Having high integrity is the opposite of having a bad reputation. You know how a bad reputation follows you around – well not you of course – but other people with a bad reputation, it follows them around – right?
I think integrity is sort of the opposite. If you come from a place of high integrity all of the time, this reputation will precede you.
So, that when you mess up (because you will, because you are human and we make mistakes), having this background, this reputation of being a stand up guy or girl, who does what they say they are going to do, keeps their promises, takes the higher ground and doesn’t stoop to levels below themselves or compromise what they know to be right even when times get tough – this reputation will cause people to be more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt, forgive you, or give you a little extra leeway if and when it is needed.
This week my integrity was called into question. An emotional email with undercurrents of hurt and anger showed up on my screen. As you can imagine, I was very concerned and when we get emotional emails, we all know the best way to respond is not with an equally charged email response. So, I requested a phone call with the person.
I tend to err on the side of giving people the benefit of the doubt. It serves me well generally and usually a simple misunderstanding and/or communication breakdown was at fault. Usually it can be easily rectified.
And so it was with this email, or so I thought. We had a phone conversation where I explained my side of the story, she explained hers and we speculated on some missing information from a third party. It seemed to me the call went well, each speaking our truths and I thought that was the end of that.
A few hours later, a surprise was in store for me. Another heated email came through and apparently after digesting our conversation, this lady was more unhappy than she was before. She questioned my honesty and my integrity, and made insinuations which did not sit well with me at all. It was very hard not to respond emotionally to this second email that was so blatantly accusing me of doing something I did not do.
I connected her with the third person in our scenario requesting that they have a call. I typed up a draft response of how her email made me feel, but did not send it. At this point, I have to thank my family for allowing me to vent to them, because I was really hurt and angry. Wouldn’t you be if someone was accusing you of lying, and you were not?
Anyway … long story short, after she had the call with the third person, she emailed me again. This time to apologize. Now that she had the missing information, she realized that she had jumped to conclusions and made assumptions that were not true.
Whew. I was very relieved to get this email. But, so many thoughts bubbled up in my brain.
- Why did I care so much what this person I barely knew thought of me? I knew I was telling the truth, and that should be good enough.
- Why don’t people give others the benefit of the doubt? Why assume the worst when the other person has never wronged you or given you a reason to distrust them? Is it because they have been burned so many times by other people?
- I want to forgive her for hurting me, for insulting me like that, but I also feel like holding a grudge.
- Was I wrong to believe that if you come from a place of integrity, it will precede you?
At the end of the day, I forgave and sent a cordial email back, explaining that although it really did hurt to have my integrity questioned, I harboured no ill-will and hoped we could connect again, leaving this all in the past.
So, my thoughts for myself and for you today… continue to lead with integrity, but try to let go, whether others believe you or not. We cannot control how others perceive us no matter how hard we try, no matter how much we want to, no matter how important it is to us. Just doing our best has to be good enough. It’s all we really have.
Continue to give others the benefit of the doubt. Just because you were burned here, it doesn’t mean someone else is going to burn you there.
Let go of the grudges – it’s like carrying a 20-pound sack of potatoes and hurts no one but yourself. Let go and forgive, it’s a gift you give yourself.
And finally – I have to believe most people are good, want to help, serve, share. I just have to believe that, even though I know any given newscast will tell us otherwise.
At the end of the day, no matter how much we give, share, do for others, someone may not like us – what we stand for, what we do, or the color of our hair. Oh well, at the end of that same day, we have to look ourselves in the mirror and be okay with what we see. At the end of that day, I want to be able to put my head on my pillow and know that I did my best, came from a place of integrity, tried to make a world a little better than it was yesterday. And if someone thinks otherwise, that is their issue, not mine.
I will sleep well – I hope you do too!