Tag Archive for integrity

A Slippery Slope Begins with Knockoff Truths

“It’s a slippery slope…” or so I’ve heard it said. But, now it’s more than just something I’ve heard. Research supports “It’s a slippery slope”…at least for the little white lie. Let me explain. A team of researchers completed four studies to explore how wearing “counterfeit sunglasses” impacted a person’s level of honesty and their tendency to judge other people as dishonest (Read the study in The Counterfeit Self: The Deceptive Costs of Faking It). In each study, the participants, believing they were participating in a study to evaluate types of sunglasses and were assigned to different groups of “sunglass wearing.” One group wore designer sunglasses. The other group wore knockoffs, counterfeits…you know, the ones that aren’t real but make people think you have the real thing. In essence, they wore a little white lie, a “knockoff” of the truth. In the first study, participants who wore the knockoffs were led to believe they preferred to wear counterfeit sunglasses for practical reasons. In the second study, they wore the knockoffs because the researchers assigned them to the group either wearing the “real thing” or the “knockoffs.” They had no choice. In both studies, the participants were given tasks in which they could cheat (or not) and opportunities to self-report on their performance. Those who believed they wore the knockoffs were significantly more likely to cheat and to inflate their performance when self-reporting than those who wore the designer shades.

In the third study, the researchers added a questionnaire related to judging other peoples’ tendency to engage in unethical behavior such as lying or behaving dishonestly. You guessed it. Those wearing the “knockoff” sunglasses were significantly more likely to assume others would engage in unethical behavior, lie, or behave dishonestly than those wearing the true blue designer shades.

Finally, in the fourth study, the researchers “teased out” what might mediate this “counterfeit sunglass” response. They discovered that feeling inauthentic led to the dishonest behavior and the tendency to judge others as dishonest. In other words, the “little white lie” of pretending to have authentic brand name designer shades when they did not, contributed to dishonesty and believing others to be more dishonest and unethical.

What does this have to do with marriage and family?  Good question. Sometimes couples tell a “little white lie” to avoid a conflict or confrontation. One person stops to get a beer on the way home rather than drink it in front of their spouse because “they don’t want to hear it.” Or, they tell their spouse everything is fine rather than discuss some irritating behavior because “they don’t want the stress.”  One spouse withholds information about finances to limit their partner’s anxiety…or a spouse makes a purchase in secret because they fear the purchase will upset their spouse. All little things, but they’re actually “knockoffs” of the truth. Real truth, designer truth, does not withhold information to avoid a confrontation or hide behavior to avoid the conflict. Real truth addresses the concern rather than trying to avoid the stress with a “knockoff truth.” But, this is where it gets worse, a little white lie, a “knockoff” of the truth, opens the door for more lies. Sure, we all know the person telling the lie may have to expand the lie to cover the first. According to the research, though, telling that “knockoff truth” increases the chance of further dishonesty, more significant dishonesty, bigger lies and bigger coverups. And, it increases the chance that the person telling the “knockoff truth” will become suspicious and judgmental of their partner’s motives and honesty. In other words, they may judge their spouse’s sincere motives and behaviors as dishonest and unethical. The stage is set. The slippery slope is covered with ice. The downward slide of dishonesty, mistrust, coverups, and paranoia begins. It’s better just to avoid the whole thing. Avoid the “knockoff truth,” the little white lie. Stick with telling the real truth, the whole truth, the designer truth. Don’t settle for less. Be honest.

Are Gentlemen an Endangered Species?

I work with several young, single women who are convinced that good men are an endangered species. As we discuss their belief I realize they are speaking of “gentlemen.”  I offer them an old definition (1869) of “gentlemen:”

“always truthful and sincere; will not agree for the sake of complaisance or out of weakness; will not pass over that of which he disapproves. He has a clear soul, and a fearless, straight forward tongue. On the other hand, he is not blunt and rude. His truth is courteous, his courtesy, truthful; never a humbug, yet, where he truthfully can, he prefers to say pleasant things.”

Yep, that’s the guy. They believe he is an endangered species if not already extinct.  They support their argument with the fact that I offered a definition from 1869! So, we discuss a more modern definition, one from the Urban Dictionary:

“the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.”

