And as a leader, is it important?
As a leader, our level of integrity is essential. Our words and actions need to be aligned. But they also need to match who we are on the inside. Otherwise, we are, on some levels, fake.
On valentines weekend, I decided to give online dating another try. It’s a new year; I’m a healthy ‘new’ me again, so why not see who’s out there! Covid isn’t going to make it easier to meet anyone new for some time yet.
I finally found a Christian App that I didn’t have to pay to be able to message someone. It let me see their pictures, know their level of church involvement/ commitment and a little about them in what they actually put in their bio section. I appreciated how you couldn’t message them unless they also liked you. That way, you didn’t spam everyone or be spammed more to the point. I knew I was new to this world. I’d heard the stories of others thinking they had fallen in love with their perfect match — only to discover (usually after sending them money) that they had been scammed. So my streetwise guard was up, but my heart was ready to share who I am.
So what did I discover?
I was encouraged and surprised that guys liked my photo and wanted to chat. They weren’t put off by my perhaps unusual life as a missionary. Many guys my age were single because they had lost their spouse through being cheated on or sadly in death. Some had kids, others dogs. But I felt camaraderie with them. We all wanted one thing – to find someone to partner with God for the rest of our lives. We wrote our bios saying we were honest, someone of integrity, looking for a life partner who is also serious about their faith in God. I have discovered, sadly, that not all men actually mean these words.
When online, all we have is what we write. Our words have to convey almost all our meaning and intentions. No one can see our real faces, hear our accent, tone of voice or facial expressions. What we post out there on the site is our identity and hopefully, our integrity.
What do I think?
I believe some guys have integrity and are as honest and vulnerable as is wise when you initially make contact. So you move on to WhatsApp to make chatting more comfortable. You trust that what they say is as truthful as what you are sharing. But when some of their replies don’t seem to line up with their character or situation. A little question mark pop’s up in your mind. Having lived on several continents and worked with many different cultures, personalities and backgrounds, I think I have a good sense of being able to read people.
Even though it’s hard to only have what’s messaged to go from. I don’t want to make quick judgements or assumptions because none of us likes to be treated that way. We want to be trusted and trustworthy. But when the little question marks continue to pop up, a question becomes louder and bolder – are they real? Are they who they say they are? How much integrity do they have for me to believe what they are communicating? Can I trust them?
How do you find out for sure?
Live video chatting at the start feels too soon. It feels like a deeper level of openness that’s a little scary. So you do a quick call to say hello it’s me, nice to hear your voice… Some sound exactly how you thought they would. It confirms they could be real – at least they definitely aren’t a robot!
But others, mmmm. A white European guy who did go to college in the states but has worked around the world sounds like a southern black guy? Or someone born in New York and lived most of his adult life in California sounds like he’s calling from the middle east? They don’t compute in my head.
Full disclosure, I am Scottish, so you could think I would have a strong Scottish accent. Sometimes I do, but I’m also one of those people who take on the accent of the people around me. Thus at times, I have sounded like I’m from Birmingham-England, Texas or Minnesota. Being surrounded with only that accent for even just a short time affects how I sound.
Where I am now, I’m with a mix of nationalities – Scottish, English, American, Europeans, French, Swiss. So my accent is a mix of the english speaking ones thus matching with where I’m from and those I live and work beside. The question I ask myself while listening to them —does their voice match with what they’ve communicated?
We can’t hide our true selves for too long.
Some are slightly offended by even the hint of doubting their ‘realness’, so they send you a little video saying – it’s me, I’m real, don’t doubt me!!!!! It could a video matching their bio picture they’ve either stolen from the internet or made for that situation – but it doesn’t track with their profile history. Then, if you press them for even a little live video chat, they explode in offensive anger that you’re questioning them. Even if they had said several times how much they think you’re the one and can’t believe they’ve found someone so special to share in their lives that day!
Don’t worry, I know others who are very happy to do an initial little video chat – after all, many people spend their whole working day on zoom in this season of lockdown. It’s not a weird thing to do any more. And they too want to know if I’m REAL.
Do I sound a little sceptical? I would be lying to you and myself if I said I wasn’t just a little bit. It has altered how I interact with new guys asking to connect with me. I do ask a few more detailed questions and want their replies. For example, what family do they have, what kind of relationship are they looking for. But it’s surprising how some struggle with the simple question of what church they go to? This one shouldn’t take time to answer if they’ve said in their profile they attend church weekly because it’s an integral part of their faith. And then for that church to be real and want to say more on why they like going there.
If you have integrity, then these questions are simple and easy to answer. Truth is easy to share and keep track of.
Maybe we Christians are an easier target for these scammers because we want to trust others to have the same integrity level as ourselves. In this season of covid restrictions meeting new people in the hope of finding love has forced many onto these Apps. To not have to put the search on hold for a year or more. But I believe and hope there are more real and honest people out there than those who want to take advantage.
