Before I started Transformational Impact LLC, I worked with my friend Ben Case. Ben is reputedly one of the best major gift fundraisers in the world, having helped nonprofits raise more than $4.8 billion in his 41 years in fundraising and nonprofit management. Ben has also been a hallmark of honesty and integrity as long as I have known him. He tells a powerful story to explain the importance of integrity.
I was in a meeting with my wife, Angela, and Robert McFarland, at the time a consultant with our company. … I was deeply resisting something Angela insisted I do. Angela thought that, as a business owner, I was required by law to do this. Our lawyer acknowledged there were “gray areas” as to the applicability of the law to our work. Give me “gray areas” and I will run with it forever. I did not want to do what Angela was telling me to do! Then Robert, who had been observing the discussion and my strong resistance, simply asked, “Ben, when are you going to have integrity—some of the time or all of the time?”
Live with integrity. In the walk of life, you will always be glad you did. Integrity means all the time. …
I did follow my wife’s advice, and am glad I did.
As Ben said, integrity means all the time. It is possible to be honest in one situation but not in another, but you can’t choose to have integrity one day and not the next. It’s all or nothing. Either you have integrity or you don’t.
In his book The Deeper Life, Daniel Henderson gives a good definition of integrity: “Integrity is a life where all the pieces fit together.” If you have integrity, then your life is integrated. You are not one way with some people and another way with other people. You are the same person all the time.
Henderson also explains what integrity is not: “compartmentalization is the opposite of integrity.” If you have to keep one part of your life separate from the rest of your life, you lead a compartmentalized life. If your Sunday is separate from your Monday through Saturday, you do not have an integrated life.
Integrity is about being honest with yourself: you know the real truth about the person you see in the mirror. You may be able to fool other people, but you can’t fool yourself. And you have to be with yourself all the time, so you know if you are trustworthy.
You need to be trustworthy all the time if you want to be trusted all the time. Here are three things to keep in mind to help you exhibit integrity.
1. Know yourself
The first step to have integrity is to know who you should be. If you know who you should be, then you can catch yourself when you’re not.
Do you find yourself in situations where you compromise your integrity? Do you feel you have to be someone in certain situations you don’t want to be? If so, why is that? And what does that tell you about yourself? When you find yourself in those situations, remind yourself who you should be, so you can avoid being who you shouldn’t be.
2. Talk straight
Mark Twain supposedly said, “Always tell the truth. Then you don’t have to remember what you said.” While it may seem funny, that quip contains a lot of truth. If you always tell the truth, then you don’t have to keep track of what you said to each person. Your story is always the same.
Be willing to speak the truth in all situations. If you are caught telling even one lie, then your trustworthiness can be permanently compromised. But if you are willing to say the truth—even when you have to say hard things—then you will consistently be believed.
3. Act right
James 1:8 says that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. The Greek word for double-minded means “two-spirited,” or you could even say it means “two-faced.” If you are trying to act like two different people, then you will sacrifice your integrity and be unstable in all your ways.
Think through how you want to be remembered. Then be that way all the time.
As Ben Case explained, if you want to be known as a person of integrity, then you will have to be that person of integrity all the time.
This article has been adapted from the #1 international bestselling book, Dear Employee: What Your Boss Wishes You Knew.
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