
And the opposite is probably true too: when you act without integrity, you lose.
I learned that the hard way. The circumstances that created my life explosion were because I failed to act with integrity, I failed to live up to my own standards, and I failed to live up to God’s standards.
But in the aftermath of what happened, I decided that as much as I could I would act and respond with integrity — because INTEGRITY ALWAYS WINS.
Here are some practical ways this played out:
- Once everything blew up, I confessed and revealed everything (probably more detail than they wanted) to the Board.
- I never blamed others for what happened to me. I accepted full personal responsibility.
- When accused of something I was guilty of, I acknowledged it. When I was accused of something I did not do, I answered the charge.
- I never bad-mouthed the church. I was truthful about what happened on the blog, and was even open in criticizing the process and decisions that were made, but I never bad-mouthed the church or the board. (In fact, I still think it is a great church and I often refer people to it and I still financially support its missions when I can.)
- While the Board agreed to pay me three months salary when I left, I was aware of the financial stress the church was under and I voluntarily did not take the final month of pay (even though I had no income at the time). This just seemed like the right thing to do.
- I expressed publicly that I would answer anyone’s questions and meet with anyone who wanted to talk to me about what happened. Several members of the church took me up on this offer and it was helpful for both of us.
- As I wrote about yesterday, I embraced a philosophy of transparency.
I could go on… but I think you see the point.
Now all of this (and this blog series) may make it seem like I always got it right and that I was saint through the whole process. That is not the case. I made a lot of mistakes — especially early in the process. And in each case, it was a failure to adhere to the basic principle of INTEGRITY WINS.
For example, when I was first confronted by the congregant I had been involved with — and he told me that he thought we should disclose to the Board what had happened between us — I responded defensively, out of anger and fear. In the process, I hurt the congregant (who was also a very close and valued friend) and also made the process more complicated. But at other times — and many times throughout the process — I do think I acted with integrity and was able to respond in a Christ-like way, not out of fear or anger.
Of all the decisions I made, this was the one that I had to make again and again every day — and sometimes several times throughout the day.
And to be honest, this is true for all people — not just those coming out of crisis. All of us face decisions every day — and we choose whether to respond with integrity or not. So let me encourage you: INTEGRITY ALWAYS WINS.