The world is in turmoil. So many people saying and doing so many things that are harmful, mean-spirited, or just plain deceitful. Even believers have given in and taken on the world’s moral drift. So what will help us rise above all that? One word: Integrity.
If you’re paying any attention to current events right now, you’ve seen that issues of moral integrity are in the spotlight. If we think we’ll never have to face such issues, we’re kidding ourselves. We are all human, and all prone to temptation. And those who think they aren’t? They’re usually the ones who fall farthest and hardest.
Integrity (New Oxford American Dictionary)
- The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
- The state of being whole and undivided.
- The condition of being unified, unimpaired, or sound in construction.
What is the difference between reputation and integrity?
- People can besmirch your reputation; only you can ruin your integrity.
- Reputation is your public persona; integrity is personal.
- Reputation is what people see; integrity is who you are when no one’s looking.
- If your reputation is destroyed, it can be rebuilt. If your integrity is destroyed, the only way back is through God’s grace and restoration.
What does Scripture have to say about integrity?
“People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will be exposed.” Proverbs 10:9 (NLT)
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones.” Proverbs 2:6-8 (NASB)
“Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” Proverbs 4:25-27 (NLT)
We need to be so grounded in God’s truth that the moment we start to take a misstep the alarm is sounded by the Holy Spirit.
Temptations we Face as Writers
Temptation to treat people better based on what they can do for you.
Editors, agents, speakers—they are business people who know what they’re doing, but they’re just ordinary folks. Don’t see them as more than they are. Have respect for them, sure, but when it comes to putting someone up on a pedestal, there’s only one worthy.
Think about Isaiah 2:22:
“Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?”
Again, we’re not saying don’t respect them. But only God is worthy of our adoration and esteem. The rest of us are just fellow sojourners. So let’s treat each other as such:
- With kindness and encouragement
- With the truth that we’re all here to glorify God, not ourselves or even each other
- Without pre-judgement of what someone can or can’t do for us, because everyone has value. For example, the newest writer can say something that gives new insight to a veteran. It’s just as important to not treat people worse because of a perception that they can’t do anything for us.
Temptation to fudge the facts in our books.
Embrace Ephesians 4:21-25 (NLT): “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.”
When Karen wrote The Breaking Point, there was a temptation to make herself look better. To clean up her negative actions and emotions. But honesty gave that book power. Erin had the same situation. In Surviving Henry, she had to write things about herself that weren’t pretty. But they were honest. And that’s what people connect to.
Embrace integrity by:
- Submitting your story to God and asking Him what to include and not include
- Speaking the truth about yourself and your weaknesses and about God’s work of refining you through it all
- Speaking the truth about others, and about God’s work of refining in YOU (because, again it’s you, not that other guy with the problem)
Temptation to fudge the facts of our success.
This comes in the form of things like taking on the title of “bestseller” when you’re not. Or embellishing your sales figures… “Oh, my books have sold in the neighborhood of 40K.” But that’s not really your neighborhood. That’s not even your neighboring city. In fact, that neighborhood is halfway across the country.
Embrace Integrity by:
- Being honest about your numbers. It’s God who has given you everything, from the message to the numbers, and it’s His choice what happens with your books.
- Being grateful for whatever God does with your writing
Temptation to make strategic “friendships.”
Friendship is not based on what people can do for you, but on loving and serving others. For example, don’t be like the person who goes to a writers’ conference or group with the intent of targeting the important people. You’re doing yourself and others a disservice when you target people for strategic friendships. And you’re missing out on the friendships God has for you.
Embrace integrity in friendships by:
- Seeking to serve, rather than be served
- Being open to God’s leading
- Seeing through God’s eyes
Temptation to play as the world does in our encounters or work with others.
When we’re surrounded by people who think the way we do, who understand what it is to be a writer, that’s a heady thing. Maybe we’re working with a collaborator, mentor, or critique partner, or maybe we’re at a writers group or conference. It’s so easy to connect with someone who “gets us.” Or who admires us. Or to connect with someone whom we admire. And it’s easy to have that connection slip, just a tad, into waters where we have no business wading, as the world saw from the PW article about sexual misconduct, and even sexual abuse, at Christian writers conferences.
You MUST treat everyone you meet with integrity. Ladies, treat every man you meet as your brother or your son or your father. Men, treat the women you encounter as sisters or daughters or mothers. Put a safeguard on your emotions and tongue.
You have the right to tell others if anything makes you uncomfortable. Anything. Ask the Spirit to give you discernment, to let you know when you need to draw a line.
Embrace integrity in encounters by:
- Following Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
- Following 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 (selected verses, NLT): “3 We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. 4 In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. …6 We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. …10 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”
- Creating a covenant with your spouse, or if not married, a trusted friend, parent, or pastor to guide your behavior in encounters. Agree on boundaries for physical contact with others, conditions on time alone, topics that are okay to address, caution words, behaviors, or feelings. Make sure you have a response pre-planned for when/if any triggers appear. When something happens that takes us by surprise, when we get a sense that something’s off, that’s not the time to try and figure out what to do. Have a “script,” so to speak, for how you’ll handle things.
- Find someone at the conference who will keep you accountable, and share your boundaries with that person. Tell them to call you on ANYTHING that seems to cross those boundaries.
- Ask God to give you a clear warning when you start to cross any boundaries.
- If something feels off or wrong, pray about it. If it’s clear the behavior/speech is inappropriate, take it to someone on faculty or leadership of the conference or a leader in the group.
We want to hear from you!
What strategies have you found for maintaining integrity?
Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous editing!