I've often heard the idea, "Integrity is who you are when nobody is looking." While that's certainly true, I think a lot of our integrity also comes from what we do in the context of relationships. How we impact others is a key indicator of our what's going on on the inside.
A few months ago I was asked to speak at my grandfather's funeral. In a room full of his closest friends and family, I closed with, "You can judge the character of a man by the impact he has on the people closest to him." While it sounds like a good sermon cliche', I've been challenged by that idea the more I've thought about it.
A part of my job in ministry is to come across as a compassionate, caring man. While that's certainly a noble aspiration, it's also easy to put on a mask when needed and play the part. As a musician, I've played a lot of gigs in a lot of churches and seen behind the scenes of a lot of leaders. While some of the best people I know work in this field, I've also seen a lot of pain and brokenness.
I'm not saying this from an ivory tower. There are many days when I come home and am not the man I want to be to my wife and children. I'm irritable, distant, angry. I can justify it as, "I've had a long day" or "I need a place where I can just be myself." But if being myself means being an a**hole, what does that say about my character? And why am I sometimes my worst around the people I care about the most?
You can judge the character of a person by the impact they have on the people closest to them. Time reveals what's really there. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:33 that "bad company corrupts good character." I've always been arrogant enough to assume that that means I shouldn't hang out with crappy friends. But what if I am the crappy friend?
Of course, the opposite can be true. A person can create an atmosphere about themselves that brings life to those around them. We can be friends that love at all times, born for adversity. Iron sharpening iron. Loving, encouraging, supporting. That picks each other up. That laughs and celebrates.
Want to know what kind of friend you are? Look at the people closest to you and see the impact you are making in their lives.