Three Ways to Maintain Your Integrity & Strengthen Your Character
God is not looking for an incredible person to use for His purposes; He’s looking for a credible one.
Strong character is a non-negotiable requirement for achieving our goals and dreams. It is the battering ram that allows us to break through obstacles and grow into a better life. Every challenge we face on the journey to a better life has the potential to either take us down or make us stronger.
There’s no middle ground. When we face problems and hard times, it’s the strength of our character that enables us not only to face the storm, but to turn it to our advantage.
While there are many, here are three ways to maintain your integrity and strengthen your character.
1. Strive to be the same person in front of the crowd as you are behind the scenes.
When the pressure is on, what’s inside always comes out. In a crisis or under stress, we don’t have the luxury of keeping up appearances. It’s at such times that our actions reveal who we really are—for good or for ill.
Are you the same person outside of work? Do you live differently around different peer groups? Does your environment determine your speech or is it consistent no matter what?
People who value integrity are the same in every crowd. Popularity isn’t important. Being able to bring credibility to the table regardless of the setting is what matters. You can only do this if you have integrity. That means being the same person in every environment.
Whether you realize it or not, people are watching. Friends, family, co-workers—even your kids—are observing whether or not your words align with your actions. What message are you sending? Is it one that conveys consistency or confusion?
Your character and integrity should support your success, not undermine it. Good character is being true to the right principles even when no one is there watching. Being faithful to God in your private life is more important than public perception. He cannot bless you with big things unless you have proven to be upright in the small things.
2. Be very careful not to conform.
You see, character isn’t who we say we are. It’s who we actually are. You can fake almost anything in life, but not your character. You either have it or you don’t. Character means doing the right thing regardless of what others think. It often means standing alone and acting courageously.
Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Sometimes it’s easier to conform. Sometimes the stakes aren’t that high, the outcome isn’t that important, and it would just be easier all the way around to simply go with the flow. You’ve seen this in staff meetings and social circles. Maybe you don’t completely agree with the direction your co-workers want to go on a particular project, but your dissent would cause the meeting to last longer and seemingly make the problem more difficult to solve. Or perhaps your friends are unfairly gossiping about someone you barely know, and it would be easier to sit back and listen rather than come to the defense of a mere acquaintance.
No matter the “smallness” of the situation, conforming in those ways is a major blow to the maturity and strength of your character. When your fear of conforming is greater than your fear of change, you are well on your way to realizing your dreams.
Many people will talk about having integrity and values, yet behind their words is a cloud of smoke. There is no substance. I’m extremely cautious when people begin to speak higher of themselves than others speak of them. Too often this is a sign that what they’re really doing is faking their character. Be a person who does what they say and lives a life that can be respected. Be more than words. Be a person of action and one whose reputation speaks for itself, not the other way around. This is where true character is found.
3. Learn to value the process of building your character.
Romans 5:3-5 says, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
This verse speaks of character being established through endurance. If you’re an athlete, you know there are no short cuts to winning a race or competition. Character is no different. You can’t wheel through somewhere and grab it. You can’t just decide you have it and tell others that you do, either. It’s built through endurance. Don’t check your character at the door. Make sure you are always a man or woman of good character and the rest will always fall into place.
We live in a fast-paced world. If we want a hamburger, we can wheel through Burger King and get one in less than five minutes. If we want a new song, we can download it in a matter of seconds. The danger in this kind of world is too many people think they can do the same with their character.
I often say, you can get to the top without integrity…in fact, you can get there faster. But you can’t stay at the top long without it. It may take longer to get where you want to go when you refuse to take short cuts, but there’s treasure in the waiting. I’ve learned that it’s in those times when I’m forced to struggle with the wait, that my faith, my spiritual roots, and my maturity grow most.