I’m Sorry. We Don’t Have Time to Be Nice.

The title of this comes from a story an author shared about herself in a Bible Study. She was mortified at her young child’s response to an elderly neighbor. The child reflected her concern for another while the mom did not. The mom wasn’t being mean, she just was in a hurry. What trait did she lack her daughter acted on? It was integrity. Why was it integrity and not hospitality? Because the daughter knew they needed to be somewhere and still cared enough about the relationship to explain.

Integrity is defined as being honest and having strong moral principles. I laughingly shared with someone recently about how years ago I read the simple statement, “You can tell a lot about someone by what they do with their shopping cart.” To this day, I cannot leave a cart somewhere random. A silly little statement has stuck with me. Am I acting ridiculous? Maybe, but I like to think I am doing the right thing. Why does it even matter to me? Because I believe a higher power is watching.

When I was married only a few years I decided to put a symbol on my car. It was the Christian sign of the fish. My husband asked me to please take it off. When I asked him why he said, “Because what if I get road rage? Then I’ll be a bad Christian example.” It’s funny he said that but he was spot on honest. Embarassingly, I often feel like the dog in the pic above if I get cut off in traffic or someone drives extra slow in the left lane. It’s human of me, but still something I have to keep in check. I don’t want to respond to that person’s behavior and get ugly. It’s so much more satisfying to end up right behind them at a red light and watch as they strain to appear busy and not notice me directly behind them. Just kidding! (Not really.)

Most people have no idea they are being rude and careless when they serve just themselves and ignore others. I’m not talking about the buffet line either. I’m talking about in all things. I’ve done it. We all have. It’s whenever we focus 100% on our wants/needs and ignore everyone else’s. Ironically, the outcome is usually not positive or rewarding anyway.

The news is chock full of people that have sold all their integrity for power and money. I recently read about a very wealthy, powerful man reduced to begging for leniency from a judge. He was no longer wealthy due to owing paybacks and certainly no longer on a power trip. But sadly, his integrity was already long gone. He was reaping what he sowed. What did that leave him to ponder in the dark at 3 a.m.? I’d prefer modest means, zero notoriety and personal peace myself.

The family name used to be a quick detection of someone’s character. Now, it’s a whole lot harder to figure someone’s true colors (or integrity.) I have always believed that my word needed to mean something. The Bible tells us that we should “let our no be no and our yes be yes.” I am assuming that’s because we shouldn’t need additional adjectives to prove our point if we are truly being honest. I also care about my reputation. I don’t care about it so people will like me, however. I’d rather be honest and hated than dishonest and loved. That way I can stand myself and tolerate my own existence.

Someone doesn’t have to look a certain way or be part of a certain pedigree or social class to have integrity. Some privileged people have the least. It’s either in you or it’s not. It can be taught but it’s within someone to choose it or not. I’d rather spend all my time with a person of integrity than someone without. You come away without all the questioning. It’s so much more rewarding and easier too.

The world offers prestige, fame and honor. It celebrates youth, success, pedigree and money. Somewhere along the way, all that has lost its luster for me. I’d rather just hang out with the authentically unique, the older, the wiser and the decidedly honest. I especially love a combo of any or all of these. These relationships are much more meaningful. I get to see a whole lot more integrity too. Who knows, maybe some of theirs will rub off on me.

The Highway

Picture this- You are driving down an unknown road and there aren’t any signs posted along the way. Potholes aren’t blocked, there’s barely highway lines and you can’t tell where you are. You have no idea if you’re driving to your destination because there aren’t any town markers. It’s pitch black because there is no light other than your dim headlights. You are creeping slowly along, wary of an animal potentially darting in front of you. There’s no indicated speed limit so you are constantly afraid of getting pulled over. There are no directions, no safety measures and you don’t know your way.

Finally, you spy a gas station ahead that has bright lights, and a stocked store. You feel relieved and a sense of normalcy. You are sure that you can get help finding your way. But when you ask the clerk about directions, they end up giving you directions to the wrong place and you end up even more lost than before.

Continuing on, you travel to another exit that has a run down old store, poor lighting and a dozen animals loitering around. You feel like there’s no way this place can help you but you stop anyway. The old gentleman is kind and scrawls down directions for you. You decide he can’t possibly be right because he seemed like he might not really have known what he was talking about (based on his surroundings and appearance). You toss the directions in the back seat and drive down a different winding road instead. This time you notice your gas gauge is low and realize you have the more immediate problem of fuel. Not finding a station, and getting very concerned, you let out a tiny desperation prayer to find a gas station because you are officially scared.

Finally! There’s a huge, well lit truck stop with everything a traveler could possibly need. You go in, take a break, get something to eat and ask someone where you are. They happily tell you your location and you are shocked because you never anticipated being there. You thought all along you were going somewhere else. But, you feel relieved to finally have fuel, rest and food. You have everything you truly need for your journey. You ask directions and the person gladly hands you a map and draws clear directions for you to follow.

This is what life can be like. The unmarked road is life. The first gas station is the attractive, seemingly good resource you look to in difficulty but get misdirected because they also don’t know the way. The second is the godly person you are too wary of to trust because you don’t identify with him. The gas gauge is your soul in a troubled situation. Your small prayer is your last resort. The mega gas station is the church where you found good people and refuge to help you and the map is the Bible. Jesus is the attendant at the mega gas station that welcomed you immediately and gave you clear directions.