Authored by Dan Roselle
In my last podcast I talked about our need for friendship and how each one of us greatly determines how our friendships turn out. We highlighted the importance of having a personal code of honor, which can help us to be the right kind of friend. In this podcast we’re going to address integrity; specifically, how having integrity plays into our friendships.
There are a number of definitions of integrity, but they could be summed up with one word—honesty. I like this quote by Spencer Johnson(1) about integrity and honesty: “Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”
In other words, it’s not just something that only you know, it’s something that is then acted upon and shown to others.
Zig Ziglar, a motivational speaker and author, once wrote: “With integrity you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide.” This also shows that integrity is honesty.
John Maxwell, a Christian speaker and author, wrote: “Integrity results in a solid reputation, not just image. Image is what people think we are. Integrity is what we really are. Image promises much but produces little. Integrity never disappoints.”
Webster’s dictionary defines personal integrity as “possessing high moral principles.” A simpler definition of integrity would be “doing the right thing even if nobody is watching.”(2) In order to do that, though, you have to first know what the right thing is. You have to have your personal values, your code of honor, your moral principles defined first, so that you can then live up to them.
Integrity isn’t dependent on situations or circumstances, like who you’re with (whether they’re cool or not) or what’s going down at the party you happen to be at. Integrity does what’s right regardless. Your personal standard, your code of honor, isn’t flexible in the sense of, “On Sunday and Wednesday I’ll act a certain way because I know that’s what others expect of me. But on Friday night after the game, or Saturday night at the party with my friends, I’ll act another way because that’s what will make me look good to them.” Integrity doesn’t work that way. It’s consistently doing the right thing.
Daniel, from the Bible, is a good example of a man with integrity. When Daniel and his friends were captured by the Babylonians, Daniel determined to remain true to his values and belief system, and one of those values had to do with food—what he could and couldn’t eat. I’m sure the king’s court laid out a spread of delicious food for the youth, and even though it was probably tempting to eat the food, Daniel chose to stick with his set of values. I like how the King James Version words it; it says, “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank.”(3) It was an inner conviction that drove him to make the right choice in a tempting situation.
We don’t know for sure, but perhaps Daniel’s decision in that situation helped to make it easier for his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to do the right thing then as well. And you know, that often happens when someone has integrity; it inspires others to also want to make good decisions or stand up for what they know is right.
I wonder if this first instance set the tone for the friendship between these four Hebrew guys. Who knows but that it may have made each one of them more conscious of doing the right thing even in situations where it might have seemed logical or understandable to fudge a little.
For example, later on in the book of Daniel we again see the value of integrity when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idol.(4) Worshipping an image was something that had been expressly forbidden by God in the Ten Commandments.5 It was a part of their belief system, something that was important to them, a core feature of their identity. So even when faced with only two options—integrity or death—they chose integrity. And God obviously honored and blessed that decision by sparing their lives and appearing to them in the furnace.
In the book of Proverbs, there are two powerful things promised to someone of integrity: Safety and guidance.
Proverbs 10:9 says, “The man of integrity walks securely”(6) or safely.
And Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright guides them.”(7)
It sounds like those promises were fulfilled for Daniel and his friends, as over and over again throughout the book of Daniel we read about situations where they received safety and guidance as a direct result of remaining true to their beliefs. And those promises can apply to you just the same in your friendships.
Integrity in friendships is also manifested through being honest, not lying or knowingly misleading others. Integrity is sincere, truthful, trustworthy, and reliable.
A person of integrity does not react based on how others treat him or her. A person of integrity treats others as he wants to be treated, no matter what their treatment of him is like. He is kind and courteous, even when others are not that way with him. He is respectful of others and shows consideration, even when the respect or consideration is not reciprocated. That means that even if someone doesn’t treat you nicely, you still treat them well.
Jesus was known for His honesty, and was called “a man of integrity.” Once, when some religious leaders came to ask Him a question, they began by paying Him this compliment, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.”(8) Obviously Jesus lived by high moral principles, and people knew that about Him. His personal standard was clearly seen by the way He lived—He helped others (like when He healed those who came to Him(9)), He spoke lovingly about people (like about Mary when she washed His feet(10)), He went out of His way to be kind (like to the Samaritan woman at the well(11)). He also practiced what He taught. He didn’t say one thing and then do another. His actions were consistent with His beliefs.
Does it matter to you how others treat you? Imagine that someone does something unkind or unfair to you. Think about how you would handle that. Would you gossip about them in return? Would you do something unkind to them? Would you turn the other cheek and show that person respect or kindness instead?
Does it matter to you how your friends and peers act, the things they say and do? Imagine being in a situation where a peer says something outlandish that you don’t agree with, or something hurtful to someone else. How would you respond? Would their actions affect how you would react? Would it change your honesty and integrity? Those kinds of questions can help you to determine what exactly is important to you, and what set of standards you want to live by.
You see, when you have a code of honor, a personal standard that you choose to live by, integrity means sticking to that standard even when it’s difficult. That standard is, in essence, what you want to be known for, your identity; those are qualities you want to define you. If someone had to sum you up in one or two words, what words do you hope they would use? The words that others might use to define you, or identify you, give a good indication of your identity, of who you are. Think about the qualities that you would like to be known for, and see if there are ones you want to add to your personal code of honor.
Now, you might think, “My friends aren’t always honest; they tell their parents they’re going to be a certain place, but then they go someplace completely different. So why should I be a goodie-goodie? I’ll just end up not having any friends.” In the long run, having integrity is something you have to decide to do, and yes, it may very well be tough at times. But if you decide to put honesty and integrity above image or what’s popular, you can count on Jesus being there to give you the strength and the ability to make the right choices along the way. You won’t go it alone. He can give you the courage when you fear the consequences of staying true to your code of honor, the strength when you feel too weak to make the right choices, and the grace when living the right choice is downright difficult. And you know, He can also bring into your life the right kind of friends, those who will appreciate your positive qualities and who can help you stay true to your honor code.
God knows how important it is for us to have others in our lives, people we can be ourselves with, people we can relate to, people whose company we enjoy. He wants to enhance our joys, and that includes enhancing the quality of our friendships, as that’s a big source of joy for us. If you feel like the quality of your friendships could use some enhancing, or perhaps you feel like you personally could use a boost so that you could become a better friend, then why not take some time to ask Him now for these things? Ask Him to give you some of the courage of Daniel, so that you too can purpose in your heart to choose the way of integrity, then claim those promises of safety and guidance. I know the Lord will help you.
1 An American author.
2 Jim Stovall.
3 Daniel 1:8.
4 Daniel 3.
5 Exodus 20:3–5.
6 New International Version.
7 New International Version.
8 Mark 12:14 NIV.
9 Matthew 4:23–24; 8:16.
10 Luke 7:37–48.
11 John 4:5–26.
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright © 2011 by The Family International