Letters to my sons
A collection of thoughts and lessons I've learned along the way for my little men, and anyone else that's interested.
Posts tagged with #Integrity
We’ve talked at length about integrity, about trust, and about strong moral character. We speak about these things because they are critical to building lasting and meaningful connections, but also because they are traits that the world values and finds desirable, admirable, and praiseworthy, and are sought out at the highest levels of our corporate culture.
As you know, I spend a lot of time reading and learning about how to be a better leader, how to build wildly successful teams, and how to create a culture for people to not only do their best work but to be their best selves. By no means have I perfected this, and I am blessed to have some wonderful people in my life that I get to learn from and learn with.
One thing that the learned from them is that there is a difference between telling the truth and ensuring that the other person has heard the truth. Let me restate and rephrase, because this is critical. There is a difference between you technically telling the truth, saying all true statements, and making sure that the other person fully understands the situation.
In the former situation, while you are being technically and objectively truthful, your listener is misled into believing something false. While you can legally claim that you haven’t told a lie, morally you haven’t told the truth. You may get away with this behavior for some time, and may even delude yourself into believing that you are an honest and truthful person, but those around you will eventually figure it out and the trust and relationship will begin to erode.
There is a big difference between telling the truth and not telling a lie.
We live in a world where character matters. Truthfulness, integrity, and honesty are traits that the world values highly yet finds in short supply. They are traits that we crave, that we long for, that we idealize in movies, books, and stories. And yet they are largely missing from our regular lives. Why is that? Why the gap?
To say that the world is full of intentionally dishonest people is not only disheartening and over simplifying, it is also incorrect and leads to very isolating and defeatist responses. No, I don’t believe that the world is full of intentionally dishonest people. Rather, I believe the world has become desensitized to dishonesty, and has allowed its moral compass to degrade to the point where half truths are often considered good enough, and the hard work, discipline, and focus required to live a morally upstanding life are deemed not worth it. Some have even been ridiculed and persecuted for pursuing those ideals.
My prayer for you is that you would both grow to be men of integrity, whose word is valued and trusted, and are known as honest, truthful, and trustworthy men. The road won’t be easy, and there will be many times where no one would ever find out if you withheld a small portion of the truth. But you would know. And just as “the safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts” (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters), so too will those small allowances of half truths slowly lead you down the road leading not to great character, but rather to deception, dishonesty, and deceit. That’s not a road you want to be on, no matter how scenic and easy it may seem.
I pray that you become men of character that not only tell the truth but ensure that your listeners hear the truth. I love you boys.
Tags: #Integrity #Truthfulness #Character #Purposeful Living
Something that’s been on my mind a lot lately is the concept of choosing to love, especially when it’s hard.
It’s very easy to choose to love someone or to choose to do the loving thing when things are easy. But the true test of character is what we do when things aren’t easy, when they’re not ideal, when they’re not living up to our expectations. How do you respond? What choices do you make? Do you choose anger? Or do you choose love?
Anger begets more anger
So choose love. Choose to do the thing that you know is right, even if you don’t feel like it. Choose to hold to the principles that you believed to be praiseworthy and worth pursuing when you weren’t in the midst of the storm. And hold on. Tight.
How do you do it? How do you choose to do the hard thing, to do the unnatural thing, to do the thing that you know you ought to but really, really don’t want to? How do you choose to hold your tongue when you’re ready to rip someone a new one? How do you choose to love, to swallow your hurt and pain, and do the right thing?
There’s a song that I love from a movie I watched recently that’s entitled “The next right thing”. I love so many things about that song, musically, dramatically. But most of all, I love the message the song conveys.
This grief has a gravity, it pulls me down
But a tiny voice whispers in my mind
“You are lost, hope is gone
But you must go on
And do the next right thing”
Break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make
So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
There will be times when you feel like you’re flattened, that you’re on the floor. You’ll feel like the world is against you, and you’ll want to give up. I hope that in that moment, for just a moment, you’ll be able to take a breath and get even the briefest hint of perspective that will allow you to choose to do the next right thing.
