I was raised to value honesty. I learned the importance of integrity first hand from my father. He taught me the meaning of the phrase, “My word is my bond.” And he didn’t just teach it to me intellectually or philosophically, by explaining it. He also taught me through example. He lived it. He was very careful not to make promises unless he was sure he could keep them. He told the truth, as he saw it, always; no matter what. And he insisted on the same measure of integrity in his children. I also learned that I could always count on my father, because he was a man of his word. If he said he would do something, he did it. Because he gave his word and his word was his bond.
Some lessons are difficult, and take time to really sink in, especially when they are not reinforced by all those around us. When I was afraid of being wrong, or of being punished, I told lies. It became a bad habit I could not break, and I learned how painful it was to be considered untrustworthy by those I loved. And I knew it was a direct result of my personal choices.
As I grew older, I outgrew my fears and insecurities. I learned that it is alright to be wrong. After all, we are human. I learned to overcome my selfish pride, and be to honest. It was difficult and painful at times, that growing and stretching. But I was rewarded with the satisfaction of being known as an honest and trustworthy person. And I knew I had earned this through my own careful, personal choices.
When I became a parent, I realized I had the unique perspective of being able to see the issue from both sides. I understood the importance of earning my children’s trust, and I explained to them why it was so important that I be able to trust their word. I was careful with my promises, and showed them by experience that my word is my bond.
We went through some rocky times when they fell prey to their childish insecurities and selfish pride, but we weathered the storm. I had faith in their abilities to overcome themselves. I pointed out to them that I’ve known them, inside and out, forever. I looked into their eyes and saw the beauty of their souls and the goodness in their hearts, and I had faith that in the end, they would choose the right path, and live with integrity.
I also made it clear how important integrity is when dealing with people that haven’t known you forever. You must show them that you are of good character and earn their trust. It is good to be known as a person of integrity, who values honesty and tells the truth.
Knowing all of this, I am sickened by parents who teach their children to be dishonest. It is bad enough when the lessons are learned by example, through broken promises, deeds left undone, and lies overheard or witnessed. But it is especially abhorrent when the parent knows the child has lied, and publicly supports them in maintaining their deceit, for no other reason than their own selfish pride. This act would be hateful if done to anyone, but when it is aimed at loved ones, it is particularly evil. I have absolutely no respect for such selfish and immature parents and mourn for the corrupted souls of their children.
Our children are such miraculous blessings entrusted to us by our Creator. They are a gift for us to cherish, protect, and nurture. We are their first teachers, and if we are truly blessed, we can remain their teacher and their friend for a very long time. So we must be very careful what we teach our children, knowing that they learn just as much, if not more, from what we do, or leave undone, than by what we say, or leave unspoken.
And so I encourage all parents to be the change we need in this world. Live a life of integrity, teach your children the value of honesty, and speak the truth, always. And for those of you who have been doing so already, I say do not lose faith. Continue on your path, and others will follow. Many of them are seeing more clearly, and just need someone to point the way. We must blaze a trail so clear and wide that all who are searching may find their way.
And it all begins with the next promise you make, and whether or not you keep it.