It is common to give a full day’s effort at work, come home, and feel like there are only fumes left to give to the important people in our lives. We feel badly and wish we had more, but someone has to make sure food is on the table, lights stay on, and the kids can participate in basketball and private piano lessons! As easy as it is to find ourselves coming home on empty, it can be just as common to mindlessly move through patterns at home, just wanting a plate of food, a glass of something to relax, and then to veg-out for an hour (or more) in front of the TV. I’d like to suggest that this can be a dangerous pattern. Though these kinds of patterns can continue for years on auto-pilot, eventually they break down, possibly resulting in broken marriages, kids who don’t feel known or loved, addiction, or worse. 

What if we intentionally saved some of our very best (best attention, best words of affirmation, best energy, best effort) for those we espouse to love the most, instead of running ourselves into the ground at work and giving our best to those we care much less about? Mindfully evaluating our energy output is a simple way we can alter the patterns that may be hurting those we love. This is just one example of how a person can shrink his/her integrity gap. 

The integrity gap is the distance between the values you preach and the values you live. You love your wife/husband. You love your kids. You also make little to no time for them 5 days a week (or more); when you are home, they’re practically all in bed. You’d take a bullet for them, but how are you giving of yourself on their behalf each day in a way that helps them feel connected to you? We all have an integrity gap and it’s a good thing to shrink it down.

You may be coaching her team, but does she even want to play? Do you know what he’s excited about in life, or what important event is coming up next on her calendar? Do they get to hear stories about what you’re excited about throughout your week or what’s coming up for you? Do your kids get to hear and ask you about stories from your life? What do you enjoy together for fun? How do you intentionally connect with your kids, your spouse, and your closest friends?

What would it look like if we saved some of the best of ourselves for those we love the most? 

We can all choose to shrink our integrity gap, but it takes intention. It can sometimes require help from another person (accountability), and follow-through. Similarly to how we manage money by putting a designated amount aside in savings so we have it when we need it, we can learn to manage our relational energy and time. It might mean we become more aware of the words we give away during the day, sharing and dreaming with others, or we might need to limit the number of meetings we go to in a given day so that we can do more with those at home — those who we say are most important. Perhaps you preserve physical energy at work so that you still have some left in your tank to walk with your spouse at the end of the day, have tickle wars with your young children, hold out through endless rounds of “Would You Rather” games, or simply read together before the light goes out, without being the first one asleep. If this is difficult to do on your own, find a friend, coach, counselor, or accountability partner who can remind you what your goal is and check in with you about how your are progressing. It’s amazing how just telling another person what you are trying to do can really increase your follow-through! Another trusted person can also help you see things more clearly when your own perspective gets distorted.

All of us struggle with a gap somewhere in our lives; integrity means we are willing to be honest and then take steps toward a shift. It’s not a one-time event. Integrity is a way of being.

Everyone in our leadership wake serves to benefit when we do this, and everyone in our wake serves to pay when we don’t. It’s just a matter of time.  

Written by Jeff Mattson, MA ORG.L
Co-Founder & Principal of Living Wholehearted
Co-Founder & Owner of Courageous Girls
Co-Author of Shrinking the Integrity Gap: Between the Values You Preach and Live (Coming Fall 2020)