It’s a man’s world, but…

… it would be nothing without a woman or a girl, so sang James Brown. I am loving the success of the lionesses, England’s woman football team. I really hope they go on to lift the Euro trophy ahead of the men! This would appeal to my sense of justice.

Women’s football has a long history of being successful in this country and yet was ruthlessly shut down and banned by the FA in the early 1900s. Like so many areas of life, women have had to fight for the right to compete and enjoy what men take for granted.

I find it difficult to understand why men feel threatened by women flourishing. There’s a mistaken idea that persists whereby to allow women to shine somehow robs men. I really don’t believe this to be true. Perhaps if women can be all that they choose to become, men can be released in order to fulfil their God-given potential too without wasting time and emotional energy asserting their abusive power and dominance. I have spent much of my life being a leader in the church who isn’t able to be fully what I have to offer. I have also been blessed to have men in my life who have done what they can to help me thwart this.

Yet, as the saying goes, ’necessity is the mother of invention’. I think the reason there are so many amazing female pioneers and entrepreneurs is because we’ve been forced to be creative so as to find another way. What had meant to paralyse and destroy us has actually led to our liberation and thriving.

Maybe this is the subversive kingdom Mary celebrates as she nurtures the newly incarnated God-King in her womb. The divine Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, “has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, the mighty are brought down from their thrones and the humble are lifted up. The hungry are filled with good things and the rich are sent away empty.” (Luke 1:51-53)

Sometimes I wonder if this can ever happen. I regularly despair at the injustice of the world. But then I hear 30,000 football fans chanting, ”football’s coming home” in support of a team of dedicated, skilful and determined women and, once again, I think oh yes it can!

What is integrity anyway?

Boris Johnson resigns yesterday

We’re hearing a lot about integrity in the news at the moment. But actually what is integrity? The dictionary definition says, “The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles,” as well as, “The state of being whole and undivided.” Being honest sounds straight forward enough, but as we’ve seen over recent months truth can be manipulated, distorted and stretched in order to justify all manner of indecency and wrong-doing. 

There’s also the problem of interpretation. My truth might not be the same as your truth because we are filtering events through our own prejudices and expectations based on previous, unique life experiences. We all know how social media can disseminate and perpetuate fake news. What we see cannot necessarily be trusted. I am of the generation that has had their childhood heroes exposed as paedophiles and even church leaders and Christian writers and commentators have been found to have abused their power and positions of trust in the most diabolical fashion.

So where does that leave us? I have always considered integrity to be the consistency between what is said and what is done. I always try to treat others as I would like to be treated and to follow through with action when I say I will do something. This often leads me to initially turn down a request. This is because I need to go away and consider whether I have the time and emotional energy before I commit to the action. However, once I have agreed to act I will give my all to see it through to what I believe is a satisfactory conclusion.

Jesus says something similar in Matthew chapter 7, verse 15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” In my experience people will say almost anything to get you to believe they are decent and trustworthy. Yet, what about their lives? They might appear good and successful on the surface, but how do they treat those around them? And do they let people get close enough to see what is really motivating them?

I think culture has a big part to play in defining what is understood by integrity. We can easily assume we all mean the same thing by such an ideal, but I wonder if this is where self delusion can creep in. It’s astounding how individuals and organisations can say they abide by one set of values and then behave completely contrary to those values when presented with a particular set of circumstances! As Peter Drucker famously said, ‘culture eats strategy (or integrity) for breakfast.’

I’ll give you an example, we say every person is created in the image of God and therefore has equal worth. Yet our organisational structures are hierarchical and those at the top get paid more, presumably because we actually believe they are of greater value. I was so impressed with Traidcraft who following a restructure introduced a flat structure and committed to pay their employees the same wage. You might be a cleaner or the CEO but both are working to the best of their albeit, different abilities in order to bless others and bring glory to God. 

You could call me a Marxist, but I just want to challenge us to ponder whether we’ve really thought through what actions are required in the light of what we say are our values. And when we are quick to judge politicians for not living up to the standards we say we espouse, yet who the majority of citizens voted for, perhaps we should more closely examine whether there really is an alignment between what we say we believe and how we live in the light of that revelation. Or, in reality, are we continually compromising our values in order to accommodate an ungodly culture that we unconsciously perpetuate? It’s hard to make a stand and no one thanks you for it. However, it’s the role of the prophet to unmask falsehoods, as well as imagine a better future.