Life on the Slippery SlopeBlog / Produced by The High Calling
Bill was at one of those defining moments. He didn't know at the time, and I doubt he realizes it now. But I remember it well.
Sales were down and the stress was high. In fact, I couldn't remember tension levels being so high. Employees worried about their job security. Others feared pay reductions. No one felt secure, from top to bottom. It wasn't a pretty sight.
Then one day in the midst of this company-wide trial, manager Bill made a business error in judgment, one that seemed to rise above all the rest. Actually, it wasn't that horrible, but it wasn't a good time to slip and fall. Once discovered, I waited to see his response—there was no hiding this gaff—and I wondered about what he might do. Blame his staff? Target his difficult workload, and thus indirectly blame his boss? With all of the uncertainty flooding the workplace, I knew he faced a world of fears. And I really wondered, "How strong is his integrity?"
Integrity represents the sum of a number of virtues. The term can be applied to many different life situations, from honesty to loyalty, from an act of humble service to forgiveness. As Christians, we define this sum of virtues by what we learn from God's word. In some sense, integrity represents a value system by which we can measure our own spiritual growth.
However, it's often far easier to meet a high standard of integrity when faced with few or no problems. Integrity is less about what you do in the good times and more about what you do in the bad. Life on the slippery slope is self-revealing.
Saul found that out the hard way. In 1 Samuel 13, Saul and the army of Israel faced the powerful Philistine army. Samuel instructed Saul to wait seven days for him to arrive so that burnt offerings could be made to the Lord. But when Samuel didn't show at the appointed time, Saul found himself on a slippery slope. The odds looked bad, really bad. In fact, his men were fleeing and hiding. Was Samuel going to be a no-show? Instead of waiting patiently for Samuel, Saul could stand it no longer and offered the burnt sacrifices himself.
Of course, Samuel did show up.
But the real problem was Saul's response to getting caught. Samuel expressed disgust over Saul's decision to proceed with the sacrifice, and he asked, "What have you done?"
Saul replied, "When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time . . . I felt compelled to offer the burnt offerings" (1 Sam. 13: 11-12).
These words revealed Saul's integrity, his value system. Although Saul continued as king, he lost the kingdom that day. Perhaps a more honest answer could have softened the end result, I don't know. Certainly, King David would fess up to big mistakes. He suffered for his bad decisions, but David remained king and a "man after God's heart."
And Bill? There are times when bosses give authority to staff members and if they do not perform as asked, rightfully so, the blame should be on their shoulders. On the other hand, sometimes people take blame when there's no need to take it, which can be unwise. However, in this case, it was clear that Bill made the fateful decision. He had pulled the trigger.
When Bill was confronted with the error, he didn't hesitate. "Hey, this one is on me," he said. "It's my fault."
We'll never know how much courage it took for Bill to give that answer, especially under such dire circumstances. It would have been much easier to try and deflect fault in some other direction, but he didn't. I was proud of Bill for that. In fact, I wrote a very positive note to his boss.
Such decisions are rarely black and white—which is why they are so difficult. So we must call on God to direct us and give us wisdom. Perhaps that's the final element of true integrity. We move beyond cookie-cutter solutions, because they can sometimes create more problems than they solve. Instead, we call on God to help us make the right choice. It's never easy, and we may make a bad decision every now and then. But that's life on the slippery slope. Through it all, we trust God to change us as we look to him and desire to live a life in his Kingdom.