In our previous Wisdom Note, we explored 9 signposts for new beginnings. These bits of wisdom help us to live a rich and satisfying life while creating a living legacy. If you miss any of our Wisdom Notes please go to the blog to read past newsletters.
As we head out on our trek for this week, It is very important that we have the utmost integrity in all of our interactions with everyone we meet. In a world of moral relativism and situational ethics where success and popularity are more important than keeping your word, it is important that we understand the difference between.
Popularity and Integrity
In the current polarized political climate in our country, the distinction between popularity and integrity is more important than ever. Although I do not like to generalize, most politicians and political candidates will say and do just about anything to persuade us to support them. The thinly veiled rhetoric leaves us confused as to what the truth really is. Most of the modern news outlets also contribute negatively to what actually is the truth. We should not get caught up in this same cycle in our own lives. The question to ask is, “Are popularity and success mutually exclusive with integrity?”
While it is difficult to see it in many areas of our current world, I would propose that true integrity is the very backbone of true popularity and success. If I could teach only one value to live by, it would be this…Popularity and success will come and go, but integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be. Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose. So, never allow yourself to ever do anything that would damage your integrity.
We live in a world where integrity isn’t talked about nearly enough. We live in a world where “the end justifies the means” has become an acceptable school of thought for far too many. Salespeople overpromise and under deliver, all in the name of making their quota for the month. Applicants exaggerate in job interviews because they desperately need a job. CEOs overstate their projected earnings because they don’t want the board of directors to replace them. Entrepreneurs overstate their financial strength because they want the highest valuation possible from an investor. Investors understate a company’s value to negotiate a lower valuation in a deal. Customer service representatives cover up a mistake they made because they are afraid the client will leave them. Employees call in “sick” because they don’t have any more paid time off when they actually just need to get their Christmas shopping done. The list could go on and on, and in each case, the person committing the act of dishonesty told themselves they had a perfectly valid reason why the end result justified their lack of integrity.
It may seem like people can gain popularity and power quickly and easily if they are willing to cut corners and act without the constraints of morality. Dishonesty may provide instant gratification at the moment, but it will never last. I can think of several examples of people without integrity who are successful and who win without ever getting caught, which creates a false perception of the path to success that you should follow. After all, each person in the examples above may have gained the result they wanted at the moment, but unfortunately, that momentary result comes at an incredibly high price with far-reaching consequences. That person has lost their ability to be trusted as a person of integrity, which is the most valuable quality anyone can have in life. Financial success, popularity, or power is temporary, but success and popularity among those that you have the greatest impact on are completely lost because of your lack of integrity. Proverbs 10:9, “People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will be exposed.”
If you retain your integrity at all costs, then every person who trusts you will spread the word of that trust to at least a few of their friends and associates, and word of your character will spread like wildfire. The value of the trust others have in you is far beyond anything that can be measured.
A word of advice to those who are striving for a reputation of integrity, even if a person appears to be popular and/or successful, avoid those who are not trustworthy. Do not associate with them. Do not make excuses for them. Do not allow yourself to get enticed into believing that “while they may be dishonest with others, they would never be dishonest with me.” If someone is dishonest in any aspect of life, you can be guaranteed that he will be dishonest in many aspects of his life. You cannot dismiss even those little acts of dishonesty. This is a clear indicator that they will be dishonest in any areas of life depending on the situation. That is called situational ethics.
It is important to realize that others pay attention to those you have chosen to associate with, and they will inevitably judge your character by the character of your friends. Why is that? It is best explained by a quote my mom would say when she was reminding me to be careful of the company I was keeping, “When you lie down with dogs, don’t be surprised when you wake up with fleas.”
Inevitably we become more and more like the people we surround ourselves with day-to-day. If we surround ourselves with people who are dishonest and willing to cut corners to get ahead, then we’ll surely find ourselves following a pattern of first overlooking their behavior, then accepting their behavior, and finally adopting their behavior. If you want to build a reputation as a person of integrity, then surround yourself with people of integrity.
If you desire to live and leave a lasting legacy, you must maintain your integrity above all else. Proverbs 20:7, “The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them.” It could also be said that everyone you impact will receive the blessings of your integrity.
On our trek today, we compared popularity versus integrity and learned that integrity should be maintained, regardless of its cost in popularity and success. Our integrity should never be compromised if we desire to create and leave a lasting legacy and impact on our world. As we hike our next trail, we will learn the power of patience. In addition to our weekly Wisdom Notes, encourage your friends and family to also join us on our daily podcast Wisdom-Trek, Creating a Legacy.