One of the essential characteristics of a leader is integrity. As Teen Challenge leaders, we define integrity as “living and working with excellence.” This is not only a goal, but an expectation in TC leadership. How can we lead others and expect students entering our program to see Jesus if we do not operate with integrity? Proverbs 20:7 (KJV) says, “The just man walketh in his integrity; his children are blessed after him.”
Jesus spoke of His actions and words, testifying to who He was. Jesus suggests that how we act and what we say reflects what is happening in our hearts. Our words and our actions reflect our integrity.
We use the word “excellence” to describe our expectations of leaders. One dictionary explains that “excellence is the state, quality, or condition of excelling; superiority.” Others describe it as something in which one “excels, the quality of excelling, possessing good qualities, or in high degree.” As lovers and servants of Jesus, we should be people of excellence.
An unknown author once said, “Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence.” I like this quote, as it seems to hold us responsible to reflect on the importance of how we do our work. What picture do we want to be left behind when we are gone? How will we be remembered? Did our leadership reflect integrity or excellence? This is a challenge for us all.
In Hebrew, the word “integrity” means completeness, moral innocence, or perfection; the exact opposite of compromise. Aristotle is credited with saying, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Why is integrity important?
First, integrity defines who you are to others.
When someone thinks of you, inevitably, they will think about whether or not you have integrity. In some cultures, the word strongly refers to your honesty. People want to know if you are “real.”
Integrity also determines how you will respond in certain situations. When you are faced with the circumstance of choosing to do right or wrong, your integrity, or lack of it, will determine which way you will choose to go. It demonstrates your spiritual condition. If you have no integrity, then you have a spiritual problem, because God wants us to be righteous.
Lacking integrity can damage your testimony. If someone knows that you have no integrity, they will certainly not listen to you when you share the Gospel with them. As a leader, you will have others looking to you as a model and an example. They want to have someone they can trust and see godly values on display.
Second, integrity pleases God.
1 Chronicles 29:17 (NIV) says, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” God takes pleasure in those who will follow Him, those who will be a disciple of Christ, and those who chase after Him. When we are following closely, we don’t get off course. God sees the heart, and He knows the motives of our hearts. He knows if we are sincerely trying to break the habits of the past and pursue His ways.
I have worked with leaders for over 40 years, and have had all kinds of experiences, some better than others. One of my greatest joys as a leader is working with people who live and work with integrity. I love being able to entrust team members with responsibilities, knowing that they will fulfill their tasks with excellence. To trust, to believe in, and to have faith in your team is a great blessing of God. It pleases God, but it also pleases you as a leader when your team members are people of integrity.
Third, a person of integrity is validated by their words and their deeds.
If we are pure in heart, we can be pure in action. Integrity is making daily actions line up with heart values. Our prayer should be, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14 KJV).
As leaders we are constantly being monitored by our staff, students, donors, and communities. Our lives become a series of pictures and memories that others will remember. They will revisit these pictures and replay the words from our mouths, which can truly be scary. Will they have positive impact or will they be moments that we later regret? I know that I have certainly spoken words over the years that were not faith-filled and only wish I had never said them.
Fortunately, time is your friend. Your integrity of walking out your faith and speaking positive words of hope will drown out the few mistakes you may make along the journey. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, but thank God for His grace. I continue to pray that my actions and my words will bring glory to God. I want to live a consistent life that testifies of God’s favor and grace.
Our goal must always be excellence and integrity. Integrity is critical in whatever culture you call your own. In a world with so many negative examples, it is incredibly important for us to be men and women who uphold truth and justice with integrity.
Jerry Nance, PhD
Global Teen Challenge