In 2006, Dr. Henry Cloud published what I believe to be his best book entitled Integrity.
His objective is to connect the dots for how integrity and character work day to day. To do that, he outlines six character traits that enable talents and abilities to get their desired results:
- Creating and maintaining trust
- Seeing and facing reality
- Working in a way that brings results
- Embracing negative realities and solving them
- Causing growth and increase
- Achieving transcendence and meaning in life
It’s rich. I finished re-reading it last night. Yes, it’s one of those books. Here’s proof:
- Underdevelopment leaves a gap between where we are at any given moment and where we need to be. That gap is our need and opportunity for growth.
- Dysfunction is when an effort toward making something better makes it worse. That is when we are in trouble. And both a lack of integration and a lack of development can do that.
- We trust people who we think hear us, understand us, and are able to empathize with our realities as well as their own.
- Research has for decades proven that you can help desperate people immensely by giving them no answers at all, and only giving them empathy.
- If you want to leave the best wake possible, leave behind a trail of people who have experienced your being “for them.”
- Wise people are “cautious in friendship,” as the proverb says. They seek to get to know a person clearly, as a person truly is, before they hire him, marry him, become partners with him, or divorce him, fire him, or not go forward with him.
- It behooves all of us to be working on whatever unresolved pain we are walking around with, lest some issue in “reality” tap into it and overcome our ability to make good decisions.
- Secure identity is about who a person is, not what he does or what his results are.
- People oriented toward growth want others to grow as well as themselves.
- The immature character asks life to meet his demands. But the mature character meets the demands of life.
- The one question that hovers above all others in importance for a person’s functioning in life is “Are you God, or not?”
Adversity. No one wants it, but when we get it we gain so much. Sometimes that gain feels immediate. Other times it may seem decades before we realize it. I believe the latter was Joseph’s experience (for a refresher, read Genesis 37-50). However long it took him, here’s how he let us know his gain:
You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result-the survival of many people. (Genesis 50:20)
A mindset toward gain from adversity is found in Joseph’s statement. The mindset is vertical (about God), not horizontal (about man). Rather than looking at what man or circumstances have planned, he had learned to look at what God had planned. Easier said than done in the face of adversity, right?
I want to suggest that one preparation we can make before adversity knocks on the door is to make a commitment to integrity.
A commitment to integrity in the face of adversity will…
- …guard against fear invasion (horizontal).
- …ward off impulsive reaction (horizontal) giving foundation for calm decisions (vertical).
- …raise the banner for complete transparency (vertical).
- …remove selfish ambition (horizontal) to bring in a kingdom mindset (vertical).
Maybe you haven’t considered that integrity is what’s being tested in your adversity. There’s no way around the reality that adversity peels back the layers and shows everyone who we really are. How are you preparing for that revelation? How can you study for the integrity test?
He is a shield for those who live with integrity. Proverbs 2:7
Solomon says wisdom leads to living with integrity which in turn results in being shielded by God.
We all long to feel safe and protected. Reflecting on this verse recently, I made the connection between making wise choices and maintaining safety from God when the right choice is made. His safety and protection is not guaranteed and is put in jeopardy when I choose to disobey or disregard wisdom. Whatever the results are from an unwise choice is my fault; I chose to leave the protection behind God’s shield.
This isn’t necessarily a popular thought these days. Living life as you want without any fear of repercussions is what culture preaches. Then when life strikes back after someone makes a poor choice, suddenly God is questioned and possibly even denied. It’s his fault, not ours. I bet if we asked some guys from scripture they would testify differently about what happens when you leave the shield of God’s protection.
Ask David. When he left because of his lust, people died, including his infant son.
Ask Jonah. When he left because of his prejudice, he ended up on the beach, covered in fish guts.
Ask Achan. When he left because of his selfishness, he lost everything, and so did his family.
We’re just like these guys. We’ve left the shield at some point. Thankfully, that doesn’t have to be a permanent decision.
Have you thanked God lately for his protection, for being your shield, for welcoming you back after you’ve left? Maybe the next time you talk with him, not only thank him but also commit to following him with integrity, to staying behind his shield of protection.
(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up success for the upright; He is a shield for those who live with integrity so that He may guard the paths of justice and protect the way of His loyal followers. Then you will understand righteousness, justice, and integrity — every good path…For the upright will inhabit the land, and those of integrity will remain in it;” Proverbs 2:6-9, 21 HCSB
These verses teach these results of living with integrity:
- God is your shield
- God guards your path
- God protects your way
- God gives you understanding
- God deepens your roots