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October 12, 2007

A Woman of Integrity

I had been at my job for nearly 10 years when I got the call from my boss. He wanted to know why Helen, one of my co-workers, would be under the impression that I'd used company money to purchase a plane ticket for personal use. As he explained Helen's accusation, I realized where her assumption had come from - I had to fly to Oregon for work, my ticket was on Alaska Airlines, and my brother lives in Alaska. So Helen saw the ticket in my in-box, noticed the Alaska part, and jumped to the conclusion that I was on my way to see my brother using the company dime.

As my boss and I talked through this misunderstanding, I felt myself growing more and more angry with Helen. It was bad enough that she'd gone to my boss without talking to me first. But what really got me was that she made a very serious accusation of immoral - and illegal - action on my part. By the time we hung up, I was livid.

It was a good thing I was working from home and not able to stomp over to Helen's office and tell her what I thought of her little report. Instead, I stomped around my house, furious that she would say such things about me, horrified that someone might believe her, and deeply hurt that my boss would even have to ask me to explain. My integrity was on the line, and I didn't like it one bit.

If you've ever been on the receiving end of a false rumor or a mean-spirited accusation you know how awful it feels to have your character put into question. Because sometimes, that's all we have. I am a reasonably good leader in lots of ways, but I know that even when I fail as a leader, I am failing honestly. I know that, despite my professional weaknesses, I am a person of trustworthy character, a person others believe to be honest and moral. And that, perhaps more than anything else, has helped me do well in my work.

So when that part of my professional life was thrown into question, I freaked. What if my boss believed her and not me? What if she told other people and I became the subject of gossip and speculation? What if, in a matter of hours, she managed to ruin a reputation I spent 10 years building? I was so upset that I couldn't sleep - and I can always sleep.

Integrity doesn't often come up in conversations about women in leadership - have you ever head the phrase "A Woman of Integrity"? Me either. Maybe it's because we just assume women are honest and morally upright. Or maybe we assume men aren't. I don't know. But I do know that gender doesn't have anything to do with the importance of being trustworthy. It doesn't have anything to do with being someone others can count on to do what's right, no matter what the cost.

Perhaps we don't think about integrity in women because we don't think about integrity as women. And that's a problem. I have a friend who tells lots of little white lies. She does this with the best of intentions - she wants to spare people's feelings or protect them from a hurtful truth. But I don't trust her. I never know if she's saying nice things to me because she means them or because she wants me to feel good. I have worked with women who soften their criticisms of something I wrote so that I'll like them, even if it means the article isn't as good as it could be - and I've done the same to others.

In her wonderful book Gender and Grace, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwan explores an interesting way of thinking about the consequences of Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden. Part of Eve's punishment was that her desire would be for her husband. Van Leeuwan suggests that this is where our inherent, God-given need for relationships becomes twisted. Instead of living in harmony with those we care about, we will live in a state of wanting more, of needing more, than others can ever give. We will therefore push everything else - including our integrity - aside in the name of relationships.

When I first read this part of Van Leeuwan's book, I was struck by how dead-on her assessment is. I am a classic people pleaser, and I know I have often sacrificed my time, my health, even my faith in an effort to maintain relationships.

The situation with Helen was a good reminder for me that doing what's right will often be the very thing that solidifies a relationship. My reputation at work stayed intact because my co-workers saw my honesty, my trustworthiness, my integrity played out in our relationships. They had never seen me compromise what was right to get my way or make a good impression, so they had no reason to suspect I was the kind of person who would do so. They didn't just like me, they trusted me.

Helen's words bounced around for a few hours and fell away without anyone giving them another thought. But the lesson for me - that it's our godly character that matters most to the people we lead - has lasted for years.


I would just like to say that character, and integrity are very important. And this is from know person you knows because my character and integrity was crucified a few years ago, and I have been trying recapture it every since. Despite the scripture that says that we should not care what man thinks of us.............> It is pretty hard to get along in this world, or even be a leader, if people think ill of a person especially people that do not know you

Interesting throught about our desire for men to be part of the punishment, new twist, I can see it though working in a prison of women, they have sacrificed their morality for the sake of their desire for a man and greatest downfall on release....loneliness. I'm going to pursue this thought Thanks

A student in my Behavioral class complained of being whipped by his mother severely upon his back and showed the scars to my assistant. I reported it to the authorities as required but when several organizations came to the school to question us, the boy's father encouraged him to say i had looked at him but the boy assured everyone I was the best teacher he'd ever had and i would never do that.I knew certain people were sorry to hear that, but I left the office happy and cleared by my good student.

when God has work for us to do, we cannot be concenred about office gossip or what otheres are saying.
Furthermore, we must never lose our moral compass.

