Whenever I try to define that word, I find myself coming back to the same phrase: doing what you said you’d do.
To me, integrity is following through. It’s keeping your commitments to others and to God; it’s living in a way that showcases God’s character in you: honesty, dedication, perseverance, and so on. Recently, I had an experience in which some people didn’t keep a commitment. And when those people didn’t show up or follow through with the commitment, their lack of integrity didn’t just cost them—it robbed some other people of a chance to do something they’d wanted to do. And that got my mind to stirring. . .
I’m not married, and I’m not a parent, so I don’t often write about either of those subjects here. Except for today.
Christian parents, it is your job to teach your children about integrity. And you don’t teach that by just talking about keeping commitments or being a person of integrity. You teach it by living it. You persevere when it would be easier to quit. You do what you said you would do and own up to it when you don’t. You live it, and you challenge and encourage your teen to do the same.
Because when you help or allow your teen to make choices about not keeping commitments or living with integrity in some area, you teach them several things, and they aren’t exactly good. Ready for them? Here we go:
1. My needs are more important than everyone else’s. When you don’t keep a commitment, that’s basically what you’re declaring through your actions. The sole focus is me, my, and mine, not any other person, his/her needs, or the fact that others are depending on you. If you’re a believer, this is particularly disheartening, because it flies in the face of Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself and the many New Testament directives to put others’ needs first.
2. When a commitment gets hard, tough, or non-exciting, it’s OK to quit. Sometimes we commit to something and it gets WAY more difficult than we ever imagined. Maybe it’s a ministry. Maybe it’s a marriage. Maybe it’s a class, in the case of a teen. Maybe it’s a church where you’re a member and it’s going through a really rough patch. In my mind, you don’t leave a marriage because it’s hard. You don’t give up on God when walking with Him is a whole lot tougher than you ever imagined and Christ’s words that you would have trouble in this world are proving true at every turn. Unless God calls you out of church, you don’t walk away when times get tough. I realize that skipping out on a commitment to an activity is different from skipping out on a marriage or your relationship with God, but if a teen makes choices to skip out on commitments now and there’s no discussion about it, the lesson that it’s OK to leave and seek greener pastures when your commitment gets too hard, albeit it on a small scale, has already been set.
3. Other people aren’t worth much. This may just be a reiteration of point #1, but when you flake out on commitments to others, your actions say something about their worth, namely that they aren’t very important. And that’s simply not the way Christians have been called to live. If you want your teen to truly believe that all people have worth, treat people like they do. Live it. Honor your commitments to others and regard them with respect. You can talk about it all you like, but until you live it, it doesn’t mean much.