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5 Signs You Lack Integrity

five signs you have integrity

Integrity is something we all desire, but how do you know if you have it?  And what exactly is it anyway?

Sometimes it’s easiest to think about something out of its immediate context.  When something is well built, we say it has structural integrity.  So in an earthquake, the building with excellent structural integrity survives.  When something physically collapses, we say it didn’t have the integrity to withstand the impact.

All of this springs from the original latin root of integrity, which means ‘intact’.  Can you withstand the crisis intact?

Many  people aren’t withstanding crises well these days. The storm buffets and they collapse along with their family or their organization.

The tension is that no one sees the problem until the storm hits. ‘Normal’ doesn’t really test your integrity.   Crises do.  But when a crisis comes, it’s often too late to fix what’s wrong.  The damage is happening in real time.

While there are many things that compromise our integrity, here are five signs that show your integrity is in question:

1.  It’s all about you. You can say it’s about God.  You can say it’s about others.  But only you and God know your heart.  Selfish people harm their organizations, families and friends.  If it’s all about you, you won’t go the distance.  Or you will,  but you’ll hurt a lot of people in the process and you’ll never know what could have happened if you made it about God and others.

2. Your self esteem rises and falls with the opinion of others. A secure leader can see the right way and lead people there through tough conditions.  An insecure leader will bend with every change in public opinion. Which means you’re not actually leading anyone, not even yourself.

3. You’re hiding things. You shouldn’t be telling everyone everything (that’s not healthy) – but someone needs to know everything.  If you’re keeping secrets, you’re heading for a fall.  Between my wife, elders, close friends and counselor, I have an inner circle that knows everything about me.  (By the way, if you’re afraid to give your password on your computer or phone to anyone in that circle, you’re hiding things.)

4.  You fail to do what you said you were going to do. This isn’t just about keeping promises; it’s about keeping your word in everything.  Better to say nothing and surprise someone by delivering than blurt out an intention you can’t fulfil.   Ultimately, people lose confidence in you when you fail to deliver.  It’s a trust issue.   A fairly easy way to address this is to say less and deliver more.  A great follow up system also helps (sometimes a lack of integrity isn’t even a moral issue – just an awareness and organization issue).

5.  You make too many compromises. Leadership is not about getting everyone to like you or about finding the easiest path.  It’s about discerning the best way forward.  It’s about getting people to go where they wouldn’t go if it wasn’t for leadership.  If you make too many decisional compromises or even a handful of personal compromises, your effectiveness will be–you guessed it– compromised.

Don’t just think of these things as character flaws, think of what’s at stake: when the crises hit (and they will), you won’t be left standing.  Simple as that.  When you attend to these things, you integrity grows, and so does your ability to live and lead through difficult times.

Fortunately, integrity can be built and rebuilt. In this separate post, I outline 5 ways to build your integrity. You can read it here.

What insights have you gained on integrity?  What signs would you add to this list?

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  • Suzanne L

    Dear Carey, separated from my husband and family I realized I have been losing my integrity. I guess because my thoughts are so discombobulated as to what I have to do, going forward has been my crutch. I don’t let myself grieve either and the tears are locked inside. So Thank You for your concern on the level you deliver it. I have to let the Lord handle this while I rein in what I have been letting slip away. God Bless you forever…S.L.

  • Dave Francis

    Thanks Carey. Very affirming to my thinking.

  • Anita Chowdry

    Excellent post!

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  • Ben

    thanks for the truth, that keeps us free. good insight.

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  • Maribie Buslon

    all is true..we need to be true to ourselves because the Lord really sees inside us and His Spirit is the one who search and can know everything in us and I do agree this message is wonderful and so helpful and by God’s grace I am going to practice myself in integrity in honoring the LORD and not of men because if the Lord please He will grant the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4) for His glory alone..Thanks for the wonderful message it’s open my mind and see the real me and I know I AM NOT ALONE..AND THANKS GOD IT’S NOT TOO LATE..GOD BLESS!

  • Joan

    really helpful info! Thanks

    • Carey Nieuwhof

      So glad Joan. Challenges me too.

  • Ganesh

    1. Habitual use of complex language to express one’s ideas: There is here, an attempt (maybe subconscious) to dazzle listeners by flaunting the command over a particular language, and take attention away from the contents of the ideas being expressed.

    2. Not waiting for acknowledgement where necessary: For eg, a person will express false sympathy for another person’s situation. The giveaway is that the former will not wait to see if the other person could feel better at all.

  • One of the most challenging, convicting and yet encouraging things I have read in a long time. Thanks for sharing.


    • Carey

      Really appreciate the comments on this post. Thanks. Nobody’s alone on this one. These are things we all struggle with, but naming them and working through them can help us all get stronger and emerge intact.

  • Carey,

    Thanks as well for joining us this past weekend. I’ve been challenged in these areas and you speak words of wisdom and honesty.

  • caitlin

    Boy do I have a few things to go to God about.

  • Eric

    So saddened to say that I know many in church leadership that would not pass these criteria, Carey. Oh, Lord, have mercy on Your people….

  • rob

    Great list! Very true. thanks for a great conference this weekend too.

    • Carey

      Thanks Rob. Loved my time with your crew…nice to meet you!