I like that definition better than the old one but, alas…they still insist this man is possibly extinct.  I will not accept such pessimism. I am sure “gentlemen” exist today. The news may highlight those who are not “gentlemen” and sitcoms laugh at men who are not “gentlemen” but I believe “gentlemen” still exist…and in rather large numbers. I’ve seen them and met them on multiple occasions, more numerous than I can count. With that in mind, I think it is time for all true “gentlemen” to make themselves known to the people around them. Of course, this can only be done in the true manner of a “gentlemen” so let me suggest a few methods for making your status as a “gentleman” known.

  • Build a reputation of integrity. Speak the truth but do so politely with kindness. Let your word be your word. Be on time. Keep your promises. Communicate your commitments and your intents clearly. Then let your actions prove your words. Never lead anyone on.
  • Practice chivalry. Hold the door open for others. Offer to get the car rather than assuming the women and others in your life will run through the rain. Be courteous to all. Stand boldly for what is right. Advocate for the vulnerable and underprivileged. Seek justice for all. Never criticize or insult; compliment and encourage instead.
  • Be courteous. Stand when a woman enters a crowded room and offer her your seat if none is available. Never criticize a homemade meal or a gift but show gratitude instead. Walk beside your spouse rather than ahead of her. Offer her the support of your arm on precarious terrain…and the strength of your character in difficult times of life.
  • Listen intently because you know the value of the person speaking and want to know them more intimately. Etiquette tells us that “to be a good listener is indispensable” to be a “gentleman.”
  • Promote other people’s dreams and goals, especially those of your spouse and children. Gentlemen serves others graciously, not only in daily life but in their pursuit of dreams.

I do believe “gentlemen” still exist. In fact, I know they do! I know you are out there. Join me in making the presence of “gentlemen” known in our families and our world today. And let us teach our sons to do the same.

A Gift to Build a Longer, Happier Marriage

Want to give your spouse a great gift? If you do, I have the perfect idea. This gift will promote your spouse’s physical health and even contribute to longer life. It will also enhance your relationship, leading to a happier, longer-lasting marriage. To top it all off—the icing on the cake so to speak—this gift is free! The gift I’m talking about is the gift of becoming a more conscientious person. Hold on…let me explain. A study involving 2,203 couples over 50-years-old showed that conscientious people had better health and lived longer. “But wait there’s more…,” the gift aspect. A husband’s conscientiousness predicted his wife’s physical health above and beyond the influence of her own personality. A wife’s conscientiousness had the same impact on her husband’s health. In other words, you can contribute to your spouse’s long, healthy life and long, healthy marriage by becoming more conscientious. That’s a great gift! How can you become more conscientious? Here are a few ideas.

  • Take responsibility for your own emotional, physical, and mental health. Establish an exercise routine. Eat wisely. If you smoke or take unnecessary drugs, stop. Learn how to manage your thoughts and emotions. If you need help doing these things start by reading a book like “The Resiliency Factor” or “The Power of Habit.”
  • Get organized. Set some goals. Be sure to include relationship goals like dates, vacations, and time together. Set a goal to write your spouse a love letter or a letter of appreciation. Make a “to do list” each day. Make sure to put at least one thing to express love to your spouse on that “to do list.”
  • Plan ahead. Rather than making impulsive purchases, for example, plan ahead. Set a goal to save the money for the purchase rather than buy it impulsively on credit.
  • Keep your promises. In fact, make sure you can follow through on a promise before you even make it. Become known as a “person of your word” who others can trust.
  • When problems arise, take the time to address them before they grow. This can be as simple as putting your dirty cup in the dishwasher or as complex as resolving a disagreement with your spouse by apologizing for a wrong you committed. Address problems as they arise.

To become a more conscientious person takes some time and effort. However, the dividends are more a longer life and a happier marriage for you AND your spouse. That’s a gift worth the effort.

Why Family Honor?

Honor is an important ingredient in a healthy family. Many of the blogs I’ve written deal with honor in one form or another…and rightfully so. Honor simplifies life. It establishes a family environment that benefits every member of the family.  Consider just these four ways that honor benefits a family.

