By Gabriel Fances
With edits, additions and formatting by Stephanie Nannen and Jason Poon
I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.
- Frederick Douglass
I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.
- Abraham Lincoln
How do we deal with the pressures of life? What do we do when difficulties arise? How do we respond to those who differ from us or disagree with us? Our capacity to demonstrate integrity and nerve informs how we respond to changes and challenges.
The article “Epic Is About Integrity and Nerve” defines integrity as our “core identity and character,” and nerve as our “courage and resolve.” It is a combination of who we are and what we stand for as we face the pressures of life and leadership.
Embodying integrity and nerve does not mean we ignore the frustration, disappointment, or fear we may feel in difficult situations. Instead, it means we acknowledge and engage our emotions as we move through adversity.
Demonstrating integrity and nerve is not about being stubborn or inflexible. We need to love and honor those different from us, even those who add stress and increase the difficulty our lives. Having integrity and nerve means having the ability to work well with others and even admit when we are wrong. It means discerning how we are different from others, while still valuing what we can learn from others’ voices, stories, and perspectives.
Developing integrity and nerve can be a difficult process. At times it might feel easier to simply conform or comply with the dominant narrative, or to accept injustice as “that’s just the way things are.” For Asian Americans this might look like “seeking harmony” by avoiding conflict, or performing to others’ expectations of us instead of living according to our own principles and values.
To fight these temptations, we need to develop a strong sense of identity. We must know who we are, what we value, and what we will (or won’t) stand for. We can’t remain true to ourselves if we don’t know who we are.
The Bible is filled with stories of people who displayed integrity and nerve. One prime example is the Old Testament prophet Daniel. As you read his story, look for specific ways he demonstrated courage and maintained a strong sense of identity in the face of change and difficulty.
FOR GROUP STUDY
- What was Daniel’s ethnicity? Where did he grow up?
- Who were the other key figures in the story? What were their ethnicities?
- What was the relationship like between the Israelite and Babylonian peoples? What did the balance of power look like?
- What pressures and challenges did Daniel and his friends face?
- In v.7 a Babylonian official “gave” Daniel and his three Hebrew friends “new” names. What cultural implications did that action carry? In what way were “gave” and “new” euphemistic terms?
- In what area did Daniel decide he needed to take a stand and not assimilate to the majority culture? Why did he choose that? What did his resistance look like?
- How did Daniel exhibit integrity and nerve?
- How did Daniel’s sense of identity help him exhibit integrity and nerve?
- What were the results of Daniel leading with integrity and nerve?
- Are there parts of Daniel’s story you can relate to? How so? Where might the stories of Epic students intersect with Daniel’s story?
As you read through your Bible, continue to look for instances where people displayed (or did not display) integrity and nerve. What kind of impact did their character and courage (or lack thereof) make on the lives of those around them, and of future generations?
Pay close attention to Jesus’ life on Earth. Jesus encountered adversity constantly, yet always responded with integrity and nerve. In Matthew 4:1-11, Satan appeared before Jesus to tempt him into evil. Twice, Satan taunted Jesus by saying, “If you’re the Son of God, why don’t you…” But Jesus knew who he was, and he wasn’t going to let anyone else tell him how to be the Son of God. Then Satan said, “All you have to do is worship me, and I’ll give you everything you ever wanted.” But Jesus had resolved to live by and for the truth, so he chose to reject Satan’s offer.
Everyone faces challenges and pressures in life, and being Asian American adds another layer to these challenges and pressures. We cannot avoid these difficulties, but we can take time to reflect on how we handled these kinds of pressures in the past, and determine how we’d like to respond differently in the future. We can change and grow in our capacity for embodying integrity and nerve.
In Epic, we seek to develop a strong sense of our ourselves and to face adversity with courage. Our aim is to follow Jesus’ example of leading with integrity and nerve.
- Who has modeled courageous leadership in your life?
- Under what circumstances do you become vulnerable to believing lies about your identity, worth, and purpose?
- What are the forces—both internal and external—that chip away at your resolve?
- What are the forces in your current settings and culture that pressure you to silence your voice or suppress who you are?
- Reflect on an instance where you exemplified integrity and nerve. Now reflect on an instance when you failed to exemplify integrity and nerve. What lessons can you learn from these experiences?
- How might a lack of integrity and nerve negatively impact relationships within your team, as well as your team’s relationships with others? Be specific about how this plays out in your culture and context.
- What does it look like for you to lose your nerve in evangelism? Discipleship? MPD? Other areas?
- What is the difference between having nerve and becoming stubborn or resistant to feedback? How can you discern the difference?
- What would it look like for your team to display integrity and nerve to your students?
- The article “Epic Is About Integrity and Nerve” mentions the pressures of conformity (adapting to the behavior or environment around you) and compliance (compromising out of fear or anxiety). What kind of pressures do you experience in your movement?
- How might a lack of integrity and nerve compromise or inhibit the mission of your movement? Be specific about how this plays out in your culture and context.
- What are practical ways that your movement can display integrity to a watching world?
Pick one of those ways, and make a plan to change or implement what is necessary.
- Courage: The Backbone of Leadership by Gus Lee
- A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix by Edwin H. Friedman
- Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality by Henry Cloud
- Crazy Rich Asians (the movie)