Designing and Building a Life of Integrity

by Andy Wood on June 20, 2012

in Enlarging Your Capacity, Five LV Laws, Leadership, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Freedom, Principle of Increase

You can’t.

You can walk it out.  You can stand there and look humble while people tell you that you’ve got it.  You can make corrections when you stand convicted of the need for some changes.  You can use it to plead with God or The Man (whoever that is) for justice or a raise or something.  You can even dare to mention it when you run for political office.

But you are not equipped to be the architect or builder of an integrated life – yours or anybody else’s.

This is no self-improvement process, friends.  You can’t build integrity into your life by getting more information, imitating somebody else, or rigidly keeping a code of conduct. You can’t get it with an extreme makeover, a friendly takeover, or a cosmetic rake-over.

Integrity is an inside job.  It’s the result of a transformational process that takes your dis-integrated self and changes you through and through by a power that is not your own.

That said, just as an office building is designed and constructed according to a set pattern, so your Master Designer and Builder follows a blueprint for building wholeness in you.  And while you don’t have the power to do this yourself, your faith and submission to His work can help speed the process.

Each of these stages builds on the other, and I believe the order matters.  And yet, these are all lifetime pursuits that we’ll never perfectly achieve this side of heaven.  Designing and building a life of integrity involves:

1.  Humility.

A person of integrity is keenly aware of his or her own shortcomings and need for growth.  They recognize their powerlessness or spiritual poverty.  It’s no coincidence that AA’s Twelve Steps or the Beatitudes start here.  With respect to integrity, the first step is to realize you don’t have any – and won’t have any if left to your own devices.

2.  Transparency

A person of integrity is honest about their feelings.  This begins, of course, with knowing exactly what those feelings are, then having the courage to risk expressing them in healthy ways.  The opposite of this is the person at the office who pretends to be calm and happy you interrupted her, while inside she’s screaming with frustration because of tight deadlines.  Or the guy who covers his deep affection for people with a gruff, hostile exterior.

3.  Self-mastery

A person of integrity has learned the self-mastery necessary to control his actions and words.  In our leadership programs, we teach that before you can lead others, you have to learn to lead yourself.  Routinely we hear the sad stories of people who rise to places of power and suddenly are exposed as cheats, liars, or frauds.  The reason that’s so common is because power draws people into a life of controlling others, and they often forget to control themselves.

4.  Excellence

A person of integrity actively pursues personal growth and improvement.  She’s not a perfectionist, but she has a passion to grow, to learn, and to pursue greater heights of satisfaction, both in the world of her tasks and in the world of her relationships.  People of integrity and leaders of integrity never settle for yesterday’s performance or a life of complacency.  Nor do they feel the need to compromise relationships to get a job done, or compromise performance to please people.  They diligently pursue excellence in both.

5.  Forgiveness

A person of integrity treats the failures of others in the same way that they themselves would want to be treated.  Have you ever noticed that people who harbor a lot of bitterness or a critical spirit often get caught with their own proverbial pants down?  I believe there’s actually a cause and effect going on there.  Unforgiveness compromises integrity.  It may not show up today or tomorrow, but eventually it undermines the internal truth you seek to pursue.

6.  Focus

A person of integrity organizes their life around one central value.  Doesn’t that make sense?  That’s where the idea of “integrity” comes from – everything integrated into one life.  But being pure of heart is not for the faint of heart.  It leaves you saying “no” to a lot of possibilities and quite a few people.  I don’t mean sinful possibilities or evil people necessarily.  Focus means taking a pass on anything that conflicts with your highest, organizing central value.  It also means feeding that organizing purpose or value so that it continues to have the controlling or organizing power in your life.

7.  Interpersonal Strength

A person of integrity effectively resolves conflicts with others, preferably with a win/win focus.  This may not be your experience, but I have learned that the more I’m living with integrity, the less I run from conflict.  That doesn’t mean I like it any more.  But it means I am more effective in looking for solutions, listening with empathy, confronting with courage, or apologizing for my mistakes.  And the better I am at all that, the greater the life of integrity I lead.

8.  Principle

A person of integrity has certain principles or values for which there is no compromise.  There is a reason this comes last.  This is the place where some people try to start with a life of integrity, and I’m here to tell you, it won’t last.  Starting here leads to pride, bitterness, broken relationships, and reduced influence (see “Pharisees”).  However, as you journey through the inner transformation toward a life of integrity, you will inevitably wind up here.  One day – in the name of all you cherish, love, and stand for – you may well have to draw a line in the sand and refuse to cross it. You may have to walk away from a job or a career or a friendship.  Or you may have to disappoint somebody you love deeply, at least for a season.  Should you?  Yes.  After you have exercised every other alternative, of course.  But sometimes you reach a point where integrity demands a stand.  So stand.


There is a price to be paid for a life of integrity.  But it comes with a wonderful sense of freedom as well.  When you’re moving toward an integrated life…

You’re free from the need to be superior to others.

You’re fearless when it comes to expressing your feelings and energized by the growing strength and character you display.

You’re no longer looking over your shoulder or trying to remember who you told what lie to.

You’re empowered to forgive and to ask for forgiveness yourself.

You are forging deeper, more trusting relationships than you’ve ever known.

And sometimes even without knowing it, you’re influencing people to follow your example.

In short, you’re a leader.  And deeply happy.

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