a lack or lapse of integrity

Posted: July 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

…this is something that I’ve had to face in the last couple of months, and honestly something that I’m still dealing with today.

It was a Monday night, the next morning my oldest son and I would be leaving for a camping trip in the Blackhills.  The only thing between me and that trip, was a final paper that needed to be turned in within the next hour.  The majority of the paper was coming together, but somehow I felt the nudging to do more.   I could have simply submitted what I had, called it good, took whatever grade even a failing grade and still would have passed the class for the semester.  I did something that changed a lot.  I googled.  I found a few lines, from a few different articles, and placed them within my paper.  I didn’t cite them, I didn’t give credit where credit was due.  I submit my paper.

That Friday afternoon I received an email from the professor.  The opening line read:

Ryan, in grading your final exam I found multiple instances of plagiarism.

Immediately I knew the trouble I was in, and I knew in part what this was going to cost me.

My immediate response was to pick up my phone, call the seminary, and get on the phone with my professor.  As soon as he picked up, I simply apologized for what I did, I told him I didn’t have an excuse for what I did, and then I just sat.  His words were very clear, definitely not sugar-coated, and begin to reveal more of the trouble I would be facing.  He stated that the situation had been turned over to the dean of students, and that he would be contacting me as well.

The next phone call I made was to my denominational mentor.  I don’t know why I called him, but I did.  The conversation was similar. I messed up, not excuse for doing so, and then silence.  What came next was something that begin a huge spiral of what seems to me even today, chaos.  He instructed me to keep that Thursday afternoon open, and that I would need to come to a meeting with the rest of a discipleship committee that would determine my consequences.

The next few days were filled with other conversations, other struggles of my own that were rattling around in my own head.  I talked with my elders in my church to inform them, I talked with others that I felt could help me brace myself for what was to come.  I prepared myself for the worst, and on that Thursday faced it.

I met with the Discipleship committee for my denomination, the “verdict” was handed down that I would be suspended for a year from the denomination (meaning no financial assistance and such).  And then it happened…the word Integrity got brought up. It was difficult for me to swallow, and I would assume that for anyone, whenever that is brought into question, is difficult to deal with when it’s being questioned.

I sat there stunned.  A group of my peers, people who I met with once a year, were questioning my integrity based on what I did.

The following Sunday I gathered with the Elders and Deacons of my church.  As I began to explain to them the situation I found myself in. The word got brought up again. One of my Deacons, simply brought it up saying that in the corporate world, this would easily be something that might make them question someones integrity. “But we know you”, he said.

Those words were like a breath of fresh air.  They knew me.  It’s not that because of what I had done, it somehow changed who I was to them.  No, it was that they knew me, they knew my track record in the church, they knew me because I had walked alongside them for the last 4+ years, that they could simply sit there and say, “we know you. We don’t question if you lack integrity, it’s that you had a moment of weakness and there was a lapse of integrity.”

The last few months have been a rollercoaster.  I stood before my congregation on Father’s Day and explained to them what I did, not in a “look at me, look at me” kind of way. But in a “I messed up, I’m taking responsibility, and I’m trying to move forward.” I’ve had to explain to my oldest son what I’ve done, and the steps I’m taking to own up to it.

I’m not perfect, I hope I never claim to be.  There are things we do, and there’s always a lesson to be learned.  Some of our mistakes can be costly (money, character, or other) but the importance is how we move forward (with our Integrity intact).

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