Author Ray Pritchard once said, “As important as it is to know what you are talking about, it is perhaps even more important to be what you are talking about.” Integrity moves you beyond what you say to who you are. It’s the enduring quality of the best leaders. Job said, “Till I die, I will not deny my integrity” (Job 27:5).
Everyone talks about integrity, but being a person of integrity is another story. Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” To avoid duplicity, leaders have to be committed to doing the right thing — always. Like Job, we must maintain our integrity.
The moments in life and ministry when our integrity is tested are especially crucial. Four stand out in the pages of Scripture. Integrity counts when …
It’s one thing to make good choices when it’s easy, but integrity means doing what’s right even in the most difficult circumstances. Moments of hardship reveal the depth of your integrity.
Integrity is tested when you experience the deepest pain and the biggest problems. Integrity is tested when you face rejection, ridicule and ruin. Simply put, integrity is tested when you have the most to lose.
Esther could have lost her position as queen, and even her life, when she stepped up to defend the Jewish people after Haman plotted to destroy them (Esther 3). Yet Esther had the courage to do what was right, and God honored her faithfulness. Esther held on to her integrity when it was hard, and she stood up for what mattered most.
Your situation probably looks different than Esther’s, but it doesn’t mean the stakes aren’t high. Can you maintain your integrity when it means the loss of money, influence or opportunity? Can you do the right thing even when it could result in a significant setback or a blow to your pride?
Integrity requires hard decisions. Integrity demands backbone in the face of compromise and corruption. The defining moment of your integrity may be “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Will you maintain your integrity, even when it’s hard?
It has often been said that integrity is choosing to do the right thing when no one is watching. True integrity invades the anonymous areas of our lives.
But lapses in integrity have a way of catching up with us. King David learned this difficult lesson after his moral failure with Bathsheba. David thought he had covered his tracks until Nathan the prophet confronted him: “Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own” (2 Samuel 12:9).
Even if nobody else sees what you do, God knows. He sees the unseen, and He weighs the motives of the heart. Be careful not to interpret the anonymous as a license to be reckless with your integrity. We must maintain our integrity even when we feel anonymous, unknown and unnoticed.
In Daniel 6, King Darius took the foolish advice of his administrators and satraps to issue an edict to pray to him alone for 30 days. The decree impacted everyone, including Daniel. Yet Daniel refused to sacrifice his integrity.
Even though defiance could land him in the lions’ den, Daniel remained faithful to God. “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10). Daniel must have felt isolated in his decision to go against the grain while others blindly followed the decree.
But sometimes that’s what integrity requires. Even when it seems everybody else is doing wrong, leaders with integrity are guided by a moral, God-honoring compass. Those can be lonely times, but in our loneliness, God is still with us.
When you stand alone, will you still maintain your integrity?
Author and pastor Andy Stanley defines character as “the will to do what is right, as defined by God, regardless of personal cost.”
Notice three parts to this definition. First, there’s the will to do what is right. Most people want to do the right thing. Most leaders want to be known as people of integrity. But desire is not the issue. You have to match your desire with the will to act.
The next part of the definition is “as defined by God.” In other words, there must be a standard of integrity that originates outside of yourself. Otherwise, we’ll alter our definition of integrity based on who we’re around or what’s easiest in the moment. The Lord is our standard of integrity, and He determines and defines what is right.
Finally, can you exercise the will to do what is right, as God defines it, even when it comes with a personal cost? A steep cost? A painful cost? When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s idol, it came with a cost. A fiery furnace was ready to consume their very lives.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego responded to the king: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).
The cost was great, but their integrity was greater. What about you? Despite the cost, will you still be a person of integrity?
Integrity counts — always. But there are moments in leadership when the difficulty of maintaining integrity is especially high. Take a closer look at your life and leadership and ask yourself whether you are maintaining your integrity, even when it’s hard, anonymous, lonely and costly.
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