I’ve never had to teach my kids how to lie. They’re brilliant! They’ve mastered it all on their own. Truth is, the little angels come by it honest. Why? Because it’s in our nature to do the wrong thing.
We have to be taught to how to live with integrity.
But, integrity isn’t such a hot topic these days. In fact, we rarely, rarely speak of it at all. Even when someone flat out breaks the law or does something unethical. Integrity has become one of those pie-in-the-sky words with a sketchy definition.
Simply put, integrity is doing the right thing. Always. Whether anyone’s watching or not. No matter the consequences.
It just means being honest even when no one is looking. Sounds good, but is anyone really like that? I mean, come on. What’s the harm if no one knows?
Without integrity, everything else sort of crumbles. It’s absolutely fundamental to ci-vi-li-za-tion.
In fact, some of the earliest laws known to man–Code of Hammurabi and the Ten Commandments–could be interpreted as a code of ethics in hopes of making people do the right thing all the time whether anyone was watching or not.
You wouldn’t want to be lacking virtue under some of these statutes. The price under Hammarabi’s code could be quite hefty:
- Law #3 Lie about someone: you die.
- Law #6 Steal something: you die.
- Law #6 Accept stolen goods: you die.
- Law # 25 Loot during a fire: you die.
- Law #108 Cheat someone: you die.
See a pattern? Lie, cheat or steal, and there was a pretty good chance you might have to pay with your life
We don’t kill people for a lack of integrity, and I’m not suggesting that we do, but how do you teach kids to live above reproach when low integrity is so common these days?
It is hard work, but here’s what I tell my kids about building a reputation of honesty and protecting their integrity:
- Your integrity is priceless.
- Do the right thing no matter what.
- Avoid people who don’t.
- People will judge you by who you hang with.
- Dishonesty WILL eventually catch up with you. You will have a day of reckoning.
- Nothing replaces sweat equity.
- Be kind.
- Play nice.
- Ask yourself: Is this really worth it?
- You have to feed some people with a long-handled spoon. (Translated: you can’t trust some people so keep your distance.)
- Consider consequences.
- Treat others the way you want to be treated.
- Stand up for what you believe in.
- Again, your integrity is priceless. Don’t do anything that could damage it.
Using sneaky underhanded tactics just doesn’t carry the stigma it once did. In some ancient cultures, they’d cut off your hand for stealing. That’s a pretty big mark of shame.
We’ve rewritten the rules. (Thank goodness.) But they’re pretty thin.
Punishment today? Almost nonexistent.
Who’s above reproach?
Before you raise your hand and count yourself among that sliver of people with uncorrupted virtue, think about your driving record. I’ve been known to fudge on the speed limit when I’m in a hurry. I don’t always return my shopping cart to the cart stall in the middle of the parking lot when I’ve finished unloading my groceries. When I’m in a hurry, I just push it out of my way so I can drive off without hitting it.
And, sometimes I taste grapes before I buy them.
I sound like a lawless bandit, I know.
Before you count yourself as “holy,” remember, no matter how minor the infraction, it’s still unethical or illegal. And, that’s a lack of integrity. See, when we break little rules, it’s easier to break big ones.
Remember the counterfeit black woman, Rachel Dolezal, who resigned as president of an NAACP chapter after people found out she sprayed on her “ethnicity” with a can?
Come to find out, she purchased her “Black Experience” from Walmart for $10.79. She could’ve started out as a jaywalker.
What about Brian Williams, anchor for a MAJOR news network, who made up stuff on the nightly news like he was telling bedtime stories to his kids?
These stories stuck a chord with the public. We were mesmerized, Maybe because people in high powered positions lied.
Or perhaps because they told such outrageously big lies, it makes our breeches seem insignificant.
Here’s what IS significant. Williams and Dolezal spent years building reputations that went up in flames faster than a fireman in a pair of gasoline skivvies. They’ll be forever remembered for these insidious acts.
These two aren’t isolated examples. Remember Lance Armstrong, seven time Tour de France winner, who was stripped of his victories because of a doping scandal?
Simply put, you don’t get to be president of an NAACP chapter or a news anchor THEN start lying. It usually starts way earlier than that.
According to an article in Psychology Today, kids start lying by age 3. Child researchers at the University of Waterloo reported that by age 4, 94 percent of kids have lied.
Lack of integrity can be costly. Some companies today are using research-based integrity assessments in hiring decisions. Low integrity costs companies money and sometimes reputation.
Dolezal masqueraded as a black woman–for years– and became president of a chapter of the NAACP! Recently, there was talk of her getting a contract for a reality TV show.
And Williams who lied about being shot down in a military helicopter (that he said was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq)?
Six months leave without pay then he was back on the air. (Not as an anchor.)
There’s not much to say after, “WOW!”
People who say or do anything to get what they want.
And then give ludicrous excuses when caught?
“I made a mistake in recalling incidents of 12 years ago.”–Williams
A mistake is accidentally walking into the women’s bathroom, Buddy.
“I identify as black. . . This goes back to a very young age. I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon.”–Dolezal.
I drew myself with a green crayon when I was a kid. But now, I don’t shave my head, paint myself green and go around telling people I’m trans-species–I’m a human, but I identify as “alien.”
Everyone makes mistakes. But there is a huge difference in making a mistake and making a deliberate attempt to deceive.
Net/net: They lied to get what they wanted.
People today are too willing to overlook breeches in integrity.
They feel justified in doing the wrong thing. Why not? Cheating is seen as a means to an end. Do what you can to get ahead.
But, what’s left after your integrity’s gone?
Who’s going to believe you or see you as credible?
Kids are born liars. Teaching them to be tell the truth, work hard, and live a life of integrity is the hard work.
I want my kids to know that no matter how good your reputation, it can be ruined in minutes.
Building integrity starts at home.
- Do you stress integrity or do you encourage your kids to lie about their age so you can buy a cheaper movie ticket or allow them to eat for a child’s price in a restaurant?
- Do you bring home supplies from the office?
- Do you tell “little white lies” that don’t really hurt anyone to get what you want?
Parents must model integrity. Teach your kids to do the right thing no matter what the cost.
The irony of Dolezal’s situation is that her own mother ratted her out.
So, if you’re trying to decide whether or not something is the right thing to do, think about what your momma would say.
If she wouldn’t approve: don’t say it, don’t do it, don’t write it, don’t text it, don’t post it, and for heaven’s sake, don’t spray it on.
Lying comes naturally to all of us.
Living with integrity does not.
Take inventory of your life. Determine which actions suggest that you live honestly with the best intentions at heart. Discard the rest.