What do you see when you look in the mirror? I don’t mean just the outside, but if your mirror were to reflect what you are in the inside, what would you see — or more importantly, what should you see?
We are living in a day where people are far more concerned about their reputation than they are about their character, and the latter is not always a true reflection of the former. Your reputation is what people think you are when they see you; character is what you know you are when you see yourself. It has been said that people are like trees: The shadow of the tree is reputation, the fruit of the tree is personality, but the root of the tree is character. Abraham Lincoln said it best, ‘’Character is like a tree and reputation is like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
Here’s a great question to ask yourself: If your reputation met your character on the street, would they recognize each other?
The first trait that would be real in your life — the first thing that people would know about you if you truly have the right character — would be integrity. If you were building a house made out of character, the foundation would be integrity. You’ve heard the saying many times, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I may also add that leadership rises and falls on integrity. In fact, none of the other character traits will matter if you don’t have integrity. What you accomplish will make your name known, but your integrity will determine whether your name is worth knowing.
I remember as a young pastor, my mouth wrote a check by body couldn’t cash. I told folks that if we achieved a certain thing in our ministry, I would do a cartwheel. I had never done a cartwheel before, but I saw it done many times. It didn’t look too hard, but I found out that it is. You have to be an Olympic-level gymnast to do it right! And I couldn’t. I tried and tried, but to no avail. It bothered me for a few years, and one evening at church picnic, I reminded the church about the promise and asked if they would allow me to do a somersault instead. They graciously agreed, and then I found out I couldn’t even do a decent somersault. It didn’t look good, but I still kept my word.
I admit I had to swallow some pride, but I learned a valuable lesson. I could have ignored what I said and hoped everyone would forget. But integrity never goes on vacation. It never takes a break. Integrity never calls a time-out. It never takes a pass. Integrity also doesn’t go with the flow. It doesn’t follow the crowd. Integrity stands its ground. It doesn’t listen to polls. Integrity lives for principles. Integrity may leave you all alone, but it will be worth it.
Whenever you are told to stand down and instead you stand up, you will stand out; then you may stand alone and then become a target. Talk is cheap. Integrity never just talks the talk, it walks the walk. It never veers off course. Integrity never takes a shortcut. It never cuts corners. It stands tall. Integrity stands tough and it stands true to what is right.
Yes, there is a cost to consider and there is a price to pay for integrity. When you do the cost-benefit analysis, the benefits far outweigh the cost, because all anybody will see is the light of integrity shining in your life.