  • Father and daughter in Christmas crownsHonor simplifies life by allowing us to relax in our trust of one another’s faithfulness. We honor our family members by living an honorable life. An honorable person keeps their word. They are faithful and trustworthy. Living within a family we can trust allows us to relax. We know promises will be kept and relationships maintained.
  • Honor simplifies life by allowing us to rest in the security of our relationships. Families filled with honor value one another. They place each other’s needs above their own. They remain committed to family and invested in providing the best for other family members.  As a result, relationships grow stronger. Intimacy grows. Each person rests secure in relationship, even during times of disagreement.
  • Honor simplifies life by allowing us to walk in the freedom and openness of the truth. We honor one another by living a truthful life. An honorable life is an honest life. When a family practices honesty, the whole family lives in the freedom of the truth. Conflict is recognized, addressed, and resolved more quickly and compassionately. There are no hidden agendas, resentments, or secrets to fear. Living in the truth allows family members to trust one another. Each person knows the freedom of being truly known (not hiding any part of themselves) and still fully accepted.
  • Honor simplifies life by allowing us to celebrate the joy of lifting one another up with our words. We honor one another with encouraging words. A family filled with honor uses words to encourage, build up, and strengthen one another.

My Spouse an Angel? 4 Ways to Make it True

AngelWifeOne of my Facebook friends posted this pic. I love the proverb written on it: “If a man expects a woman to be an angel in his life, he must first create heaven for her…angels don’t live in hell.” I don’t know about you, but I want to live with an angel. So, I have to ask myself: how can I create heaven for my wife? How can I make my wife feel like an angel? Upon what is heaven built?

  • Heaven is built on honor—treating one another as special, precious, sacred. To create heaven for your wife, treat her with honor. Honor her above all others like a diamond above coal. Constantly think about the character and beauty you adore in your wife. Don’t stop with merely thinking about your admiration of her character and beauty. Let your words and actions communicate love and admiration to your wife. Let your eyes sparkle with delight and adoration when she walks into the room. Speak of her with high praise when you describe her to others.
  • Heaven is built on unfailing trust. To create heaven for your wife, live a life of integrity and faithfulness that will build trust. Let your actions and your speech enhance her sense of security and acceptance. Keep your promises. Be available. Remember: the small, positive moments build trust; so, enjoy playful interactions, simple adventures, joyful moments and moments of sorrow, friendly conversations, and laughter. Work to “keep in tune” with your wife’s emotions. Comfort her when she needs comforted. Rejoice with her when she rejoices. Rest with her when she needs rest. Join with her in life.
  • Heaven is built on servanthood. To create heaven for your wife, become a servant in your marriage. Serve your wife by listening to her and accepting her influence. Serve her by cooking dinner, washing clothes, or running the vacuum. Serve her by asking what she would like you to do to help her. Become the leader of servanthood in your home.
  • Heaven is built on sacrifice. Jesus willingly became the Sacrifice for our sin, a sacrifice that brought peace between man and God. Sacrifice opens the doors to heaven. To create heaven in your home, become a leader in sacrifice. Make small sacrifices like giving up the TV remote, giving away the last cookie, giving up your seat for your wife, giving up “the game” to take a walk…you get the idea. You may also make bigger sacrifices like giving up your music to listen to her music in the car, giving up time on your project to do what she desires, giving up the adventure movie to watch a “chick flick” followed by the emotional discussion of the movie…. You know what would prove a heavenly sacrifice in your home. And, you know that your sacrifice will produce greater security and open the doors for heaven in your home.

 

“Expect your wife to be an angel in your life”? Start creating heaven in your home. Build your home and marriage on honor, integrity and trust, servanthood, and sacrifice. Believe me, you will live with an angel…and you will get a taste of heaven on earth!

Become the Catalyst for an Honorable Family

I often speak about honoring one another in the family. However, it is just as important (maybe more important) to become a person your family can honor. In fact, if we do not become a person worthy of honor, we set the whole family up for trouble. Consider what happened in Noah’s family when he acted dishonorably. Noah was a great man; but, after the flood he got drunk, a passed-out-laying-in-his-tent-naked-drunk. His son, Ham, found familysunhearthim, saw his father’s shame, and exposed his father’s dishonor by telling his brothers about his “find.” Noah had acted dishonorably by getting drunk. Ham had acted dishonorably by spreading the news of his father’s shame. These dishonorable acts ultimately resulted in Ham’s descendants living in servitude to their cousins (Genesis 9:25). The dishonorable actions of a father opened the door for his son to act dishonorably and for generations to live under the consequences of dishonor. Imagine the weight of that burden on Noah. You can avoid this heavy consequence by becoming a person of honor.  Here are several traits a person of honor exhibits. Read them carefully and start living a life of honor today…for your family’s sake!