It’s something that gets easier with each victory, and is something that should be celebrated when you succeed. Take a second for yourself to internalize that feeling when you know you’ve chosen the right thing, even when the walls are still crumbling. When you know that while you may not have saved the current situation, you’ve chosen the right thing. The thing that will let you look back and be happy at the men that you’ve become, that despite all odds and worldly wisdom or reason that told you to choose otherwise, you chose the next right thing.
And that’s my hope for the two of you; that when life goes sideways, when things really suck, that you’ll be able to choose to do the next right thing.
Tags: #Character #Love #Intentional #Integrity #Perspective
One of the toughest things that a man must do is to admit when they’re wrong. We are wired for victory, for success - from an early age, we’re taught that it is praiseworthy to succeed and to be victorious. Hopefully by the time you read this, your mother and I will have instilled in you our philosophy that learning, making progress, and improving yourself are more important than winning.
Life is about more than just the destination. The journey is equally - and sometimes even moreso - important.
And so today we’re going to talk about something that every great man knows is the right thing, but many find difficult to do. Taking responsibility for your own actions, especially when things go wrong.
It’s a story as old as storytelling itself - the first sons of the world struggled with this very concept. In Genesis 4, we’re told the story of Cain and Abel, sons of Adam and Eve. Because of his jealousy and his own inadequacies before God, Cain takes Abel’s life out of anger and frustration. That of itself is already quite bad, but when God calls him on it, what is Cain’s response?
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” - Genesis 4:9
I won’t mention that this was already a family trait, as dad had already pulled the same stunt with God, blaming Eve for his eating the apple before the two of them got themselves kicked out of paradise. Oh and so did mom - she passed the blame onto the serpent.
Great start humanity has eh?
Fast forward a bit, and we’ll see that even God’s favorite son struggles with this one. Thankfully for mankind, when the prophet Nathan confronts him, David does in fact repent and fesses up and repents for his actions, but even he needed a kick in the pants to get on the right page.
So what does this mean for us?
I believe there are a few reasons why taking responsibility for your own actions is not just something that we ought to do, but is something that actually gives us strength and adds to our effectiveness. Here’s why.
Absolutely the most importat. Having integrity is what makes a man. I don't care what anyone else says. Integrity is in my books one of the most (if not *the* most) important traits a man can have and must guard. It is the quality that brings out the best in you and in those around you because it's the quality that says no matter what the circumstance, no matter who's watching, no matter what the arguments are opposed, I *will* do the right thing.
- Earnest connection
By taking responsibility for our actions and admitting when we're wrong, we move ourselves from the adversarial position to an earnest and open one. As a populice, we resonate with leaders that let their guard down and share an apology, a fault, a heart-felt admittance of failure. By displaying vulnerability, we remind people that we're all flawed and broken, striving to be better, reaching for that beau ideal of human excellence.
Taking responsibility also keeps us honest and keeps us humble. It keeps us in a posture of humility where we're able to hear truth being spoken into our lives. It lets us recognize that we need to grow, and lets us see the path ahead.
I love the quote by legendary football coach John Wooden about the topic. He says that “you aren’t a failure until you start to blame”. How true that is!
And so my son, my challenge to you this time is to continue striving for greatness, continue growing and learning and trying new things, and to continue putting yourself out there and going out on a limb for things. As you do that, you’re bound to have set backs, and when you do, my prayer is that you’re able to own up to those too. Claim your losses just as you claim your victories; they both are great opportunities for growth and for deeper connection. And those are great things.
Tags: #Balance #Character #Confidence #Humility #Integrity #Purposeful Living #Responsibility
Hopefully you will have grown up having built strong relationships; relationships built on trust, mutual respect and admiration. If so, you may find yourself entrusted with another's secret.
I cannot stress the importance that you keep that secret.
Any relationship that matters values honesty and trust. Divulging another's secret proves a person unworthy of that trust. No matter what the cost, no matter what fire your feet are set to, honor that secret, for it is not yours to share.
