Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls…are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.
― James Patterson, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas
photo courtesy of unsplash.com
If you had the opportunity to get ahead in life – earn more money, get out of an uncomfortable situation, or gain a position of influence… and all you had to do was tell a little lie, would you do it?
We’ve all been presented with the temptation. It could be as simple as taking office supplies for personal use. It could be as innocent as embellishing about a run-in you had with someone famous. It could be as misleading as covering up an honest mistake. Or it could be as incriminating as fudging the numbers in the accounting records.
We have chances to sacrifice our integrity to gain and gain quickly. Or we have chances to preserve integrity and lose out. But is it really losing out?
The temptations are real. Sometimes they come as a directive from a superior – “Do this so it will save the department face; do that so it gives the company a competitive advantage. No one else on the outside will ever know. It’s just a shortcut to wherever we were going anyway. We can go back and make it legitimate after the fact. Everyone else does the same thing anyway. We’ll just be beating them at their own game.”
These same opportunities are just as common at home and when dealing with families. From meal portions to tax refunds to school grades. We face a constant flow of opportunities to speed our way to success.
The Proverbs have a few things to say about this.
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. – Proverbs 13:11
Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall. – Proverbs 28:18
Integrity is a matter of remaining whole. Coming out with character in tact. It’s abiding by laws and principles that are timeless.
We can do our best to thwart the principles and dodge the laws. And it may look like success. It may look like we’ve won the lottery. But we’re standing in our sand castle at the edge of the ocean. The tide will come in. The rise may be fast, but so will be the fall.
Living by integrity may appear that you’re always a few steps behind. But your successes will be built on a solid foundation.
So when work threatens to impose on your integrity, is it better to role the dice on your integrity or on your work? Integrity is made of glass whereas work is made of rubber. The choice is obvious. But it’s hard to say no to a good opportunity or a boss.
I believe there are two key mindsets you need when it comes to battling the temptation to risk your integrity for quick gain or avoiding pain.
The example I look to is David from the Bible. He had many opportunities to rise quickly to his rightful position as king over Israel, but he chose integrity. He chose to wait patiently. He chose to trust God’s timing. Although it took longer to get there and it was even dangerous for David and his men, the payoff was greater. He won the affection and loyalty of the people because he held onto his integrity.
In the same life, we see the effects of a lack of trust. David, now a king with power, took a shortcut to get what he wanted. He took, he killed, and he covered it all up. A quick rise to success. And a quick but long-lasting and far-reaching fall.
When we are faced with opportunities, both big and small, to take a shortcut to success, we must trust that it is better to wait. Waiting prepares us by building the good character we need to use our success effectively rather than having our success use us.
The second mindset to nurture is one of abundance. It’s easy to see all situations in life as win-lose. “If I gain, someone else loses out. If someone else gains, I lose out. And I don’t want to lose out!” But that is not an accurate way to think through a situation, especially when it comes to losing out on our integrity.
God has an abundance. In the words of Gail Hyatt, the wife of my (virtual) mentor Michael – “There’s more where that came from.” Did the kids take seconds of dinner and leave nothing left for you? It’s ok. There’s more where that came from. Did a hot sale come by at the wrong time for your budget? It’s ok. There’s more where that came from. Did a business opportunity slip past because your team couldn’t pull the pieces together in time? It’s ok. There’s more where that came from.
No, just because there’s more doesn’t mean you’ll always get it. But because we changed our mindset to trust, we know that God will provide what is right for us. We don’t have to take matters into our own hand. We do not have to trade our integrity to gain success. We don’t need to smash the glass ball to bounce the rubber ball higher.