Integrity in an Image Age

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You’ve probably heard the saying, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” It’s a catchy but, very destructive. It is an idea that does more harm than good, and here’s why:

You can’t truly “make it” if you don’t have integrity. A general cannot lead an army without it. Men will not follow. They must trust him.

And integrity is the opposite of fake. It literally means being whole and undivided – being the same on the inside as you are on the outside. If “fake it ‘til you make it” is a philosophy that you live by, then you’re setting yourself up for failure in the long run.

Yes, people have embraced this notion. We live in a culture that rewards image – often over integrity. We promote people who appear to have their act together, and encourage others to do the same. Never mind any warning signs about their true character. As long as they look good while they produce, our culture is satisfied.

Why is that? Why do we reward image over integrity?

The answer is simple: Image is easy. Integrity is hard.

Now, don’t let the word “hard” scare you. After all, everything worthwhile is uphill. Understand that it takes discipline and time to achieve things that are of lasting value. Integrity is the same. It’s the sum of all of your decisions over time; when you choose each day to live according to the high standards you set for yourself, you build integrity on the inside and with the people around you.

Integrity is essential because people will not willingly follow someone they cannot trust. And trust is built when you consistently act according to your beliefs. So how can you make sure you are building your integrity in a culture of image?

Living with integrity begins within. You can’t hide from you. Be a genuine person. You have to be able to live with yourself and the decisions you make. If your actions would cause you shame or embarrassment if they were ever found out, then you’re not being true to yourself or your values. If you need to hide, the first person you’re deceiving is yourself.

You are surrounded by people who are affected by your actions. Be they family, friends, colleagues, or neighbors, your choices impact them on a daily basis. If you are not genuine with them, it will ultimately damage your relationships.

It’s easy to believe that integrity doesn’t really pay off. In fact, that seems to be the message our culture thrives on! Why do things the hard way when you can just “fake it ‘til you make it” – especially when so many people seem to succeed overnight through shortcuts and shams? It’s tempting to believe that you can or should do the same. After all, everyone wants to get to the top, so why not take the fastest route?

Here is the reality: the fastest way to the top might get you there, but it won’t keep you there. People who shortchange their internal character inevitably fall. And when they do, it’s always a long drop back to the bottom – and a much steeper climb the second time around. If you get a chance to do so. Want to get to the top and stay there? Then key is integrity. Sure, it takes time, and it often feels like an unnoticed effort, but be patient. Integrity always pays off in the end.

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