When you keep that secret, you prove yourself trustworthy and honorable. When you keep that secret in light of personal suffering, you prove your character, and you prove yourself worthy of respect. In one of my favorite movies, Scent of a Woman, Al Pacino puts it superbly in his final speech:
"I don't know if Charlie's silence here today is right or wrong. I'm not a judge or jury, but I can tell you this: He won't sell anybody out to buy his future! And that, my friends, is called integrity. That's called courage. Now that's the stuff leaders should be made of."
And that's my hope for you, that you would be a leader of men, a great leader that builds strong relationships, fosters long-lasting bonds, encourages others, and builds others up. In order to do that, you have to be a man of integrity, who knows how to keep confidences, and who doesn't have a loose tongue.
Tags: #Character #Integrity #Purposeful Living #Leadership
By now, you'll discover that something your dad has never lacked is self confidence. Many of my thoughts on the world are viewed through that lens, and while self confidence is a great thing, it is sometimes worthwhile to examine the world through a different lens and see what we can learn from there.
It's in that light that I write this series of thoughts.
While being confident in yourself and being firm in your convictions is a great thing, there are times in a man's life where he must accept that he is simply wrong, and to do so gracefully and humbly. There are a few reasons for this.
- Admitting you're wrong gives you the ability to be stretched. The posture of humility is one that focuses not on one's self achievement and worth, but one that allows one's short comings and insufficiencies to be revealed. In that revelation is the opportunity for change, and for God to take those flaws and begin His work of perfecting them.
- Admitting you're wrong gives others the ability to bless you. By allowing someone else to speak into your life, you not only build their confidence, but you open a channel of trust and vulnerability in your relationship. The strongest relationships are forged as we go through the tough grit of life together, and nothing is tougher than the strengthening of character, the development of the manliness that is our birthright.
- Admitting you're wrong keeps your heart humble, and able to hear God. Nothing stops you from hearing the voice of God more than pride. It is the characteristic that says that we are sufficient for ourselves, that we are able to accomplish all that we need to in this life on our own. Nothing could be further from the truth.
God desires humility in our lives; as we are emptied of ourselves, we can then be filled with the things that He desires for us.
Remember that our goal is to live life as Christ tells us we ought to live it, and whatever means He uses to get us there should be wholeheartedly embraced. I've spent much of my life trying to find the right balance here, and hopefully by the time you read this I'll have a better handle on it, but for now, suffice it to say that I believe this will be a life-long activity. One that will be difficult, but one that will ultimately refine us to be men worthy of God's calling and original design for us, and one that will create many memories and forge many strong friendships along the way.
Tags: #Balance #Character #Integrity #Purposeful Living #Faith #Humility
There are many virtues that great men of necessity have and strive for, but at the top of that list is Integrity. No matter what sphere in life you think of; sports, friendships, academics, politics, or your professional career, integrity is extremely valued. So what is it?
Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea.
It is the ability to stick to your guns, to stay upright in the face of adversity and not waver. It is the ability to say come hell or high water, I will hold fast to my convictions and stand my ground.
In construction, the term integrity is used to describe the wholeness of the object. When an object's structural integrity has been breached, it is no longer whole and can no longer perform its function, and needs to be repaired or replaced. It is prone to damage, and can no longer withstand the loads and impacts that it was created for.
So too is man.
When a man maintains his integrity, he is able to continue performing the functions that he was created for. He can fulfill his God-given purpose, and can reach the paragon of virtue that he was designed for. But when his integrity is compromised, he becomes incomplete, not whole. He is no longer able to withstand the forces, impacts, and influences that he was designed to overcome. He must be repaired.
Nothing in life is harder to repair than trust and integrity. Once lost, the damage man can cause may be permanent, unable to be rectified. By God's grace the man may be repaired, but his actions may have irreversibly negative and lasting impact. One can spend a lifetime trying to repair the damage and never fully succeed.
There comes a time in every man's life where he is tested. He is put to the fire, and is forced to decide what kind of man he is, and more importantly what kind of man he will be. When that time comes, I pray that you will have the strength rooted in a firm foundation to stay strong and resolute in your beliefs.
Tags: #Focus #Character #Integrity #Purposeful Living