Walk the Walk, or All Talk?

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” Proverbs 11:3

Consider these scenarios:

  • You jump into a cab on your big Christmas shopping trip to NYC (hey—it could happen) and you find someone’s wallet stuffed with cash and their driver’s license. Nothing else. What would you do?
  • You realize a cashier has incorrectly rung up your order at Wal-Mart, and the $50 coffee maker you’ve been saving up for obviously didn’t scan. Your total is $21. What would you do?
  • Your boss has asked you for confidential information that you obtained from your previous employer. By giving it, you are breaking an agreement you signed—but he knows nothing about the agreement. More than likely, no one will ever know that it came from you. What would you do?

Hard questions, right? I mean, in all cases, NO ONE BUT YOU would know the truth. NO ONE BUT YOU could get yourself in trouble by admitting error. And, NO ONE BUT YOU would know of your little “incident” unless you told someone.

Now consider this:

  • Your child is in the cab with you.
  • The coffee maker is actually a Barbie remote control car, and it’s your child whose been saving.
  • The boss is now a jealous parent at your school, and they are asking you about another child’s grades, in front of your child.

Would you react differently if you knew someone was watching you? Someone like . . . your child?

Over the last week, with constant news coverage of the Chick-fill-A controversy, I’ve thought a lot about integrity. Do I live it? Does what I believe match up with what I say and do? And, more importantly, how do I teach my children to live with integrity?

Teach them what integrity means. It goes beyond saying what you mean, and meaning what you say. It’s something that comes deep from within our personal belief system. It is standing up for what we believe, living what we believe, and being consistent in our beliefs.

Act it out. There is no better example than a living example. Teach your children by living a life of integrity. Show them in your daily choices that you back up your words with action. That you don’t falter when the heat rises. And that you can be trusted through and through.

Take Sides. Talk about your beliefs with your children. Tell them where you stand on issues that are important to you. Don’t waver if they disagree. Just like we may disagree with others in our lives about what we believe vs. what they believe, our children are their own people. They may not understand why we do the things we do. It’s our job to explain our beliefs and stand behind them.

Keep Your Promises. Don’t take what you say to your children lightly. They are always watching you, trying to gauge if you are genuine, if you can be trusted over the long haul. Show them a person who keeps promises.

Use Corrections and Apologies. Correct them when you see them doing something that goes against what they believe. They may bend to the crowd once, but it doesn’t mean they have to do it every time. On the other hand, when you mess up, let them see you apologize—to them and the person you wronged.

Point them down the narrow road. Choosing a path of integrity goes against the world. It means looking out for what is right, rather than ourselves. It means putting our values before our wants. A rare commodity these days.

If you’re living your life with integrity, your children will take note. More importantly, they’ll long to mimic behavior that is so obviously genuine. And, as Paul Wellstone once said, “Never separate the life you live from the words you speak.”

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