I don’t mean this blog to be a rant about online dating scammers. But to show as a real-life example of how our integrity shows through in the end. I’m still taking time to search and connect but with wisdom and God’s discernment. I do believe God has a godly faithful guy out there for me. I just trust God with the timing of when we’ll meet. Could I have already met him, but it’s too early to tell – I’m not someone who falls in love at first picture.
What does integrity have to do with leadership?
Everything! As a leader, we need to and are expected to have more integrity because we now have responsibility. We have people looking to us who need to trust us and believe what we say. In turn, we too have leaders who expect us to do what we say we will do. To take care and develop those under us and so much more.
We have, sadly, all had leaders whose words and actions don’t match up. Who want us to be more faithful, hardworking, or â€¦ than they are themselves. We don’t like it. It’s not fair, and if we can, we move out from under their leadership as quickly as possible. Their leadership model isn’t a joy to be part of, especially in a Christian setting, because we expect a higher standard of character.
But when we have godly leaders with high integrity – I’m not saying who are perfect – but real, honest, caring and humble, we thrive. We trust them and are willing to put in the extra effort because we and our work are appreciated. We all achieve more and enjoy the process—integrity matters.
What does the bible say about integrity?
The bible is our teacher, along with the Holy Spirit, to help us understand how to be more Christlike in our character and how we do life. There are many verses describing this importance of having integrity and the benefits to your life. For example:
- Other leaders sought out Jesus’ opinions on subjects because they saw his integrity [Matt 22:16]
- David expresses in prayer how pleased God is with his heart of integrity and how the people responded well to God in response. [1Chronicles 29:17]
- The promises we will receive from God as a result of our integrity and obedience [1Kings 9:4+5]
- Teaching with integrity so others can’t say anything bad about us [Titus 2:7+8]
- “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out” [Proverbs 10:9]
I love how God doesn’t look at our outward actions but at our heart. Integrity draws others to us. Who we are on the inside does eventually show through no matter how ‘good’ we think we are at only showing what we believe is beneficial. There are many great and wise verses in Proverbs. I picked 10:9 because it was actually my verse of the day in my bible app today. Which I thought was very appropriate and confirmation that this topic is rather timely in my life.
How should we respond when we doubt someone’s integrity?
We need to ask more questions. But how we ask them, or what attitude/ motive is behind why we are asking them, is essential. We don’t want to ask because we what to trick them up to prove they are fake. We inquire for more detail to help us understand them. Making assumptions based on little information usually ends in miscommunication and broken relationships. We need to be like God “compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness” [Ps 86:15] As well as “cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove” [Matt 10:16, The Message]
It reminds me of a saying – “don’t judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes” This originated in a poem by Mary T. Lathrap in 1895 called Judge Softly. I can’t find the original link as it’s rather old, but this is the best one to give you the whole poem. Thanks to: Quora and Barry Popik. She has a beautiful and gracious way of helping us see the bigger picture of why someone may fall and not judge before we put ourselves in their shoes.
Being Scottish – I can be quite direct. We don’t mince our words but love you enough to be straight with you. So sometimes I call people on their stuff. I point out the part that doesn’t track or sounds false. But I don’t leave it there. I open the conversation so we can talk about it. The person might not even realise what they are communicating isn’t actually what they think deep down. Or is a superficial response that doesn’t stand up to the level of character we want them to keep. I love them too much to not want them to grow and become the man/ woman of God I know they can become.
So are they compatible?
For me, they simply have to be compatible. First impressions count. I’m not looking for someone to mess around with. But for someone whom I can partner with God for the rest of our lives. It’s the next major decision in my life. Building a strong relationship requires love, trust, humility, time and commitment. I won’t give my heart to someone who’s not worthy of it. They won’t be if they don’t have a strong biblical character which includes integrity. At the end of the day, all we have is our character, our integrity and our relationship with God. A woman doesn’t want a knight in shining armour if they don’t have these qualities. Guys – please know, the more depth you have in these three areas, the more attractive you are to us.
Back to the New York/ Californian guy – I could judge him on the character he has shown in our chats = patient, kind and understanding. Or I could go by the accent over a 5-second call. But I didn’t know he has a mixed-race background, so he had other accent influences to take into consideration. It was a good lesson to remind me to not be quick to judge on just a little bit of new information, at least until I have a fuller picture (and even then not judge). Hopefully, we are video chatting this weekend so two real people can get to know one another more face to face – even if it’s still virtually. All those facial expressions, instant responses and body language will tell me so much more than text on a screen. I’m looking forward to talking over zoom, but I’m also really nervous.
The romantic in me is like the scene in Notting Hill when Julia is standing in front of Huge, vulnerable and nervous, waiting to see if they can start a real relationship. (Click here to see this clip on YouTube). I’m not ready to ask someone to love me yet. But I’m also nervous about what it means if I could see myself getting there! Switzerland and California aren’t precisely neighbouring locations.
If you’d like to read more about how to develop your character, check out my blog #9 What is the most important thing to develop to become a great leader?