Confessions of a Middleagedmom

surviving motherhood in the “middle ages”

What My Mother Taught Me About Integrity September 5, 2009

(Note: This post was supposed to be published yesterday.)

This morning I happened to be watching a The Early Show about a woman who lied on her resume to get a job. She was not a college graduate but she said she was. Although she probably had a “good” reason for lying (threats that she would lose custody of her daughter), she didn’t think of the consequences. In fact, she said she tried to forget about it. She ended up losing a marriage and her job at a bank. To this day she claims that her loss of integrity really affected her. She says that she is still working on getting her integrity back.

She says (about lying to get a job):

“You’ll lose your integrity, you’ll lose friends, god forbid family along the way,” she said. “You’ll always have an Achilles heel that you can be taken down at any moment and no one wants to live like that.”

So what is integrity?

According to the online dictionary:

Integrity means “steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.”

I attribute much of my integrity to my mother. As a child, I remember my mother being almost ultra-aware of doing what is right vs. doing what is wrong. She constantly reminded us to do the “right” thing. I don’t remember her teaching of integrity as being enforced by discipline as much as being taught through example. She never said that if we lie or cheat we would get in trouble. Or if we lie and cheat, we would go to hell. I think her argument always centered around the idea that we shouldn’t treat others badly, esp. because we wouldn’t like it if someone treated us badly.

These morals and ethics were not a product of her belief in God. You see, when I was a child, we did not attend Church. God was not really present in our lives. Even so, my mother would let us study with our aunt who was a Jehovah’s Witness. I never really asked her why. I think at the time she thought it would be good for us.

If you ask her today, she will probably say that her sense of moral and ethical code came from her attendance at Sunday school with a girlfriend when she was a child.

One of the clearest examples that is burned into my memory is her insistence that we never lie about our age to get an advantage. For example, if we were paying admission to some place we would never be encouraged or allowed to lie about our age in order to get a discount.

Another example is her insistence that we never take advantage of a situation where we might profit from someone else’s loss. IRL…if we ever were undercharged at a grocery store or given extra change, we would always go back to the store to return the change or pay the correct amount for out items.

She also taught us to never belittle or make fun of someone who was less fortunate than us. We should always try to treat people with respect and dignity. I think that probably came from personal experience since my mother has been disabled for many year by a debilitating disease.

To this day, I still adhere to these same ethics and morals.  I won’t lie to take advantage of a situation. I discourage others from doing the same thing, esp. mothers trying to get discounts based on their children’s ages. I also don’t believe in taking something that doesn’t belong to you (stealing?). Prior to Princess’s birth, friends told us we should take the receiving blanket that they used at the hospital because it was perfect for swaddling. After her birth, we asked hospital personnel if we could take the blanket home. They said, “no”. So we did not take the blanket or anything else (the little shirt) that they said had to stay.

I could never understand how people could be happy when they got away with some kind of financial gain at someone else’s expense. I remember once when a girlfriend of mine said she paid X amount for something and I informed her that it was the wrong price. She was excited that she got a deal even if it was by mistake. She did not feel any sense of remorse or did not feel that she should correct the situation.

I”m not saying that I’m perfect. I’m far from it…as evidenced by numerous posts on this blog. I’m not trying to stand on my soapbox and preach to anyone else either. I’m sure I’ve made ignorant mistakes too. But, if I am aware of something then I can not claim ignorance.

So, I try my very best to have integrity in all situations. I hope that as a parent I can teach the same lessons about integrity that my mother taught me. If they at least learn how to live with integrity, I think it will help guide them throughout life and make them proud of themselves. I know that I will definitely be proud of them.

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