Cleaning Messes, Displaying Character

We all make messes of one kind or another. Mistakes, blunders, sins. They are a constant. But in the end, its the cleanup that defines our character.

Today's headlines brought news of yet another political mess. The governor of New York is in hot water for first empowering a task force to root out corruption, and then shutting it down when the investigation got too close to his cronies. But, as is often the case,  the cover-up not the crime is getting all the attention.

We learn most about you, not by the messes you make, but by how you admit them, learn from them, and clean them up. 

Here are 4 damaging truths for those who refuse to clean up their messes:

1. Pouring all your energy into cover-up rather than confession only multiplies the transgression: Remember King David after his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba resulted in her pregnancy? Rather than come clean before God and the people, he devised 3 different plans to cover up his sin. Eventually, his third plan worked, and her husband was killed. Now he was guilty of murder.

2. Denial or feigned ignorance of the part you played in the mess may bring short-term security, but will end up branding you as an untrustworthy, self-centered coward: The first thing a coward does in the face of personal error is deny any knowledge of the problem. This "head-in-the-sand" approach is never synonymous with integrity or the backbone necessary to inspire confidence in others. 

3. Deciding to ignore the mess you've made will plunge you into a sticky, ever-expanding web of deceit: You will have to lie. You will have to make up a story about the mess, and about how you didn't do anything about it at first, and about how you really didn't know about it, and about how it was someone else's fault, and yada yada yada. Sticky, really sticky.

4. You will never, ever, ever get away with it: Almost everything eventually comes in the open. And the longer it takes, the worse you'll look for keeping the secret  so long. But even if you do cover things up well, and no one ever finds out, your ongoing fear of exposure will only heighten the sickening feeling of guilt in your gut.

Covering up your mess is never God's "A plan." So, here are 5 things we learn about those who clean up their messes: 

1. You know God blesses the humble: When you mess up, it takes a dose of humility to admit it, and move to make things right. God loves this in us. James 4:6 declares that "God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble." 

2. You realize confession and repentance line God's pathway to freedom: Sometimes the messes we make are the result of sinful desires and actions. Repentance is the only cleanser the stained soul understands. 

3. You prize integrity far above convenience and comfort: Every situation in life testifies to who we really are. Making mistakes is unavoidable. Yet, our response to our mistakes, shortcomings, and downright sinful actions displays our true character. What's your integrity worth? The answer is found in deciding what you would trade for your integrity. Would you trade integrity for success? For fame? If so, you'll be sorry. Nothing in our lives is more important than our character, our integrity, and our testimony for Jesus Christ. Never allow convenience or comfort to replace integrity in your life.

4. You are comfortable in your own skin: Admitting mistakes and moving to fix them are signs that you are comfortable in who you are. You realize you're not always right, not always righteous, and believe you're still moving along the path to maturity. You are past the point where you are putting up a front for others to see. You've already determined you will be honest and hard-working, and cleaning up your messes is something you're committed to doing, and - hopefully - to doing it a lot less in the future.

5. You have courage and strength of character that makes you extremely valuable to any enterprise: Anyone can make a mess, tell a lie, mishandle a task, forget something important, disappoint others, or act unrighteously. But it takes courage to admit it, and move quickly and carefully to repair whatever damage has been done. It also takes strength of character to admit that something might be wrong in your heart and mind that allowed you to think what you did was right. External action and internal reflection result from a prior commitment to do the hard things in life when they are the best things.

People will always judge us by the things we do wrong. But they will learn the most about us by watching how we admit our messes, clean them up, learn from them, and live lives that are more and more like Jesus.