Integrity is earned; you cannot claim it until it has been tested.
I always thought I had integrity, or more accurately, I never thought much about integrity but assumed that I had it because I was a nice person who cared about others.
People who knew me also assumed I had integrity. I was responsible and reliable and I seemed like someone who could be trusted to do the right thing.
But guys, when the time came, I failed the test...big time.
About 15 years ago I made some poor choices [understatement] that pointed out to me, in no uncertain terms, that I LACKED INTEGRITY. This was a huge realization. I wasn't who I thought I was and I was deeply ashamed.
Yes, it was a painful lesson—not just painful for me, but for others, too—and yet, I am so grateful for it. This lesson totally changed the trajectory of my life.
That shame I was experiencing became the catalyst for me to become a person of integrity. It showed me that I had to firmly decide what kind of person I wanted to be. I understood that I was 100% responsible for my character. And I worked for many years on building and strengthening my ability to choose the path of right action, honesty, and authenticity whatever the circumstances.
If I hadn't so royally screwed up, I don't know if I ever would've started to wake up. My mistakes grew me in ways I could never have predicted.
Integrity isn't about being nice or even kind or compassionate. There is grit in integrity—literally and figuratively. Integrity isn't something that you're born with; it's something that you develop and practice.
And if you are tested and fail, that's not the end of the road, you get to learn and grow and try again. Our weaknesses can be powerful teachers when we acknowledge them and make a commitment to change.