In recent days, I have come across situations that have made me stop and wonder what has happened in culture that we are so quick to give up on being ethical in our relationships. It seems that more and more people are willing to go back on their word if doing so benefits them more. Let me share two brief examples:
1. A church has a written lease agreement with another church for shared use of rooms within the church building. The church that owns the building decides that they want to use the rooms that they have agreed to allow the tenant church to use. So, without any discussion or warning, the tenant church comes to the facility expecting to use these rooms for their weekly ministry only to find out that the landlord church is using them and they are not available any longer. Even though they had a written agreement, the landlord church decides that they do not have to abide by the agreement because they own the building and they need the rooms. The tenant church must cancel their events and send people home. What is the right ethical choice in this situation?
2. A Christian business owner promises to allow a church use of a bounce house for an outdoor event. The event has been planned and advertised months in advance. The bounce house has been advertised as a main attraction at this event. The church leadership confirmed the availability of the bounce house on 3 occasions. The day of the event, bounce house was not available because the business owner forgot and was using it in his business. If he allowed the church to use the bounce house, it may cost him financial income from the events he was holding. What is the right ethical choice in this situation?
Every day, you and I face ethical decisions that we must make. After we give people our word and agree to something, do we go back on that agreement if it benefits us to do so? Or, do we keep our word that we gave in setting up that agreement? The choice that we make not only speak to our character and integrity, but it also reflects on the Christ that we claim to serve.
In Matthew 5:33-37, Jesus tells us that we should simply be people of our word. When we say ‘yes’ to something it should simply mean ‘yes.’ As Christ followers, we should be people who stick to our agreements. Failure to do so reflects poorly on Jesus Christ whom we claim to serve. So, how do we become people of integrity who keep their word?
Here are 3 steps to being a person of integrity:
- Don’t agree to something if you are not committed to following through! Think through whether or not you are willing and able to keep that agreement BEFORE you agree to it. It is better to say ‘no’ up front, then to come back later having changed your mind.
- When you do give your word, keep your word – even if it is not convenient! Many times people commit to something only to have something they would rather do at that time come up later. Backing out of your original agreement to do something you would rather do sends a message to the person with whom you had the original agreement. It says that you are not reliable and that they are only important to you if nothing better comes along. Back out of your agreement often enough and you will eventually discover that people stop wanting to spend time with you.
- Keep your word – even if it costs you something! Sometimes keeping you word will cost you something. If the business owner in our example above had kept his word, it might have cost him money in refunds that he would have to give to those expecting a bounce house for their event. The reality is that you will make mistakes and sometimes it will cost you to keep your agreements. However, when you do so, you gain respect and your reputation will include the word integrity.
Jesus said it well. Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes.’ Let your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Keep your agreements and you will be known as a person of integrity who reflects Jesus Christ well to the world around you.
When have you found it hard to be a person of integrity? What did you do? How did you respond? Comment below.