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Integrity: Do You Have It? Do You Insist On It?

Posted Sep 15 2011 5:02pm

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.~ Helen Keller

When we shield others from controversy and learning the hard way, we disrespect them in so many ways. We are telling them they can’t handle it, here let us do it, let me shield you from what is, essentially, life.

Life is hard. Life is tough. Life is unfair. We win, we lose, we fail, we succeed. It is a constant ebb and flow of all things good and all things bad.

When kids play or watch sports, they should learn how to lose gracefully even if their loss was the result of an unfair call or dirty tactics by the other side. That stuff happens more often than we care to acknowledge. We give lessons when it does. You stick up for yourself in a graceful and calm manner and then walk away rather than getting thrown out of the game. We can teach boundary setting, self-preservation and acceptance all at the same time. Teaching kids to live in the nuances is hard and often a multi step process.

Sometimes a bad call by a ref is not a defeat, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. Stuff happens. Life is unfair. Speak up with dignity, let your voice be heard and then decide whether to risk ejection or go back to your seat. Learn to make decisions. Good decisions. It’s not all about “no fair, no fair, no fair!” It’s about keeping your side of the street clean but knowing that sometimes that’s just not enough because we can’t control someone else’s inability to see things our way. Do what you can and then back off. Know what you own and what you do not.

When life disappoints them we should give them a hug and tell them that life is like that sometimes but it’s not the whole thing. We should not shield children from disappointment, hurt or boredom. We should not cause it, but we should not make sure they are always happy or always have something to do.

And so it is with adults. We are not responsible for making people happy who have never learned to make themselves happy and we are not responsible for shielding them from the consequences of their own actions.

When we affect another’s outcome by shielding them from what will happen if we don’t, we rob them of the chance to grow and learn from their mistakes, from “that’s life” situations and from the consequences of their actions.

When we want our relationship to be healthy, we insist that our partner take responsibility for what he or she owns as well as for the success or failure of the relationship. We don’t coddle or shield. We ask that each of us be responsible for our side of the street. We insist that each of us do what is ours to do.

In healthy relationships we recognize who owns what. You own your bad mood, bad behavior, money problems, crazy family. And your partner owns his or her mood, behavior, problems, family. We should not allow any blending of who is responsible for what or any blurring of lines or boundaries. Yes we can help and support, but it must be a two-way street and we should not be doing for someone what they should be doing for themselves.

When we become too responsible for the mess and too focused on what we did or should have done, we allow someone else to stay in their dysfunctional mode. And we don’t allow them to grow.

At the same time, when we assume the role of victim or martyr and bemoan our ill treatment at the hands of another, complain that we are not appreciated and taken advantage of, we don’t allow our own growth. We need to stop being a victim and take responsibility for our own lives and our situations.

If we’re teaching children that life isn’t fair (and we should be) and use disappointments as an opportunity to teach them how to handle adversity (and we should), we should not be allowing adults in our lives to be irresponsible or shield them from the consequences of their actions or their avoiding responsibility. Everyone needs to be held to the same standard. You can’t teach your children any lessons while letting grown adults act like spoiled little brats.

We need to take responsibility for being with people who don’t take responsibility for their own life. When we allow others to cheat, lie, cut corners, avoid responsibility (either to us or to others), we have to take responsibility for being with these children. Because that is what they are – children. If you allow someone to lie to you or you aid and abetting someone lying to someone else, then you have to be responsible for that person being in your life and whatever consequences come from that. Being with people who cannot or will not step up to the plate is being irresponsible even if you think you’re being the responsible one. Every person who is lazy, irresponsible, being led around by addiction, or whatever needs his or her enabler to keep getting by. If you’re that person, then you have to take responsibility for allowing someone else his or her weakness. Because you are. Stop whining. Stop acting like it’s everyone’s fault and this is being done TO you. It’s not. You’re signing up for it.

Yes, things happen but that does not mean that life is completely random. While people get mugged and murdered and killed and hurt every day just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time or just from some completely random event, for the most part, nobody can do anything to us (esp over and over again) that we don’t allow. We need to take responsibility for our own difficulties, the ones we can and do control, and allow others to do the same.

We should be there to support the people in our lives, to give them a hug or a nice meal or something to comfort them in tough times, but we should not shield them from tough times.

If it were not for the bad we would not appreciate the good. We never learn if someone always does it for us. We become dependent and incapable of doing things ourselves. And that does not build character, does not teach us anything, does not make for a better life.

If you’re enabling someone who should be doing for him or herself…stop it and let them learn on their own. If you’re not taking responsibility for yourself, now is the time to start.

Keep your own side of the street clean and allow others to do the same.

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