INTEGRITY: Becoming a Person of Great Character
This week we’ll jump into the second self-assessment in our Elevate series: INTEGRITY. If you missed my blog post last week on VISION, be sure to check it out. You’ll certainly enjoy each of the posts throughout this series individually, but you’ll get the most out of them if you read them collectively, week by week. There are so many great things to be learned from looking at the life of Joseph.
Before we dive into our main text in Genesis 39, check out the following scriptures that capture the importance of integrity and character:
- Proverbs 10:9: The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.
- Proverbs 11:3: The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.
- Proverbs 11:6: The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.
Below is an illustration of what I refer to as my Character Pyramid. It shows five steps to becoming a person of true integrity and character.
Joseph purposed early in his life to be a person of vision and integrity. He lived his life – each day – with his God-dream/vision and integrity in mind. He lived so that each day and each decision of each day served as building blocks in constructing the man of God that he ultimately became. Just like a building is not built over night but is constructed block by block and day by day, our lives are constructed decision by decision, act by act and thought by thought. Don’t miss this point when you study Joseph: Today matters! Obedience today matters! Faithfulness today builds a great marriage and a great future! A person of great character is built one decision, one choice, and one day at a time.
George Lorimer was the Yale-educated Editor in Chief of the Saturday Evening Post at the turn of the 20th century. He said, “Back of every life there are principles that have fashioned it.” What principles have fashioned your life?
- Integrity vs. Indifference
- Faithfulness vs. Duplicity
- Honesty vs. Deception
- Commitment vs. Compromise
Abraham Lincoln said, “Your core values are the deeply held beliefs that authentically describe your soul.” If you haven’t yet, read today’s key text in Genesis 39:1-23 and notice the choices Joseph made. He chose integrity over indifference, faithfulness over duplicity, honesty over deception, and his commitment to be a man of great character over compromise. He is a great role model to look at as we delve into the importance of consciously committing to be people of great character.
Google “cheating” and you’ll find a plethora of stats, articles and even advice about cheating on your spouse, your taxes, tests and much more. With the rise of social media, even secular publications are sounding the alarm on the increase of “emotional affairs.” In a recent article in Business Insider entitled 13 Facts About Cheating that Couples and Singles Should Know, the author determines that morality (or integrity) “…is the main factor keeping married people from cheating.” Flirting used to require secret phone calls, clandestine rendezvous, covert letter writing and more. Today, flirting can take place with the click of a button.
Ty Tashiro, the author of The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest of Enduring Love, terms this micro-cheating. Tashiro defines micro-cheating as “a relatively small act of emotional infidelity with someone outside of a person’s committed relationship via social media.” According to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, 45% of men and 35% of women have admitted to having an “emotional affair,” 60% of which begin at work. The article gives some great advice: Unfriend former high school sweethearts, set up porn-blockers on all of your computers and handheld devices, refuse to correspond with attractive colleagues outside of the work environment. “In short,” they write, “be a better human being!”
Take a look at that pyramid above again. What is your ultimate goal? It’s Christlikeness and character! Joseph was not willing to compromise his character for a moment of pleasure. He was a man of integrity.
PATHOLOGY OF AN AFFAIR
Pathology means “The study of the origin, nature, and cause of diseases. The condition and processes of a disease. Any deviation from a healthy, normal or efficient condition.” Sin is a disease. It’s a disease of the soul. And sexual sin is one of the major forms of soul disease.
After working with countless individuals and couples over the past 30+ years, I’ve identified nine stages of an affair:
- Notice: Genesis 39:7 says, “After a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph.” Sometimes people at work take notice.
- Friendly: “Hello” or seemingly innocent pleasantries can turn into a little spark. Friendly can become overly friendly.
- Crush: Admitting an attraction to another person. Friendly chatter turns into flirting. Personal, professional, integrity lines get crossed.
- Deliberate: Intentionally going out of your way to be around another person. Working late, etc. Verse 10 says that Potiphar’s wife “spoke to him every day.” She was deliberate about seeing him.
- Infatuation: You can’t stop thinking about this other person.
- Imagination: You begin dreaming about what life might be like with them.
- Fantasy: Sexual, lustful thoughts rage unchecked.
- Action: Some overt activity toward that person. Saying or doing something inappropriate that confirms your intention. In verse 12, Potiphar’s wife said, “Come to bed with me.” That’s a not-so-subtle action to be sure.
- Completion: Actually committing the sexual act.
