Have you ever been caught in the act of a really poor decision? If you have not, congratulations! You truly are a rare breed of human being. For the rest of us (I’m guessing all of us) there are multiple times in life that we look back on and shudder as we think of that awkward moment when we were first discovered. When I think about this topic, I go immediately back to the time my mother found a swimsuit magazine underneath my bed. Note that I grew up in a conservative Christian home, so this was a huge “oh-no” moment for me. We were looking for something together in my room, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was. It was only a few minutes before my mom had pulled the magazine from under my bed. I immediately went into creative mode. I was trying desperately to think of a logical scenario for why I, the boy who rarely stepped out of line, would have this blatant contraband hanging out in my personal living quarters. That’s when my mother said, “Which one?” I was confused. She said it again, slightly different, “which one do you like?” I pointed to one of the women that I found the most appealing, still shocked by the turn of events. She gave a little, “huh,” and then said “she’s pretty.” For whatever reason, this is where my memory cuts off. Though the incident took place many years ago, I can still feel the same dread I felt then whenever I think back to that moment. This was one of those times when I was reminded of the virtue I had lacked, integrity.
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, integrity means “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” I often describe integrity as “maintaining consistency in our words and actions at all times.” Thomas S. Monson, American religious leader, said this, “Be the same person in the dark as you are in the light.” Put differently, your behaviors should not change whether or not you believe they are being observed by others. Think about all the athletes, movie stars, politicians, and other public icons that have had to take a stand and share a humbling apology for their lapse in judgement. When we first hear about this atrocity on the news, our immediate thoughts go to, “You see, these big shots are all corrupt.” However, when we look into our own lives, the same temptation to give in “just this one time” lingers in all of us.
So, what does this have to do with being a father? What if I were to say to you that broken families and damaged relationships rarely happen by choice? What if instead, the likely culprit is one instance or, more likely, many instances of abandoned integrity? When we don’t keep a promise that we make, that’s an integrity issue. When we swear at the neighbor’s dog after telling our children not to use foul language, we are not displaying integrity. When we choose to engage in illegal activity or “bend the rules” in our various roles, we have an integrity problem. When we decide to “chat” with the co-worker that keeps flirting with us, even when we are already in a relationship, we are lacking integrity. Though these decisions may not be the proverbial “final nail in the coffin,” they do reflect the heart of a man that is allowing his own desires for the moment to get in the way of caring for others. When we make a habit of these behaviors, we start to harm those that depend on or rely on us. Not only this, but it becomes difficult for those we have hurt to trust us. I can’t think of a more shameful revelation than to know that I would not be trusted by those who know me best.
Now that we have concluded the importance of maintaining integrity, let us discuss ways in which we can work on this virtue. Here are a few areas that we, as fathers, can grow in integrity:
1) Keep our promises. If we say that we are going to do something, we need to stick to it.
2) Consider others. Ask ourselves, “how will this decision affect others?” before making one.
3) Be honest with ourselves. We can pretend that what we do in secret will stay in the dark. However, the truth is, we never really know when the lights will come on.
4) Be honest with others. The saying, “what they don’t know can’t hurt them” is an ingredient for disaster. We must stay transparent and true to ourselves.
5) Stick to our guns. Peer pressure doesn’t go away after high school. We still receive influence from co-workers and friends. We must do what we feel is right, even when others around us choose not to.
6) Know when to leave. It takes a strong man to pull out of a bad situation. If we are likely to give in to temptation by staying, it’s time to bail.
7) Do as we say. People remember what you do far more than what you say. It is our responsibility to make sure what we say and what we do match.
It is not possible to be perfect. All of us will make mistakes from time to time. When we do, it is our responsibility to right our wrongs. We can do so with three steps. First, we must apologize to those we have harmed. Second, we provide restitution as needed. This means that we restore that which was taken, lost, or damaged by our actions. Finally, we make every effort to change our behaviors to make sure that the offense does not happen again. By doing these three steps, we are not guaranteed to receive immediate forgiveness or trust. However, when we take responsibility for ourselves, we begin the process of healing for the person we have offended and the relationship between that person and ourselves.
Remember this: A Rock Solid Father is a man with integrity.