Henry Cloud’s Integrity

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:

  1. Creating and maintaining trust
  2. Seeing and facing reality
  3. Working in a way that brings results
  4. Embracing negative realities and solving them
  5. Causing growth and increase
  6. 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?”

Upcoming Group Coaching Program

Just finished this book and excited about developing a coaching group around it.


Edging closer to a new year and decade, we can challenge ourselves about personal growth in order for God to do all he desires in our lives. My working name for the group coaching program is this: Going After The Better and The Deeper: My 2020 “I Can” Plan. The program will last four weeks meeting on Wednesdays starting January 8.

Of course, you can start your work now by getting a copy of the book. To whet your appetite of what your coaching may address, here are a few quotes:

  • One reality you must come to terms with is that your mind is not always telling you the truth.
  • Accepting reality is like a reset button for rebooting your computer.
  • You are never without options. That is the nature of God’s creation.
  • We are all control freaks, to an extent. God has always encouraged his people to take risks in order to grow, change, and live the lives of faith that will produce good fruit.
  • The accurate meaning of failure is that it is a learning experience.
  • Whenever you encounter a closed door, God knows what he is doing. Trust him; he is for you.

Official registration for the group will come later. To get in now, send an email to john@firstbradenton.com.

Offering Generosity

For my second favorite takeaway from Dare to Lead, I’m going to part three entitled “Braving Trust.” This part focuses on the process of trust. Brown’s team identified seven behaviors that make up trust’s anatomy, which she came up with the acronym BRAVING to define. Those seven behaviors are:

  1. Boundaries
  2. Reliability
  3. Accountability
  4. Vault
  5. Integrity
  6. Nonjudgment
  7. Generosity

After reading the definitions and unpacking of these seven, the one that most challenged me was #7. Read this definition, and you might see why:

Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.

There are so many opportunities for us to make up what we think other’s intentions are, why they said what they said, or did what they did. And many of them aren’t based on generosity. Many are based on our shallow trust levels.

So here are scenarios where I’ve put this to the test since reading this:

  • When someone doesn’t return my call/voicemail/text/email in the time I think they should
  • When someone appears to have over promised…again
  • When someone clearly didn’t read all the details of my email
  • When someone gives the wrong impression, in my opinion

See what I mean? All these scenarios have potentially opposite outcomes when I practice generosity. Generosity deepens trust and diminishes suspicion or accusation.

Generosity is a gift that can come in various packages. Here’s to offering it more every day.

6 Lessons from the Blind Runner


The pic above is a screenshot of the results from the race I ran in PA yesterday. If you know me at all, you know I can analyze the heck out of a list like this. Don’t get me started. Actually, it’s too late anyway…did that hours ago.

Before you focus on my name and placement, let your mind look over the rest of the results. One detail that glares at you is that finishers 2&3 crossed the finish line at the same time. Not unusual in the running world, particularly in smaller, local races. Usually that means family members or running friends ran together, literally-they stayed together, and probably chatted, the entire course length. Not my thing, but it is a lot of people’s.

But without being there yesterday, you wouldn’t know there is more to Adam and Brandon’s story than they ran a race together. And I can’t say I know a whole lot more than that since I didn’t talk to them. But I did watch them. I simply had to. Why? Because one of them wasn’t going to start, let alone finish, without the other one. Brandon was blind, and Adam was his guide.

In a much bigger race I once saw such a team at the start line, but I never saw them on the course after we started. This second opportunity was different. Because of the layout of the course, we passed each other twice. In all, I had four chances to watch them do their thing. And do it they did.

So instead of just analyzing these results yesterday, I thought about what I could learn from these two men. Apparently, quite a bit. Pause and think about them separately. What would it take for you, 17 years old and blind, to attempt to run a half marathon? And if you can see, what would it take for you to guide a blind runner any distance, let alone 13.1 miles? Again, I didn’t talk to them, so I’m guessing what the answers are to these questions.

For the rest of this post, here are the lessons I take away from putting myself in Brandon’s shoes-which seems incredibly assuming.

  • Trust

This has to be the most important thing they both have in their work together. Adam doesn’t have a chance if Brandon doesn’t put his trust in him.

