A Question of Integrity

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When referring to a person, integrity is defined as having a quality of being honest or fair. It can also be seen as sticking to a moral code.

I have been thinking a lot about integrity lately.

One of my girlfriends and I are doing this rather intense work out and with it comes a lot and I mean, a lot of work. However, if we would spend the 6 days a week in the gym that we do and then go home, eat like we have the metabolisms of a 10 year old boy then we would be ruining the integrity of what we are doing. It would also mean that I was not committing to what I had promised myself. Saying I work out and then seeing no results would make me look rather foolish, no?

Integrity is a large part of all our lives. We only really have our integrity, our character. Money can come and go, our looks can fade, our charm can wither if we are too tired or stressed, but our character is what everything is built on. When I say I will do something I want the person I say that to to trust me.

There is a verse in James that has become one of my favourite: But above all [things], my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath; but let your yes be [a simple] yes, and your no be [a simple] no, so that you may not sin and fall under condemnation.

Integrity starts with understanding what you can give, what you have space for and what your priorities are.

When we understand our position and where we are coming from we can make decisions, promises and plans based on this starting point. To have integrity does not mean giving everything, but knowing what you can and cannot accomplish or do, particularly for someone else.

Additionally, this verse is part of a passage where we are forced to look at how we are treating others. Patience, humility and self-sacrifice are also described in this passage.

It makes me think that when we live lives of integrity all those things are among the characteristics that become part of who you in the practice of having integrity, in building character.

In order to have integrity a person must also be patient, treat others well, be humble and self-sacrificial.

It is so easy to say “sure I will get you in touch with this person” or “Yeah, we should do coffee sometime” and then promptly forget. We schedule plans and then make excuses or we start building a relationship with someone and then decide they are not enough of a priority to us and simply filter them out of our lives.

I love connecting people. It is part of who I am. I don’t charge for what I do, I just want to make sure everyone knows the people they need to know. However, it can be super easy to say “oh yeah, you should meet this person” and then when I get home from that party or networking event, want to take a nice hot bath rather than send that email.

What was my priority in that moment? The person or my own comfort?

When we decide that what we say will be what happens then integrity comes much easier.

Let’s challenge each other to live lives of integrity. Our character is really all we have. Once that is tarnished then fixing it is much more difficult to earn back.

To be Vulnerable

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It was 2012 and my break up was very fresh.

I was sat in a pub in Notting Hill Gate (one that still makes me flinch a little as I walk by on visits to my former home) with two beautiful friends of mine.

They were there to make sure I was distracted and were working hard at it. Sadly, even the thought of good beer and Sunday roast could not keep the gates of sadness locked and an outpouring of tears flooded by Yorkshire Pudding.

I was humiliated.

You see, I was sat there, trying to work through all that had happened. Introspectively analysing me and what could have gone wrong in my relationship. I had to show that I was hurting, that I was in pain, that I was not okay. But in showing this the floodgates opened.

For me, expressing myself is one of my most vulnerable moments. Expressing myself is where I shine. I know that I have a gift for writing and other forms of communication. But with that gift comes the other side, comes a weight I guess. Because I can so passionately express myself, it also means that I pour out everything when I do.

Vulnerability, particularly when it comes to me and how I feel, is not my strong suit.

Don’t get me wrong, if I write a speech and stand up to present it, I am fine. I can jump up in front of a crowd of 10,000 and sing. Cool.

BUT if you ask me to be real with you one on one, or sing in front of 5 people there is a high chance I will cry. Cry or becoming emotionally over wrought.

I have yet to find an article, a journal, a scientific, logical reason for this, but it is fact.

My ability to pour out my heart on paper, in song, in words thrown out into the vast unknown  and be vulnerable, but not stand in front of someone and tell them I am in pain or that I like them is like taking me to an executioner is one of question.

Maybe it is because naturally I am what they call an outgoing introvert or maybe I am too sensitive. I just know that being vulnerable when it is something close to my heart is a struggle.

This was proven recently, twice actually when on two separate occasions, one in the Gap and one in a cafe, I cried when having to face conversations about subjects close to my heart.

E.M.B.A.R.R.A.S.S.I.N.G

These lovely moments where I am not actually sad, but, as they say “feeling all the feels” it is easier for me to cry, then to not do anything.

This isn’t actually about my inability to react to any highly-charged emotional moment without crying. It is about the process it has taken to be okay with being vulnerable.

The fact is that I know I will probably always respond the way I do. Yes, I work on breathing through the potential tears so as not to appear like I am 5, unprofessional or not altogether okay…but ultimately I know that my ability to feel the way I do makes me a better me, a better friend, lover, daughter, cousin and even employee.

Being vulnerable has enabled me to be a freer person. I have gotten more jobs, stood up for myself, inspired others, gotten a few dates (and being dumped), let others done better, reached greater levels emotionally, gotten closer to God, to my friends, to my family.

I have even learned more about others through this process.

