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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Integrity and Trust

January 20th, 2006

About 12 years ago when we moved to the Phoenix valley one of the things we wanted to do was find a church to attend. We visited quite a few.

One Sunday during a worship service at a church in Mesa, the pianist played a solo. An arrangement of an old hymn. It was one of the most beautiful pieces I’d ever heard. I was moved by the music. As he sat behind the Steinway Grand I felt the floating arpeggios and the rolling bass notes. When the last chord resolved, I whispered, “Wow.” It was very worshipful.

When the service was over I made my way to the front to express my gratitude to the musician. “I wanted to thank you for the song you played. It really helped me to worship.”

He was putting away his music. “Thanks. Yeah, this is a decent gig. They pay pretty well.” He went on to say a few more things that confirmed this was just a way for him to make money while he was in school. He didn’t care about the church or the message of the music. To him it was just another piano solo that he got paid to play. Excellent technique, but no heart.

I walked away sad and disillusioned. How could there be such a disconnect between the beautiful music and the person playing it?

I can’t be critical of the piano player. There have been times in my life where my products and projects are visibly excellent, yet void of heart. It looks good from the outside. People may even benefit from it. Yet it’s not been completely consistent with what’s inside me. There’s a disconnect between what is visible and what can’t be seen, that being what’s going on in my heart.

The word is integrity. Simply put, it means your words and your actions line up together. That what’s on the outside is consistent with what’s on the inside. We tend to expect integrity from others. We want the salesperson to represent the product fairly. We want the doctor to fully explain both the benefits and side effects of a prescribed medication. We want the realtor to tell us all about the house we’d like to buy, not just the parts that show well.

We expect integrity from others. But sometimes we lower the expectation of integrity with ourselves. Businesses use politically correct terms like “margin” or “cushion” to describe the leeway. There are other words, too. Words like “inconsistent”, “disingenuous”, “misleading” and “lies”.

When we live in the margin, we compromise our integrity. It affects us. But it also has consequences for those we interact with. When integrity breaks down, trust goes out the window. Maybe not right away. But eventually those you deal with must decide whether or not they wish to continue dealing with you. You may or may not be able to regain their trust.

The sad irony is that once trust is lost, even that which is genuine is viewed with suspicion. My Grandpa bought a Ford back in 1935. It was, to hear him tell it, the lemon of all lemons. After that, all Fords were bad cars. Somehow Ford managed to sell millions of vehicles in the decades following 1935 but to my Grandpa, they were all lemons. Once trust is broken, it’s difficult to regain.

We’re all fallen people living in a fallen world. Which is to say we all have a proclivity toward sin. We’ve broken trust with others. Others have broken trust with us. All of us have broken trust with God. The Bible says we’ve all sinned and fall short of God’s glory. (Romans 3:23).

If you’ve broken trust with someone, resolve to restore your integrity with them and ask forgiveness. Remember that rebuilding the relationship will take time. Be consistent. It’s worthy of the effort.

If your trust has been broken, extend forgiveness. Forgiveness, as Lewis Smedes defined it, is “me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.” Remember, too, that people can change. God believes that so strongly that He didn’t write us off when we failed Him. The Bible tells us that “God showed His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

People can change. Even the most trampled on trust can be rebuilt with a commitment to integrity. It means, over time, doing the hard work of putting away the past. When God redeems us, He doesn’t hold our past against us. The Ford Motor Company redefined it’s product since 1935. People broken and contrite over their failings who commit to integrity can redefine themselves, too. Hopefully it won’t take 70 years. But even if it does, it will be worth it.

Wherever you’re at this week, here’s hoping our hearts are on the same page as the music we’re playing.