I have been reminded recently of the value of integrity when I read this quote by John Maxwell
“ When people ask for your loyalty give them your Integrity. And when they ask for your Integrity give them your loyalty”
I love this quote because it addresses an issue regarding people and integrity that has been a challenge for me and a source of frustration for many whom I know, love, and mentor. We can easily fall into a trap if we don’t distinguish between walking in Integrity and being a people pleaser. While integrity is something we need to lean into, people-pleasing is something we need to avoid like a disease because it is.
"Am I now trying to win the favor and approval of men, or of God? Or am I seeking to please someone? If I were still trying to be popular with men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10 (Amplified Bible)
However, the challenge is that they can look and feel the same. Let me share an example that I have fallen prey to several times. There have been times when someone has been disappointed in me. I didn’t meet an expectation they had and it appeared I let them down. When this happened, I mistakenly believed that it was an issue of a lapse in my integrity because they were disappointed in me. I felt a need to make them happy and to keep my integrity. If you have ever experienced a similar situation you (like I eventually did) need to reject this because it is not an issue of your integrity. Yes if I created a challenge and I need to make something right I need to make things right. But if they are disappointed by an expectation I NEVER CLEARLY COMMUNICATED that is not an issue of my integrity. Actually, my making it such to try to please, placate, and validate their disappointment undermines my integrity.
"The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him." Proverbs 20:7 (NKJ)
Yes perhaps we unwittingly set people up for an expectation we did not communicate, if so we need to apologize for anything we did to give them that impression, it happens. But we do that because we need to protect our integrity not to please them and or validate their expectations. Maybe there were unspoken promises unknowingly communicated by us and mistakenly interpreted by them that we should apologize for. But we do this not to please them and validate their incorrect interpretation, but to protect our integrity.
The older I get the fewer things I am convinced about. As I get older there are fewer hills I will die on and fewer battles I am interested in fighting. But as the number of those things decrease the deeper my conviction over those few things grow. One of the things that continues to grow deeper is the truth that our Integrity is one of the most valuable things we have in our possession and we need to protect it, deepen it, and continuously value it.
If I were to put this in financial terms I would use the following example. Protecting and building your integrity is a long-term financial windfall that will return 10-100 fold in your life OVER THE LONG HAUL BUT WILL SEEM OF LITTLE VALUE IN THE SHORT TERM. People pleasing is just the opposite. OVER THE SHORT TERM IT WILL PAY SOME DIVIDENDS (by providing some false peace) BUT OVER THE LONG TERM IT WILL BE A NET NEGATIVE.
People pleasing is exhausting, frustrating, vexing, depleting, and debilitating. The energy expended doing it far outweighs any possible benefits of doing it. But there are times when the protection of our integrity will look and even feel like we are trying to please people. And when that does happen we need to be able to draw a strong and unquestionable line between the two.
So next time you believe there has been a dent in your integrity armor, stop and ask yourself, "Am I building my Integrity or falling into a trap?"