Yesterday, our Pastor (Pastor Chad Hayes, Christ Church San Marcos) spoke on Integrity….it was one point of several. As alway, he made me think. Prompted me to think back once again on some things I have been taught in my life….
As my mom pushed the grocery cart through the produce section, I held on to the tight to the side of the cart. My sister was riding in the seat of the buggy. At age 4 or 5, I was eye level with the produce bins. The fruit looked appealing. They have grapes; lots of grapes. We hardly ever get grapes. (probably because they were rarely “on sale”) And I could reach them all by myself. There are lots of them; red ones, dark purple ones and green ones. I like the red ones. I don’t actually remember reaching up and taking a few and I had not thought through the fact that my mom would see that I had something in my mouth. She did. “What is in your mouth?” I answer, “grape”. Her, “You stole that grape. We didn’t pay for that and you took it.”.
I learned integrity in the grocery store. We were never allowed to eat something while shopping with the plan of paying for it later. It wasn’t ours. My mom was a stickler (thanks, mom).
Later, our youth pastor, Pastor Randy Phillips, taught us about Integrity…at least once a year. He said Integrity was having “grit” (right there in the middle of the word) and doing the right thing even when no one will ever know. That message stuck with me (I eventually taught the same lesson to young people in the Sunday School class I taught).
Integrity is definitely a part of who I am. So where is the conflict? (If you are a regular reader you know there is always something).
Because I tend to view the world as “black” and “white” there is something that bugs me. I have seen this among believers over and over. There have even been times when I have participated in this activity. It is an area that is very often overlooked as “lacking integrity”. It is the “exaggeration”.
One of my friends in Alabama would say, “He is speaking ‘evangelastically'” In other words, “He is stretching the truth”.
Exaggerating, stretching the truth, IS lying. Lying is a lack of Integrity.
We, who run in “church circles” are guilty. Here are the areas where we often “stretch the truth”. Tell if you have heard any of these…
“His church has thousands of members.” (sure, 800 adults and 700 children…if everyone showed up on the same Sunday).
“Our service on Sunday was awesome” (really? Did anything out of the ordinary happen? Any miracles?)
“He oversees 567 churches in Africa” (a church = a pastor + seven members…hmmm. Okay, I will give you that one.)
“She was ‘on tour’ in Texas” (she visited two churches and sang a “special”.)
“We prayed for hours” (we met, talked for 45 minutes, prayed for 15 minutes and went out to eat together for 2 hours – we did say another prayer for the food.)
“I had a revelation. God told me to meet this person” (I felt lead to go here and had a wreck where I met this new person….it was all God but I took the credit.)
There are so many more. I find we often exaggerate the “awesomeness” of things and the numbers. We do this to make ourselves “feel good” in front of others. Why? Because we are always competing. (I have some things to say about the competing thing but that is another post).
I have a good friend, who tells the best stories. Every recounting of events is a little stretchier than the last. At one point I started asking, “Is that what really happened?” As I began asking, he began thinking more about what he was saying…the thing was, he wasn’t consciously telling lies, it was a habit.
We all have the tendency to see the past through rose-colored glasses. Things that happened are bigger and better than when they really happened. We simply must begin seeing and stating truth, even it isn’t exactly what we thought it should be or could be.
Integrity is being truthful in words and in deeds. In order to be truthful in words and in deeds our thoughts must become truthful; brutally truthful. Our words and deeds cannot be truthful until we become truthful to ourselves. Start telling yourself the truth. Why have you been lying to yourself? Identify the real reason you haven’t been telling yourself the truth.
Integrity starts with what you tell yourself.