  • Courage

Maybe Brandon’s not seen his entire life and only knows what he knows, but how else can you define his willingness to step up to the start line without declaring courage. I met another runner running his first half yesterday, and he needed some courage. But he could see and was old enough to be Brandon’s dad. Courage was on full display.

  • Joy

Brandon’s face before, during, and after the race exuded joy. Fear, not present. Doubt, defeated. He even ran a recovery mile or so afterwards with that same joyful countenance.

  • Fulfillment

Brandon knew he belonged with everyone else. He experienced the same fulfillment as all finishers do when they cross that line. He did not have to feel or think less than.

  • Exemplify

If I were to ask Brandon what he hopes others learn from seeing him run, I’d put money on his answer being something like, “I hope they see what’s possible. I hope they learn to trust, have courage, pursue joy, and know fulfillment.” (Ok…those are my words, but you get the point.)

  • Normalcy

We are all normal as God created us. Embrace it. Be the normal God made you to be.

To be honest, in life we’re all blind runners. Wouldn’t you agree? So let’s thank God for all the Brandons who show up in our lives to remind us.

Building Trust

This quote came from my @youversion devotion this morning:

“My perspective of every situation will either encourage or dishearten my trust in God.”

I believe that. So to put it to a test, here’s a simple exercise I started as a journal entry. You might give it a try also.

Make two headings on the page: Dishearten & Encourage

Under dishearten, write a perspective that clearly lacks trust in God.  Maybe something like, “God doesn’t care.”

Then under encourage, write the perspective that counters this statement. Possibly, “God is always at work.”

So far I’ve written four competing perspectives on my page. I’m going to review it daily and add to it throughout the week.  The goal-build trust instead of sabotage it.

What exercise might help you build your trust in God?

He Is My Guide

(Day 7 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

We have entered a season of Trial and Tribulations. The Trials consist of the decisions we made in our lives. The Tribulations that have occurred in this season have made us stronger than before. We start to wonder, “Am I being tested?”

I have to remind myself, “I know who is before, and I know who stands behind me.” I’ve been dealing with loyalty, trust issues, bad habits, back stabbing, identity, loneliness, and losing myself in Christ. I have to decide whether I want to be “The World’s Sheep” or “Jesus’ Sheep.”

I noticed God started to give me what I wanted. He took away my distractions. He took away the people who caused me pain. He calmed my anxiety, mixed with stress and depression. He’s showing me salvation and redemption. I want to receive it.

Do you feel as though God is silent towards you? You need to pray and talk to him. He wants a conversation out of you. Do you feel as though you are being tested? Pray. God will show you the right way. You should not rush, for God knows what you need and when you need it. God might not come when YOU want him, but God is ALWAYS on time! Do you trust God? You should ALWAYS trust God, because we know he is a Good, Good Father!

Trust in God when things don’t look good. He will be your guide. 2 Kings 18-19

By Shanti M. Washington

Keeping Sane

Possibilities. Endless they are.

If you allowed yourself, you could drive yourself nuts thinking about them. All the “what could/should have beens,” “if onlys,” or “just supposes” are quite mind blowing. For instance:

  • What if Cain hadn’t killed his brother?
  • If only Moses hadn’t struck the rock.
  • What could have been Samson’s legacy?
  • What if Ruth didn’t follow Naomi?
  • Just suppose Israel never selected king #1.
  • If only David hadn’t stayed home.
  • Just suppose Esther wasn’t successful.

Those are just a few before Jesus decided to make his earthly appearance-before he showed us that overthinking the possibilities is unnecessary when he’s in the picture.

As we consider the past, live out the present, and look into the future, in order to keep our sanity we must keep Jesus in the picture. He helps us make sense of it all. For those wanting perfect peace, keep your mind stayed on Jesus.

You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

What If, Men?

I’ve traveled to Jordan twice this year. Much could be said about traveling to that part of the world. One thing I noticed the first time and then even more the second time is this: Arab men know how to do community.

They enjoy talking to each other. They enjoy healthy disagreement. They share the good and the bad. They lean into one another. They plan time together. From my experience, they do it better than we Americans. So I’m doing what I can now to change that experience.

We have an opportunity. If the opportunity could be boiled down to one word, I believe that word is trust. Much like we have to grow our trust in God, we should pay attention to grow our trust in one another. It’s quite possible that the former is needed and necessary in order for the latter to happen. So how do we go about growing these trusts?

