Being a person of character means living with integrity. This will enable you to stand strong in the midst of moral dilemmas and in the midst of crisis.
In movies, we laugh at the villain who was only pretending to be a person of character and is then exposed. But in truth, for many, this is their greatest fear. To be exposed as a person that has NO character, NO values, and NO benefit to society makes for many nightmares. How can you avoid this fate?
Routinely asking yourself these questions and truly live as a person of character is a great start.
Begin Living with Integrity by Asking These 7 Questions Today
1) Have I been totally honest today?
Often, you can save time – and maybe money – with a little bit of dishonesty. But how will that tarnish your character? Every dishonest moment sets you up for the possibility of being exposed as a fraud, a characterless imp.
Someone asks you how you like their gaudy shirt and you rave about it, though inside you are laughing at them is one example. It seems like the nice thing to say. Obviously, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But later, someone else will ask you what you really think of their outfit. Then you will be in a bind.
Additionally, that person may lose a potential job or relationship if that outfit doesn’t fit with the norms of their world or culture. You just set them up for failure by not being honest.
I am NOT suggesting that we should be cruel. What I am saying is that we need to find polite and nice ways to tell the truth. Did you do that today? Did you have the courage to be honest?
There are risks to living with integrity. You may lose a job or a relationship. But ultimately, your character will be stronger because you told the truth.
2) Have I been faithful to my own set of values?
One of my weekly exercises is to read over a list of values that I have developed for myself. It is like a personal constitution. While I might be able to justify breaking someone else’s values, I should NEVER compromise my own. I recommend writing them out and reviewing them often.
It was several years ago now that I was talking about this principle with a young lady and she shared what some of her own values. Among them, was that she would never prostitute herself. She did not write it down, and did not review it after that conversation. I remember one afternoon, I was driving home from work, and there she was prostituting.
A few months later, I again was talking with her at the shelter where I worked and she explained that she owed a drug dealer some money, so she was desperate. When we don’t write out our values and review them, we are likely to find excuses to NOT hold our own set of values.
These values might come from any source. Many of mine were shaped by my time in the military, my time in Boy Scouts, and from my faith. Find your values and write them down. You may need to rewrite them several times until you really take them in. But living with integrity requires a solid foundation of values.
3) Did I do anything this week that I would not want my mother to find out about?
Growing up, my mom seemed to have a sixth sense about when I was going to do something wrong. She could sense if I was not living up to the values that she had presented to me throughout my life. From my earliest days, she had big dreams for me and knew that a bad character could ruin that possibility.
When you are examining your choices, are there any that you would be embarrassed for your mother or some other parental figure that you respect to find out about?
4) Where did I spend my time this week?
Once a year, I take the time to track where I spend my time. Approximately every 20 minutes during my waking hours, I write down what I have been doing. At the end of the week, I summarize where I have been spending my time.
The very act causes me to evaluate my feelings and pushes me to have a more productive use of my time. Additionally, it calls to attention where I am NOT living up to my standards. Doing this simple exercise once a year can put you on the right track towards living with integrity.
5) What could I have done better this week?
If you are reading this blog, I am confident that you aim to do well at everything you do. But sometimes, we get distracted and suddenly, we are simply checking the box. We are phoning in at work instead of giving it our best effort.
At the end of every week, conduct a review of what you did that week. Did you give all that you could to your family? How about your job? Did you steal time from your boss by taking an extra long lunch or playing on Facebook? How about that special project that you have been working on? Could you have done that better?
Find ONE thing you could have done better. It could be simply being more present when you are with your spouse, or reviewing your work before you turn it in. Resolve to make that difference in the week to come. Over time, your efforts will produce a cumulative effect that will be reflected in your character.
6) Who could I have served better this week?
The term servant leader is tossed about fairly haphazardly these days. Most leaders want to be seen as a servant that will care for the lives and needs of those that work with and for them.
But did we give them all that we could have? Should we have listened more to the opinions and emotions of our staff? How about strangers?
Living with integrity means serving others. Your character is sometimes all that strangers may know of you. Helping an elderly woman carry groceries to her car, or letting someone in front of you in line at the store speaks volumes.
7) Did I do my best?
Looking at your entire day, did you give it all you have? If not, what was going on? There really is NO reason not to give the absolute best that you have in you. Your character needs to be one that you give what you could have in any situation.
I love this question. Did I do my best for that past hour? Could my time have been better spent? Of course you did good – but was that good really your best? Redefine what good looks like. When people look at you, do they think of excellence and coming through in challenging situations?
Even if you fall short of your goal, did you leave it all out on the field? Do you have regrets because you did not push that last 20 yards or simply gave up when things became difficult? Ask this question often and your character will always be in check.
Living with integrity is not easy. We read the stories of great historical figures that have made difficult but brilliant decisions, and we wish we had an ounce of their character. Sometimes, it feels like we will never get there. But we can.
Take it one step at a time and don’t give up. Ask these questions routinely and you will reap a great character that will speak to generations that will follow after you.