- From my new book, "Parenting in Christ: Lessons from the Parables" available for 99 cents on preorder from Amazon until Christmas.
No matter how good we talk about ourselves, our behaviors and attitudes are what reveal what's really in our hearts. The truth is that the good and bad things we do and say start with our thoughts. Who we really are is revealed when no one is watching. What we value becomes obvious when we face hard choices. God knows our thoughts, who we really are, and wants us to be the same whether or not someone else is watching. This is called having integrity. Integrity is important in relationships because it builds trust and creates closeness. A parent with integrity is a blessing to their child.
If we are not truthful about what we really think and feel, if we pretend to be better than we are, we are hypocrites. Hypocrites hide who they are and what they value most. They pretend to be good, lying in order to get other people will like them. They are overly proud and not worthy of trust. Research indicates that children start out believing all lies and bad, but learn over time that some lies are OK. And they learn to lie for the same reasons adults do. They do it to get out of trouble, to impress or protect someone, or to be polite. As parents, it's tempting to lie to get children to do what they should, but this destroys trust. It is a hollow victory and a decisive betrayal.
Jesus, known for revealing truth, shared this parable about integrity in Luke 10:30-35.
A man was going down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Some robbers surrounded him, tore off his clothes, and beat him. Then they left him lying there on the ground almost dead.
It happened that a priest was going down that road. When he saw the man, he did not stop to help him. He walked away. Next, a holy man came near. He saw the hurt man, but he went around him. He would not stop to help him either. He just walked away.
Then a Samaritan man traveled down that road. (Samaritans were hated and considered criminals). He came to the place where the hurt man was lying. He saw the man and felt very sorry for him. The Samaritan went to the hurt man and poured olive oil and wine on his wounds (to help him). Then he covered the man’s wounds with cloth. He put the man on his donkey, and he took him to a hotel. There he cared for him. The next day, the man took out two silver coins and gave them to the hotel manager. He said, ‘Take care of this man. If you spend more money on him, I will pay it back to you when I come by again.'
The holy men were hypocrites. They pretended to be holy, but their actions showed that their hearts were not holy. These men who claimed to know God, did not love others or have care about their suffering. God is love. If you know God, you know love, and you care for others. When you have integrity, your actions match your words, even when you don't feel like doing it. This doesn't mean we need to be perfect, but humble and honest, especially about our failures. "Let your 'yes' be 'yes', and your 'no', 'no.'' The ugly truth is better than a pretty lie.
Living in such honesty requires great courage. Courage to be truthful, to reveal our weakness and failure, and to stand up for what's right in the face of pressure to do otherwise. Children need encouragement to be bold and defiant in the face of evil. They need courage to be honest about their failures. Telling children stories of when someone told bravely told the truth has been proven to be more effective for encouraging kids to be honest than cautionary tales about the dangers of lying. We can share these stories and help them to be honest by giving them confidence that we will be understanding with them in their weakness. We can give them courage, by offering them grace, help, and prayer in their time of need just as Jesus has done for us (Hebrews 4:15-16, Ephesians 3:12, James 5:16). And of course, we can be an example of courageous integrity in the way we live.
Practicing the way of Jesus
How might a response to a child who is having a meltdown encourage or discourage them towards authenticity and integrity?
What are your thoughts on Santa, the tooth fairy, and other cultural deceptions?
 Mark 7:20-23
 Proverbs 20:7
 I John 4:21
 I John 1:8
 Matthew 5:37