TRUST BY SHARING YOUR FEARS

Yesterday one of my friends did this with me during a breakfast conversation. He shared a fear he’s dealing with, and I’m the first male that knows. He seemed to feel better just because he had a brother to share his fear with. Scripture tells us to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Imagine how lighter the community of men would be if we shared our fears rather than bearing them all alone. What if we started by sharing our fears with God and asking him to give us the courage to share them with a brother?

TRUST BY BEING HONEST

We have the habit of not being real, not being completely honest and transparent. Guys, you are not going to be weak by being real. You are going to be stronger because you are not denying the truth. The truth can only set you free when you speak it and live in it. Earlier this year I watched a brother go through a trying season, life threatening, because he refused to be honest. Imagine how stronger the community of men would be if we embraced honesty. What if we started by being honest with God and humbling ourselves to be honest with a brother?

TRUST BY TAKING THE CHANCE

As I’m writing this, the news is reporting the murder/suicide of a deputy sheriff’s family in a nearby county. Familiar story-no one knows why, no one suspected it, no one saw it coming. We can grow our trust in numerous ways of taking chances. What if we took a personal chance by considering a mental health check up as much as a physical one? What if we took a chance by pointing out odd behavior to our brothers? What if we took a chance by asking how to pray for one another? What if we took a chance to follow through on a Holy Spirit nudge to reach out to a brother? Imagine the impact to the community of men if we took more chances. What if we started by asking God to give us a chance to take today?

The Worst Case of Being Misunderstood

Ever been misunderstood? I’m not asking have you ever had a misunderstanding. I’m talking about being mislabeled, mischarged, or mispegged to the point that trust was broken. In some cases, these events lead to years of damage and loss, such as years in prison for being accused falsely. If it’s been that bad for you, that’s rough. I can’t relate to that depth of being misunderstood. But I can tell you this, that’s not the worst case of being misunderstood. No, the worst case happened a few millienia ago.

The worst case of being misunderstood happened to God. Yes, that’s right. And just like the case usually is, it was because of a lie. The lie led to mistrust. The mistrust led to the worst decision known. And God and his creation have been suffering ever since. Yes, that’s right. You have been suffering because God was misunderstood.

You’ve probably guessed where this happened. If not, here’s a hint. The lie had to do with becoming like God. (Now that’s a whopper of a lie.) The lie caused Adam and Eve to lose trust in God’s character. The choice to believe that lie in essence said to God, “You can’t be trusted.” The first person to ever be misunderstood created those who made him feel misunderstood.

So here you are. Either being misunderstood right now or thinking about when it’s happened to you in the past. Find comfort in these thoughts:

  • God is the one person in the world who does get you, all of you.
  • God knows what it feels like to be misunderstood. It started soon after he created us and has never stopped.
  • God found a way to offer reconciliation to those who misunderstood him. You can do that too, most likely. But remember, just like his offer, yours may or may not be accepted.
  • God’s character wasn’t impacted by his being misunderstood. At his core, he is love. Strengthen your core with love.
  • God continues to do his work. So can you. Being misunderstood is not your identity. Your identity is found in your Creator. Don’t believe the lie that started this whole thing. 

Real Sabbath: God’s Sovereignty

My latest reading has been on the subject of Sabbath. Why? It’s a curious subject; we all need it; and I’m putting together a coaching program on the subject.

The two books I’m reading through this month are excellent; they’ve made the resource list for the program. Here are links to them: The Rest of God and Rhythms of Rest.

To give you a taste of the goodness of these books and what you could look forward to in a program on this subject, here’s a quote from chapter four of The Rest of God:

Real Sabbath, the kind that empties and fills us, depends on complete confidence and trust. And confidence and trust like that are rooted in a deep conviction that God is good and God is sovereign.

To give the reader a practical way to seek the sovereignty of God and therefore achieve an attitude of Sabbath, the author gave this challenge based on the storyline found in Acts 3-4 (you might want to read that now):

To practice the sovereignty of God today when you pray, start with God. Survey what he has made. Recite what he has done. Proclaim who he is.

So I tried that this afternoon as a journal entry. Give it a shot and see if your mind and spirit aren’t entered into a deeper place of trust and confidence.