5 Signs You Lack Integrity

Integrity is something you 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?

5 Signs You Lack Integrity


  1. fifa 19 free serial key on March 27, 2019 at 10:06 pm

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  2. Deb on November 7, 2018 at 9:58 am

    Hi Carey, how wonderfully refreshing it has been to hear someone speak words of wisdom. I have been in a most horrific personal battle since 2004. However, the past eight months have taken a toll on me. Thank you for sharing it wasn’t hat I didn’t know what you shared, rather it was nice to be reminded. Curious, have you written any books? If so, I would like to inquire about the name(s) and where I might purchase.

    God’s blessings on your life and all that you do 🙂

  3. AMOS on November 12, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Nice one. is integrity one of the theological virtues?

    • Okiemute OKPURHE-OBIRE on August 28, 2021 at 6:07 am

      Wow! Thank you dear TC Brown for adding such a dose of insightful realities to this issue on integrity presented here by Carey.

      Truly the dimensions of integrity include and also not limited to those highlighted above. The mere facts of ascribing God’s glory to self is even more gravious as see in the account of Nebruchadnezer and King Herod.

  4. Kellie on October 11, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and always leads us to the truth, especially in ourselves. This reminds me about Hebrews 4:12; God wants us to use His Word as a magnifying glass to discern and expose areas of sin that we might confess, repent, and be healed through the precious Blood of Jesus Christ. If left up to us, we’d dodge the truth everytime!! thank you for Brother for shedding light on such an important subject within the Body of Christ

  5. Zelda on June 18, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    Agree with everything except this: “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.”

    Nope. My correspondences are not the business of anyone other than who I am corresponding with, and my browsing habits aren’t anyone’s business. It’s called respect for privacy.

    Sometimes there are good reasons to ‘hide’ things. For one, people handle sensitive data as part of their jobs. For another, a friend may tell you something that you’v agreed to keep in confidence. It would be highly irresponsible to allow other people access to that information.

    • kenzyo on July 11, 2019 at 11:48 am

      i agree, this was a feeling of evil when i read that, he is human lol, so he messes up too
      but he has a lot of great context.

    • T C Brown on August 28, 2021 at 4:38 am

      And that’s exactly what he’s talking about here. The epitome of pride says, “Nope, nobody’s business but mine.” Like Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:30) and like King Herod (Acts 12:21-23)who basically said, “I got this. I can handle this myself. Look what I did,” and refused to give God the glory that’s a spirit headed for shipwreck. All professionals including doctors, nurses, lawyers and teachers have to share sensitive information with some member of their team. Don’t try to be everything to everybody. Don’t try to be the end all. This is exactly what the article is about. The same people you think you’re “protecting” will be the very ones who can turn around and burn you. He just said,” Integrity is about pleasing God rather than pleasing people or pleasing yourself. Making excuses for hiding things is pleasing yourself. It’s important to remain teachable.

  6. Barb on June 12, 2017 at 5:54 am

    “5 ways to build your integrity” link does not work. I loved this article. Would love to read the other piece as well.

  7. Suzanne L on November 4, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    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.

  8. Dave Francis on October 12, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    Thanks Carey. Very affirming to my thinking.

  9. Anita Chowdry on September 7, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Excellent post!

  10. […] When it comes to hypocrisy, leaders who develop strong personal integrity survive longer and make a deeper impact than leaders who don’t. Here, by the way, are 5 signs your personal integrity might need a check up. […]

  11. Ben on July 12, 2013 at 11:37 am

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

  12. Leadership in 140 Characters | Eric Echols on June 22, 2013 at 7:01 am

    […] 5 Signs You Lack Integrity by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  13. Maribie Buslon on March 26, 2013 at 9:15 am

    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!

  14. Joan on December 6, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    really helpful info! Thanks

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 6, 2012 at 6:30 pm

      So glad Joan. Challenges me too.

  15. Ganesh on November 20, 2012 at 2:35 am

    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.

  16. Chris Barker on February 7, 2012 at 11:01 pm

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


    • Carey on February 7, 2012 at 11:12 pm

      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.

  17. Chris Smith on February 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm


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

  18. caitlin on February 7, 2012 at 10:02 am

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

  19. Eric on February 7, 2012 at 8:17 am

    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….

  20. rob on February 6, 2012 at 4:04 pm

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

    • Carey on February 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm

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

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