  1. A person worthy of honor is humble. We admire a humble person. A humble person listens and accepts correction, allowing him to grow in character. He believes that others have important contributions to make and, as a result, listens carefully and takes those contributions to heart.
  2. A person worthy of honor is gracious. A gracious person gives his time and energy to help and support those around him. A gracious person forgives. He accepts that others make mistakes and patiently corrects misunderstandings. A gracious person accepts others in spite of any mistakes or misunderstandings. A gracious person is a person worthy of honor.
  3. A person worthy of honor shows kindness to others. A person of honor does not need a bumper sticker proclaiming “random acts of kindness.” Everyone around him observes his kindness and receives the benefits of his kindness. Acting in kindness is second nature to him. He loves to hold the door open for others, allow others to go first in traffic, or speak words of encouragement to the downhearted. Kindness is his modus operandi.
  4. A person worthy of honor accepts correction and discipline. An honorable person humbly accepts his own shortcomings. He realizes his imperfection and admits his mistakes. As a result, he not only accepts but cherishes the correction of others. He realizes that correction helps him grow and become a more honorable person.
  5. A person worthy of honor speaks the truth. We know we can trust the word of an honorable person. He does not tell even white lies. You can completely trust the person of honor because he has no hidden agendas. He lovingly speaks the truth.
  6. A person worthy of honor keeps his word. His “yes” is “yes” and his “no” is “no.” When an honorable person promises to do something for you, you know it will get done. He does not make idle promises or promises he cannot keep. This adds to our willingness to trust a person of honor.
  7. A person worthy of honor works to provide for himself and his family. An honorable person does not trick others to make a gain. He does not connive and conspire to get ahead. Instead, he works hard. He works hard in response to his love for family. He works hard so no one has to carry the burden of caring for his needs. He works hard for the joy of helping others in their time of need.
  8. A person worthy of honor is generous. An honorable person gives to others with no expectation of return. He gives simply for the joy of giving. This does not mean he gives frivolously. He shares from his abundance with those who have need; but, he does so wisely, as a good steward. He not only shares his material wealth, but he shares his time and effort as well.
  9. A person of honor stands firm in his beliefs. He is not easily swayed. You know where he stands and what he believes. There is no guessing or fear about what he believes or how he will act. He is open and firm. Although he stands firm in his beliefs, he does not become rude. Instead, he remains firm in a loving and polite manner.

 

To build a family of honor, become a person of honor. Practice these nine attributes to become a person of honor. Your family will honor you and thank you…and you will enjoy the benefits of an honor filled family for generations to come.

The Hardest Word–A Testimony

I agree with Elton John when he sings, “Oh it seems to me that sorry seems to be the hardest word.” Still, I have to say it. My actions and words have driven a wedge between my forgivenotewife and me. I have torn at the fabric of our relationship. I acted inappropriately. No, that sounds like a therapist. I was just plain wrong. I yelled for no reason. I hurt her with a harsh tone and angry words. I was wrong. I have to tell her I’m sorry.  So, why is it so hard to apologize, anyway? Nobody likes to admit they were wrong, especially me. And, apologizing makes me feel so vulnerable. But, I have to take responsibility for my offense.

 

Where is she? There she is, in the living room. I hope she accepts my apology. Our relationship rests in her hands, the hands of the one I hurt…and still love. That’s the point. I really want a relationship with her. I hope my actions have not damaged our relationship. There is only one way to find out…apologize. I sit down on a chair near her. I know that my apology will open the door for her to tell me the depth of pain I caused.  I hate that I hurt her.

 

“Ummm,” I hesitate…eyes to the ground. “I’m sorry I yelled. I was wrong. I should not have said the things I said.” I want to add a “but you” or “If you wouldn’t have.” I want to defend my action, justify it in response to what she did. But I’m not going to. Benjamin Franklin was right, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” Besides, I was wrong…regardless of any excuse or rational, I was wrong. I have to acknowledge that. “I feel bad. I don’t want to hurt you.” There, I said it…. And, it’s true. I do feel bad. I am sorry. I was wrong. I slowly look up at my wife. “Next time I won’t yell. I’ll take a deep breath or something and think before I yell.” What else could I do different. I know…”And, if I think I might yell, I’ll take a time out or something.”

 

For the first time, a small smile begins to form on my wife’s face. “Will you sit in the time out chair?” She was referring to the miniature chair we had seen the “Super Nanny” use the other night. She chuckled. “I’m just joking,” she said. “But maybe it would be better to take a break for a few minutes when we get that way.”

