Integrity Defined: Doing what is good, right, and proper, even at personal cost.
Small tests of our Integrity matter. They matter because when we fail them, we take a step away from the person we are meant to be and take a step closer to becoming the person that is willing to compromise on the promises we make to others. When we compromise on our promises, we lose ground. When we rationalize away those promises, we lose our way and become something less.
We have to DO what we want to BE. If we want to be a Leader of Character – a person who exercises Integrity even when it could cost us something – we must avoid compromising with ourselves.
Compromise is not a bad thing when two people who have opposing views come together to find a middle ground. But, the compromises we make with ourselves often lead us down the path to hypocrisy. We claim we value Integrity and are people of Integrity, but our actions don’t reflect the values we proclaim.
Excuses are some of those small Integrity tests that undermine our character. How often, when we make an excuse, are we actually sacrificing our Integrity? Aren’t excuses just another shade of lying?
● I’m late because I had to take the kids to school.
● I missed the deadline because someone else didn’t finish their part of the project.
● I made that mistake because I didn’t have all the information.
When someone else utters these excuses, we often judge them. We see the ways they could have done better. We know they had alternatives. But if we are honest, our own excuses are just as lame as their excuses. We want them to work harder to avoid falling short of their promises. But what about us?
I am guilty of compromising my Integrity with each of these excuses. I have blamed my kids’ schedules. I’ve blamed colleagues at work. I have deflected responsibility because of a lack of information. But in each case, I could have controlled the outcome if I had tried harder. Instead, I sacrificed a little bit more of my character each time I failed those tests.
My kids’ classes started at the same time every day. When I blamed their school schedule, I was avoiding my responsibility to get up earlier, get them ready earlier, and get out of the house earlier.
Deadlines on work projects are rarely movable. When I blamed other people for our team’s failure to meet the deadline, I obscured the fact that I did not check in with them, make sure they understood their roles and expectations, or provide additional resources to them in order to complete their work on time.
When I claimed a lack of information, the information I lacked was usually available somewhere. When I blamed the lack of information, I failed to acknowledge my lack of planning, my propensity to procrastinate, or my own laziness.
Each time we make an excuse, we are saying we had no chance to change the outcome. Or we are claiming we are powerless, couldn’t have predicted the result, or are a victim of circumstance. But, that is not really the truth in most cases is it? In most cases, if we had been more thoughtful, less selfish, or more proactive we could have changed the outcome.
Those excuses make our Integrity negotiable. When we allow excuses to be part of our vocabulary, we allow dishonesty to gain a foothold in our lives. It is no fun admitting our failures, especially when we must look another person in the eye and say, “It is my fault.” But the pain we feel internally, the shame and the discomfort, make us want to avoid that situation again. We give ourselves an opportunity to grow and get better.
When we do that, we pass another test of our Integrity. Each time we pass the test, and don’t make an excuse, our character gets stronger. When we admit that we had control when we failed in the past, we set ourselves up to take control of our victories in the future.
Dig Deep Questions:
● What excuses have you used that compromised your Integrity?
● What discomfort were you avoiding when you made those excuses?
Exercising Integrity takes work and is a lifelong journey. We want to partner with you as you practice the habit of Integrity daily, which is why we have created FREE tools and resources to guide your journey.
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