Who Are You When No One Is Watching?

I am not the first person (really, Christian) to confess this, but here it goes: I have been known to slip out a cuss word here and there. Or several, as is suitable for the circumstances.

My boyfriend is not a fan. In fact, a non-cusser is one of his top qualities he’s looking for in a future wife. When we first started spending more time together, getting to know our quirks and habits, I slipped out one, or maybe two. Of course, I apologized and said it was certainly not a regular thing for me these days. (College Ashley? Maybe a different story.)

And then, he hit me with this zinger, “But I want to know who you are when I’m not around.”

Really, it’s a mystery. How do we get to know someone, their true self that comes out when they’re alone in the dark?

Growing up, I remember those days in the classroom with a substitute teacher, usually a retired old man who either snored at the teacher’s desk, or wandered away to make another bathroom run. You could always predict the kids who would stay working in their seats, diligently focused on the assignment, no matter who was watching. And you always knew that one kid who would stir up the chaos, with darting eyes of freedom, flicking the lights off or slipping hand sanitizer into the teacher’s water bottle (which is sadly a very true story from a teacher friend).

This week on the Dig Deep Podcast, Marja spoke about integrity in adversity. In the midst of adversity—a miserable job, a loveless marriage, a challenging child, a loss of your mental or physical health—can you say that you stand with integrity? No, we’re not talking about the fake smile you put on for a crowd. We’re talking about how you handle it all when you’re completely alone. How do you cope when no one is watching?

In Genesis 39, we see Joseph continuing in his work with all diligence, despite Potiphar’s wife’s daily tempting to lure him away from his life built on godly principles. Honestly, I wouldn’t blame Joseph if he would have had a moment of anger, as circumstance after circumstance could have easily made him feel like God abandoned him.

But that’s not what happens. Joseph turns her down, day after day. As Marja said, integrity means that just because we can do something, doesn’t mean that we should. We are stewards of what God has given us. Every day, we have small decisions to make that add up to an entire life’s story.

Our thoughts and dreams become our actions. Our actions build our habits. Our habits shape our character. And our character determines our destiny.

Look, I wish I could say that the bad guys don’t win, that the dishonest, the ones who thrive in the darkness, that they will never rise to a position of leadership. I wish I could say that those who have built a life on the quiet, destructive habits that they do when no one is watching, those lacking all integrity, that they will never be given power in this world.

I wish, I wish, I wish, oh, do I wish.

But, one day, it will be sorted out. Have faith that those who ask for wisdom will walk with protection.

There’s a truth that I keep finding, only to lose again. A truth that I’ve recently rediscovered. We are not defined by our adversity. A pile of disappointments, unexpected pain, do not shape our identity.

In a life filled with heartbreak, where adversity is the norm, we have a choice to make every day: How will we respond? What words will we use to tell our stories?

But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor… the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

Genesis 39:21, 23

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