 

It is good to see her smile. “You’re right. I’ll do that. And I’ll look at those crazy repair statements for something to say.” We both laugh a little as I walk toward her. I hold out my hand and she takes it in hers. I help her to her feet as we embrace one another. “I really am sorry,” I repeat.

 

“Me too,” she replies. “I’ll try to not ask so many questions when you’re upset.”

 

She does understand! “Thank you. I love you.”

 

A sincere apology strengthens relationship and restores trust. It communicates how much you value the other person and our relationship with them. By apologizing we also accept responsibility for our actions…no excuses, no defending, no blaming. We simply accept responsibility for our actions and our words; we take the log out of our own eye. Doing so opens the door for change. Sorry may be the hardest word to say, but it communicates and restores respect, dignity, and love to the relationship.

Freedom & Family

Happy Fourth of July! Today we celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, a step toward a free and independent United States. What does family have to do with the Fourth of July? For one thing, we celebrate the Fourth of July with our families.   Secondly, and perhaps of greater importance, family lays the foundation, creates the stability, and perpetuates the freedom and independence of our country…in any country really. People have known this truth in our country since the signing of the Declaration of Independence and represent such diverse times as…
…Elias Boudinot (a President of the Continental Congress) who noted that “Good government generally begins in the family, and if the moral character of a people once degenerate, their political character must soon follow”
… to EH Chapin (a preacher alive from 1814-1880) who realized “break up the institution of family, deny the inviolability of its relations, and in a little while there would not be any humanity”
…to Charles Franklin Thwing (a clergyman and president of Adelbert College and Western Reserve University alive between 1853-1937) who proclaimed that “Under any system of society…the family holds the future in its bosom”
… to Pope John Paul II who, in 1986, stated that “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live”
…to Barbara Bush (First Lady of the United States from 1989-1993) who said, “Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens at the White House, but what happens inside your house.”
 
Even those who held less esteemed views of the family knew that family undergirds any society. Lenin (living from 1870-1924) is known to have said, “Destroy the family, you destroy the country.”
 
Why do such diverse people note the importance of family to our society and our country? Because…
Family provides the training ground for moral character. Successful families honor moral character above personal comfort and material possession. Parents model moral character for their children. All family members encourage one another to stand for what is right. Families teach us to act in kindness and fairness, and to make personal sacrifice for the welfare of one another. It is in families that we learn moral behavior contributes to a happy, successful life.
Family teaches us of loyalty and faithfulness. Family members teach the importance of faithfulness when they keep promises made to one another. They show the importance of loyalty as they support one another in the face of difficulties, protect one another in spite of personal danger, and encourage one another in the face of disappointments. They show tolerance and work cooperatively to strengthen the family even in the midst of disagreements. Families elicit and teach that loyalty brings stability. They show that peace and trust extend from faithfulness.  
Family models that freedom is not unrestrained but accompanied by personal responsibility. The price of freedom is costly. Parents have the personal responsibility to work so they can support their family and maintain a home. Children learn the personal responsibility to complete chores, doing their part to maintain the household. When everyone in the family does their part in keeping the household running smoothly, the family is free to engage in fun activities and experience times of relaxation. However, if even one member of the family does not “pull their weight,” opportunities diminish and the whole family becomes overwhelmed with stress. The family teaches that “doing my own thing” results in others being hurt and the family unit becoming strained. Discipline soon follows such situations. So, family members learn that freedom is not unrestrained, but contingent on personal responsibility. 
Family also becomes the training ground for compassion toward others. Not only does family teach personal responsibility, but they teach us compassion for those in need. Successful families treat each family member with kindness and grace, coming to one another’s aid when a need arises. They reach out, as a family, to those in need and experience the joy of helping others. When one family member mourns, the whole family mourns with him. When one family member rejoices, the whole family rejoices. In compassion, each member of the family reaches out to encourage and lift up those family members struggling with any hardship or difficulty.
 
Overall, families are the backbone of a free and independent society. Without healthy families, society will lose its most important teacher and training ground…the foundation of freedom will crumble. Without strong families, our individuals will become more self-absorbed, self-centered, and self-serving. The accurate perception of responsibility, loyalty, faithfulness, moral character, and compassion will be lost. So, celebrate our independence with your family. Teach your children patriotism and loyalty. After all, the strength of our country and the perpetuation of our freedom and independence rest on the shoulders of strong families.