PROGRAM W-1737 – Part I

Business schools are hurriedly designing and incorporating courses on ethics. Seminars and management training are focusing on integrity. There seems to be a sudden awareness of our need for integrity in the marketplace.

What has caused this crisis in integrity? I think it’s because we’re reaping what we have sown. Employers who were willing to cut any deal to get the business, now recognize that they have, by example, taught a generation of employees to believe that anything is okay as long as you can get by with it.

Employee theft is a problem of great magnitude, as well as lack of employee loyalty. After all, how can you motivate loyalty when you engage in wholesale job elimination in order to turn a fast dollar in a buy-out deal? Now Corporate America says, “How can we put values and integrity back in our good ‘ole American system?”

It will only happen as individuals put integrity back into their personal lives and make it a high priority. Furthermore, it will only happen when we are motivated from within, not from without. All the training courses in the world cannot instill integrity into a person’s heart. That must come from a belief system which is committed to doing what’s right—regardless of the cost.

If we do what’s right only as a manipulative tool to get where we want to go—only because that’s the “in” thing to do nowadays—we’ll find ourselves waffling all over the place. Doing the right thing takes an internal belief, a commitment, and a standard by which we operate. It takes absolutes. It also takes an internal power which many seem to lack.

If I asked you what was the best book on business principles, customer service skills, how to succeed, how to get along with people, how to handle a difficult boss, and how to deal with decisions of integrity on your job, what book would you recommend? Not too many people would ever think of the Bible as relevant to those issues but let me assure you that is the textbook and the authority which we truly need.

If you don’t have an authority and a standard by which actions and attitudes are judged, you will never have integrity—personal or corporate. Relative truth doesn’t work; it’s another name for compromise. A moving standard that changes based on how you feel versus how I feel, or contingent upon circumstances, is no standard at all.

The Bible is dogmatic. It gives us very strong guidelines in many areas with no room for argument. This causes many people a lot of difficulty because by nature we don’t like to be told where the limits are. However, the interesting thing is that Bible principles work! They work in the marketplace equally as well as anywhere else.

The best customer service philosophy in the world will be based on what we call the “Golden Rule,” which Jesus set forth 2000 years ago: Treat other people the way you would like to be treated if you were in their shoes. When we base our business philosophy upon that principle, we find that we design an absolutely dynamite system and way to deal with people, whether they are customers, employees, or vendors.

God’s principles, when practiced, will benefit anyone—because he’s the Creator. He knows how things should work; he knows how people are motivated; he knows what makes all of us tick; and his principles are based on long-term profit. God doesn’t go for the “instant answers” which most of us look for. Rather, he has marvelous strategic insight and, when he sets forth a principle, it is always to our benefit to follow it. So regardless of whether a person or an organization recognizes God or his principles, when those principles are followed, they bring success.

Proverbs 21:21 tells us that “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.”

Pursuing righteousness and love—there’s the secret to integrity. Don’t let that word “righteousness” throw you. It doesn’t mean perfection or weirdness. It simply means doing the right thing. If you and I are committed to do the right thing in every situation in our lives, and to act out of love for other people, then we will be people of integrity. That integrity will bring us prosperity and honor.

More importantly, as Christians in the workplace, it will open a door of witness to those around us, which is stronger than any words we can ever say. A life of righteousness and love is a light that cannot be hidden. It is, what I call, a “question-generating” life—one that causes someone along the way to stop you and say, “Hey, what’s different about you?”

I will take three case studies where integrity is at stake and ask you to consider what is the biblical way to deal with them. These are only three of many situations we may face, but hopefully they’ll give us some food for thought as to how we can apply biblical principles to our ethical dilemmas.

Case #1

Your departmental manager is not liked by any of the employees. She is very unfair, discourteous to everyone and, in addition, doesn’t perform her own duties well at all. Everyone in the department constantly talks about her in derogatory ways. You’ve been a part of that malicious talk at times.

However, you’ve decided that you don’t want to be a part of that character assassination any longer. How will you keep from getting caught up in this office gossip?

First, let me ask a very basic question: Do you think this is a question of ethics and integrity? Is it unethical to gossip about someone, especially if what you’re saying is true—meaning you’re not making it up or enlarging on it? Would this kind of behavior be viewed as a lack of integrity?

Let’s go back to our verse in Proverbs 21:21: “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.”  As I said, righteousness is simply doing the right thing.

Here’s another biblical principle to consider: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

I will grant you that in the world’s view, gossip and backbiting would most likely not be considered unethical behavior; however, God’s Word makes it clear that it is. No unwholesome talk out of our mouths—that’s the standard. Only what will build others up and benefit those who listen. This is not a moving standard; it remains steadfast, regardless of the circumstances.

In this case study, we have a difficult manager, one who makes your job difficult, and it’s particularly hard to keep your mouth shut in these situations. But the standard doesn’t change for the difficult manager. No unwholesome talk—that’s it.

Now, if you decide to live by that standard of integrity, how will you handle situations where others are talking about the boss behind her back? Here are some suggestions: Get up and leave if you possibly can. Walk away from the conversation. Do it quietly, trying not to call attention to it. You don’t want to announce, “I’m not going to listen to this kind of gossip; I’m leaving.” That’s not necessary—not a good idea. However, walk away if you can. Someone may notice, but that’s okay.

If walking away is not an option, try changing the subject. Find another topic and start in, rather assertively, talking about something else which is harmless and not derogatory. That will take some fortitude and “guts” on your part, but you can do it nicely. Remember, it’s okay if someone notices you’re purposely changing the subject. However, do it as gently as you can.

I would also add this: Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t think it’s right to talk behind her back.” There may be occasions when you’ll have to state your objections to the gossip. Again, do it as nicely, gently, and non-judgmentally as you can, but don’t be afraid to stand up for what you think is right.

Integrity can certainly be costly. If we determine to live our lives by Proverbs 21:21—pursuing righteousness and love in all we do—it won’t always be popular. Jesus told us that people like darkness because their deeds are evil. When our integrity turns a light on and exposes dark areas, we may not be appreciated for it. We must be prepared to pay the price, but we shouldn’t purposely expose someone or make an example out of them.

I hope you’ll take some time to consider the biblical imperative for a life of integrity, asking God to show you any areas in your own life where you’ve let down the bars and lowered the standards.

Also, pray that verse in Proverbs 21:21: Lord, help me to pursue righteousness and love in everything I do. Help me to simply do the right thing, no matter what the situation is, no matter how alone I may be, and no matter what it may cost me. Give me your power to make right, ethical choices.

I can only imagine what would happen if every Christian in the marketplace started to pray that way every morning before going to work. I’m certain it would make a difference in our witness for Jesus! We might find ourselves out on a limb occasionally, but if we simply do what is right, we’re never going to be out on that limb by ourselves. Jesus will be with us, and he has promised we will prosper and be honored if we pursue righteousness and love.

I don’t think that necessarily means prosperity by the world’s measure, but prosperity in God’s eyes. A healthy and prosperous soul is far more important than a prosperous lifestyle. Furthermore, the honor may not come immediately, but if God has promised it, it will come. We can trust him.