The photo above is cute, but it has a purpose.
I like to think of integrity being a bridge to relationships, purpose, and actions. Bridges are designed to carry weight and endure through time. But just as bridges weaken through abuse or lack of maintenance, so too will your life degrade when your integrity slips.
A major issue for fathers is a lack of integrity. We don’t define this word well and we certainly aren’t held accountable to it.
At the core, it’s about being honest and sticking to a set of principles. That’s really as tough as it gets. Yet, every day fathers choose to take the easy way out and show a lack of integrity across the board:
- Relationships: You said “I do” to your wife a few years back, but now that the marriage is not fresh and they’re problems, you have no qualms casually viewing porn or entertaining flirtatious relationships.
- Fatherhood: You find all sorts of ways to spend your time when you’re at home, but fail to actually spend meaningful time with your kids. Being physically present, but mentally absent is not spending time with your kids.
- Physical Health: You tell those around you that you’re on a diet, but you can’t pass up a slice of pizza or a hamburger any chance you get.
Slowly, but surely, and usually not in a sinister way, we allow our integrity to slip to the point where we don’t stand for anything. We’re just flowing through life and taking the easy way out. This is weak.
You need to stop. Today.
While it can be painful and daunting, a man that holds no principles leads a pretty meaningless life. You have 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week. How are you going to spend those? Will you spend them doing the bare minimum, or will you carry out each day, sticking to your principles, so that you can fall asleep each night satisfied that you were the best version of yourself?
And, most damaging, what does this teach your son? When a father has no principles and demonstrates a lack of integrity what example does this set?
So, Step #1 is finding some quiet time (early in the morning or once the kids are asleep) and thinking about how your obituary would read. Are you remembered for being a loving husband and devoted father? How about being a wise and kind manager at work? What about your physical feats? As you think about how you would like to be remembered, you’re discovering the values/principles that you care about. These are the things that should not be difficult for you to have integrity around. Or, at least you’re willing to be held accountable to them. Start in bullet point format and reflect on them over the course of the week. Did what you write down stand the test of time? If so, create some measurable goals around those values:
- Relationships: Take your wife out for a date this week. Or carry out some random, selfless acts that speak to her love language.
- Fatherhood: Design a play date, project, or lesson and give it everything that you’ve got.
- Physical Health: Track your eating, exercise, or start a new activity.
Two final thoughts on integrity.
While integrity is great to match with accountability, it’s also about being true to yourself. You must be willing to do the right thing when no one else is watching. And that’s really hard. It means exercising self-control. It means denying yourself. It means not living impulsively. When you master yourself, you quickly find that you live more meaningfully. You are in control – not your physical needs. You can live at peace with yourself and not constantly your decisions.
Finally, having integrity is important to attracting opportunity in your life. Whether you view life through the lens of a Creator, Universe, Karma, whatever, time and again we find that those who execute on the small things are often handed bigger things. It took me some time to get comfortable with this idea, but it makes perfect sense. Opportunity comes to us all, but why would opportunity waste time with someone who will squander it? The man that won’t take action?
In all things, do what you say you’re going to do and hold yourself to the principles you’ve lined out for your life. This is a crucial concept in your journey to becoming a father that will raise strong sons. If you’re not strong, they likely won’t be either.