The devil is always in the bid to destroy the reputation of good Christians. It is not a news more especially in the work place and neighbourhood. But despite this, we are more than conquerors especially when
we are guiltless. God has always proved that He is God at such times. All Christians need do is to be responsible and upright all times.

I agree 100% with what you said. Nothing is as painful as having my integrity questioned. I have been there and lost sleep over it as well. While it is true that God will defend us, I cannot be completely indifferent to what others are saying about me because I may be giving them cause to say certain things. To keep my integrity intact, I have to act in ways that others perceive as correct. . . and then leave the rest to God. Thanks for a great article.

'God knows'. To be out there with human people is to risk being misunderstood. People have all kinds of baggage and sometimes their mean-spiritedness is nothing to do with us. But sometimes we justly deserve people's criticism because of things we do ourselves and though what they did may have been in the wrong way and upsetting the truth was people were waiting for an opportunity to censure us, and we get hurt because we know there's a grain of truth in their attack! It's a lesson to us all though having been hurt: 'speak your truth quietly and clearly' and with love.

This is an important issue. As leaders we are exposed to go through something like this sometime or another, but my belief is, people around you know your fruit, good or bad, they know it, our many words will never be enough to defend ourselves for the truth doesn't need to be defended, if people know that we bare righteous fruit, then God is faithful to clear our name. And at the end, if we leave it to God he will make us shine brighter than before. The juice that comes out of us while in this trial is what people taste to see what we are really made of.

Integrity as a christian is extrememly important in todays world. I learned a valuable lesson a few years ago when a relative who had just left a rehab was trashing my character to make herself feel better. I got angry, I stormed around thinking how dare she? I prayed and then realized that if I wanted my witness to stand, that I needed to be honest about everything. This meant facing up to some secrets, not just facing them, but admitting them. When we hold secrets we give the weapon to the enemy. When we reveal our hidden sins, then Gods grace is revealed. It was perhaps one of the hardest things I had done in my life because the biggest secret was an abortion, and how could I tell anyone else about that? Revealing this secret though, not only demonstrated my integrity, but gave me opportunities to witness to others, and is now responsible for steering me into a ministry that never even occurred to me. Want people to trust you? Don't hide. Anything. Don't keep secrets. For what is hidden shall be made known one way or another. Trust God and He will direct you in ways you never thought possible.

Being in ministry I have often felt the wounds of friends. The very one's closest to me and at first it was shocking for me. I have always tried to make sure that all that I do is done with the utmost of Christian integrity. When it first happened I wondered why? I had even prayed about it and asked God why? This is not how it is suppose to be? Why me? I remember the Lord reminding me that I was in good company when persecuted. I was in His company. Instead of it being painful I was able through Him to use it to abide deeper in the Vine. Of course it still hurts, and there is anger, and frustration but there is no longer the shock and I now know It is another opportunity for me to grow and mature.
A few years back I was in a crisis and I remember as other pastors gathered around me and prayed for me I felt no change. But a dear friend took the time to pray and was still for a moment to listen. The words he said were profound. He said "Betty you do not have to prove anything". Wow, that was what I was trying to do. Prove my worth, prove that I could be in leadership, and the list could go on. All my life I have been a people pleaser, trying to make everyone happy. And guess what? There will always be someone who is not, who will even think the worse of us or even spread false information about us. But I now realise that I have nothing to prove anymore. All I need to do is abide in Him and if false accusations come I just hide even deeper in Him for a while, pray, ask for forgiveness for my attitude, and forgive the other person and then come out again in His strength. It is a process and it takes time but it is possible.

When your integrity has been damaged. It is very hard to repair it. We have a minister in our church who has been acused of adultry with one of the members. There are two sides to the story. We dont know who to beleive. both names have been destroyed. The minister has had some marriage problems, has been in trouble with the law, and been caught in many lies. How can I trust someone like that? How can I know if he is telling the truth. The Pastor of the church has silenced him and set him down. Now The minister is trying to overide the pastor decision by going the the superentendent, and Bishop. What can you do when you have done all you can? The acuser has also been caught in some lies, has marrage problems, and has done some things that are not Christ like. The Pastor has also silenced and set her down. As one of the leaders of the church I know I have to pray more now than ever. The devil can creep in when you are unaware of your surounding and take over. So now is the time for us to pray even the more. Until we can allow God to take contol of the sitution we will make a mess of it. So now we just put into Gods Hands.

I too have been misunderstood, faulted for things I have no control over, and falsely accused; it is so very painful.
I have have the difficulty of working with a few people on church staff that I have little respect for. I see no work ethic, and a character that constantly looks for loop holes. I am watching manipulation and double standards. This too is painful.

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