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Integrity in Everyday Communication

Do you ever find yourself making up excuses that aren't necessarily true just so you can get out of some sort of social engagement?

Integrity. Communication. Hypocrisy. These are just a few of the things I’ve been thinking about lately. It all started when I caught myself doing something that irks me to no end when I see it in other people: making seemingly “good” excuses that aren’t true for why I’m going to be noncommittal about some fill-in-the-blank activity. You’ve heard these excuses a million times before, and maybe you’ve used your fair share of them as well. They sound something like this:

“Oh, sorry, I can’t come over for dinner because my dog is sick.” (Really? Because your dog was fine when I saw it two minutes ago.)

“I can’t make it tonight; I have other, tentative plans. But if they cancel, I’ll be sure to let you know.” (So you’re holding out for something better than my invitation.)

“I’ve just been so busy lately, and I like to plan things at least two weeks in advance.” (Oh, so that’s why I always see your spur of the moment activities with friends on Facebook?)

“Sorry, I don’t know if I can come over to watch a movie because we might need to buy a car tonight.”

That last one was the very thing I heard coming out of my mouth last night. Really? My husband and I might need to buy a car tonight, so I can’t watch a movie? That sounds really dumb when I think about it now.  Just for the record, my car did suddenly die on us, and we are looking to buy a new one. But last I checked, I don’t need to sit and watch my husband as he researches cars on our only computer.

But it made me realize how I often live my life this way. Instead of telling the truth — “I’m kind of tired, and I might want to just sit at home and veg tonight” — I try to come up with a better, holier, more important-sounding excuse.  “I must pursue buying a car tonight because I need transportation to and from my most wonderful, holy and amazing job at a nonprofit Christian ministry.”

In many ways, I think we allow these small untruths to creep into our conversations and our vocabulary. So instead of letting our “yes be yes and our no, be no,” we manipulate our words and our conversations to sound like something completely different than what we really intend on doing.

I see this often in myself and in other young people. We often have a propensity to be ambivalent about anything because we’re always looking for the next big thing to come our way. And I believe this can easily turn into hyprocrisy: “a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.”

My friend Janice has faced this idea of integrity and hypocrisy in the context of making her employment history sound nicer for a potential employer.  While the issues at stake with finding a job may seem a little more significant than the excuses we all make on a day-to-day basis, I think Janice hits on an important point: To live our lives in radical obedience to Christ, we need to be willing to pursue holy living, a radical devotion, and truthfulness on our lips and in our hearts.

So, at the end of the day, I’m praying that “the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

And if my words and thoughts are not pleasing to God, chances are that I need to think carefully about whether I’m speaking truthfully or just trying to sound good.

Copyright 2011 Dawn McBane. All rights reserved. 


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