I would hasten to say that most people struggle in some way with vulnerability and deal with it differently. I could shut down and become emotionally stunted. Instead I cry. oh fabulous.

Some people hide their vulnerability in alcohol, in meaningless sex, in keeping people at a distance.

Websters Dictionary defines vulnerability as the capability of being physically or emotionally wounded.

The fact is many things have the possibility to hurt you. In your life it is inevitable you will feel pain.

Getting into the right relationship takes a great risk because you’re both human and could hurt the other. So, instead we bounce from person to person and when we meet the one with whom are heart connects we try and keep them at a distance so as not to face the fact that maybe things are getting a bit real and we need to change and let someone in.

Or maybe it could be something as simple as not wanting to go back to the gym because one day someone teased you back in high school how you were uncoordinated. Or maybe that you tried to ride a bike, someone let go and you fell off and now don’t want to get back on again.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that vulnerability affects all facets of our lives.

What I have learned is that in order to be more vulnerable I have to learn to trust others more. To trust them with my heart, my emotions, my general well being. When we allow ourselves a position of vulnerability we are not allowing someone power over us, instead we are inviting them to be vulnerable themselves and giving them permission to be open. We humble ourselves so that in return they will humble themselves. It is servanthood.

Sure, people still suck. We’re human. You could still get hurt. But what if you just opened up. Maybe you would learn more about yourself and the person sat in front of you.

Maybe your moment of vulnerability would impact a hundred thousand lives.

A Restored Heart

image1 (6)It was only a few weeks, maybe two months into my life in Sweden when my dear friend, who lives in New Zealand, insisted on Skyping with me.

My move to Sweden, whilst actually much more carefully planned and thought out than many on the outside knew, came as a surprise to most. One friend even asked me if I was running away.

Looking back now, exactly three years after I applied to do my MSc here and uproot my life of seven years in London, the move to a country where I had no knowledge of the language or any true tries, may have seemed a bit abrupt.

I had it all in London. A good job, amazing community, an all round lovely life. I was comfortable.

Unfortunately, in all my comfort, I was giving all that was broken in my life a place to hide. With routine and familiarity came a place to hide much that was tearing me up from the inside out. Like broken glass in a plastic bag.

Needless to say that Skype call came as a real awakening…

“Michelle, I feel like this your time to heal. This next season is about healing and it is not going to be comfortable. It WILL be painful”

oh, thanks.

The years prior to this had brought a momentous amount of rejection to my heart. Details of break ups, friendships torn apart, men in my life who should have been there for me, abandoned me. I had lost my step father when he was abruptly promoted to Heaven and a relationship or two torn from my life. Even church where was supposed to feel accepted and safe was all but filled with humans who were less than kind. It had been over a year of “go to sleep and wake up and life has changed monumentally”.

I was done.

Life was more than I could handle and yet that last year had been filled with so many amazingly good times that my logically minded brain would not let my broken and rejected heart feel that it was fair or reasonable to be sad.

It is genuinely a tumultuous season to be in.

Last night, as we celebrated the sacrifice that was paid over 2000 years ago, a sacrifice made so that my life could be whole, so I could be free, so that we all could live the lives we were meant to lead, loved and accepted, I was overcome by the overwhelming responsibility to tell a story of a girl.

The girl is me and she stands a different person than she was three years ago.

Looking back, my friend in New Zealand was right. This has been a season of healing. It has also been one of the most difficult three years of my entire life.

As a Christian, as someone raised in church, I also balance my intellectual side and my emotional side. I am clearly not the only one, but I am going to be blunt. I spend many a night struggling between wanting to give in to my human emotions of “this is not fair” and “this is not right” balancing it with the fact that the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in me. I spend time balancing the argument of humanity vs grace. In a person who feels ALL the feels while still trying to make a logical explanation out of everything, I can be often at war with myself.

All the details of the past three years are not important. If you want them, we can have a cup of coffee or a Skype chat. This is not meant to be a post about how to fix a situation or make your life comparable to mine.

We all have our own struggles, our own personal reasons for needing a Saviour. The truth is, that ultimately we do all need a Saviour. It is only because of my relationship with God that all of me makes sense.

I was For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Psalm 139:13-14

It was only when I allowed, actually allow (because I still and always will have my moments) myself to forget that I was made perfectly and uniquely in EVERY way…that I find myself forgetting that the rejections of this world are never going to break me.

Throughout the months and months of pain, of tears when no one was looking, that healing took place.

I truly had to go through the fire in order to come out more whole than I had ever been.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. Is 55:8-9

It was only in the understanding of a love greater than I can comprehend, in the framework of hope that life made sense. Coming out of the other side it is easier to see the thread of love and compassion which brought healing.

I have gone from a rejected heart that sees fault in all others, sees herself as not enough, to a woman who again stands, a heart restored, not rejected, knowing that her full identity and reliance is firm in something much greater than herself. This is the freedom I find in Christ, freedom to be all of me, unapologetically, to face the world each day. Strong.