Where is the integrity/character line for you? Where do you draw the line? Nobody wakes up one day and accidentally ends up in bed with someone. There is a pathological, morbid, sinister process in play. You need to understand it that way because this is certainly not the way our culture portrays it. Our culture celebrates sexual infidelity, it plays to our dark side. But unfaithfulness and sexual sin are destructive and God hates them. Don’t believe me? Read through Proverbs 5, 6 and 7. We need an internal alarm that goes off when we begin moving in the wrong direction. A person of integrity walks faithfully with God. They’re a person with strong convictions and have safeguards in place so they’re aware of possible dangers ahead. They’re not easily duped. They are purposeful and have committed – in advance – to be a person of great character. And, by the way, alarms should be going off well before stage 9!
Matthew 5:27 says, “You have heard that is was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Proverbs 11:22 says, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” Here’s a little visual to help you imagine that person with a pig’s snout. Don’t forget about the aroma of the mud, the barnyard, the filth. Of course, we know from scripture that it goes both ways. Women often need to run from men; take a look at David and Samson. The point is, if you are pursuing or being pursued by someone other than your spouse, do what Joseph did – practice the PIG PLAN and RUN!
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
Look at James 1:13-15 “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Remember:
- God does not tempt you.
- You tempt you.
- What are you reading, watching, doing, listening to, thinking about? Starve your mind of anything that leads you down the wrong road and toward sin. Don’t be dragged away and enticed. Remember that desire conceived gives birth to sin, and sin full grown gives birth to death.
There are plenty of Biblical case studies to review. Some did it right and some did it wrong.
- Joseph vs. David (2 Samuel 11:1-27): David brought great pain to himself and his family.
- Joseph vs. Samson (Judges 16:1-22): Samson brought destruction to himself and his nation.
- Joseph vs. Adam & Eve (Genesis 3:1-7): Adam and Eve’s disobedience produced sin and death.
- Joseph vs. Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11): In both cases, obedience brought life and power.
INTEGRITY LEADS TO VICTORY
Joseph had 4 things that made him a man of integrity and led him to victory.
- A vision to honor God and His purposes.
- Everything begins with God’s vision for our lives.
- Adultery did not in any way help Joseph fulfill his primary desire in life, which was for God’s purpose to be fulfilled in his life.
- A conviction to do the right thing.
- Joseph committed not to sin against himself, Potiphar, Potiphar’s wife, or, most importantly, God.
- A mindset to think the right way.
- Joseph saw Potiphar’s wife as a worm covering a deadly hook and didn’t fall for what was dangling before him. He said no to adultery, and no to fantasy (he didn’t even want to be with her). He practiced the PIG PLAN.
- Today’s cry is, “You can do whatever you want!” Sure, I suppose that’s true, but what they don’t tell you is, you don’t get to pick the consequences. If you sow to the wind, you reap the whirlwind. Just ask David, Samson, Ananias and Sapphira, Achan and countless others.
- A good pair of running shoes.
- He ran – mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.
- Temptation may have been raging within him, but he said “I will overcome by the power of God’s Spirit and I will not compromise my conviction! I will not sacrifice my purpose! I will not abandon my faith in God! I will not dishonor my family! And I will not ruin my life or the lives of others!”
WHAT IF I’VE FALLEN?
Look at Psalm 51. This was David’s prayer after committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband murdered.
- Recognize the folly of your ways and realize your great need for God’s mercy.
- Confess your sin to God and beg for forgiveness.
- Ask God to create in you a pure heart.
- Find restoration and a new beginning by honoring God from this day forward.
- Seek forgiveness from your spouse. Find help from a pastor, couples’ counseling, etc. and intentionally invest in your marriage.
- And lastly, like Joseph, trust God – day by day.
Take some smart steps:
- Make your spouse #1.
- Aside from your relationship with God, no other relationship should be as important to you.
- Invest in your marriage.
- Find ways to both tell them and show them how much you care. (Check out our mid-week marriage class.)
- Protect your marriage.
- If an imposter broke into your home to hurt your family, you’d fight to the death. Well, fight Satan! He desires nothing more than to destroy families. Don’t let him destroy yours.
- Grow your marriage.
- If your marriage is not where you want it to be, work on growing it. If it’s already good, work to make it really good.
As you consider where your integrity lines lay this week, seek wisdom, guidance and help from your Creator. Commit your character and integrity to Him and ask for His forgiveness first, then for forgiveness from those in your life who you’ve hurt. Ask the Lord for strength to do the right thing. Ask Him to help you be a person of Christlike commitment and character – just like Joseph.
And if you’re not married, ask the Lord to help you to be a man or woman of integrity in your life of singleness. Sexual impurity is not just about marital infidelity. It can, and indeed often does, apply to many seasons of our lives. If this is not an issue for you, seek the Lord for direction in being a man or woman of integrity and character at work, in your community, in your family and in whatever He has for your life. I’m looking forward to the growth these steps will lead to in all of us.