In this second of a series on character and integrity, Dr. Wall uses Ben Roethlisberger’s latest troubles as a launching pad to discuss the effects on our loved ones of not being true to our word.  For the first in this series click here.

LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?

who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,

He who does these things
will never be shaken.

Psalm 15: 1, 4, 5

After reading my last blog, I imagine a skeptical reader thinking that my examples of Ben Roethlisberger and Tiger Woods are so over the top as to be completely irrelevant to a typical family situation. Roethlisberger makes over $12 million a year and his little 6 game ban will cost him personally nearly $2 million. He had two sexual assault charges and got out by a hair when the charges are dropped. He goes to bars with a posse of his own paid bodyguards for heaven sakes. Tiger Woods has a estimated net worth of $600 million, was making $85 million a year at one time, and was headed for the Billionaire club and out of the millions of golfers in the world, he’s the best. He married a Swedish model and ends up having affairs over and over again. What does the lack of integrity of these celebrities have to do with me?

Integrity is no respecter of persons. It know no extremes. The word “integer” comes from the late Middle Ages (14th-15th Century) Latin word integrite, which is where we get the word, integer, or whole number, such as 1, 2, 3.  A whole number is UNDIVIDED.  Dictionary.com says “integrity” has 3 meanings:

1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

2.the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.

3.a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship’s hull.

Using the latter example, if the integrity of a ship’s hull is compromised, the whole ship sinks.  The ship may be 99% perfect, but the 1% hole causes the whole ship to fail.  It does no one any good on the bottom of the ocean.  No one is going to care if the ship was 99% fine.

Let’s bring this down to a simple marital relationship, and no one makes $12 million or $85 million a year.  Let’s say a husband and a wife are discussing their upcoming plans.  His mom wants them to come for the weekend, but they have made other arrangements.  The couple is sitting in the kitchen discussing this when his mother calls.  She asks them when they are coming this weekend and he says to his mother, while he winks to his wife, that he’s not feeling well and they won’t be able to come. Instead of truthfully saying that he and his wife had already had other things going on, he point blank lies to his mother.  In front of his wife.  What has he just done?

He’s just planted a seed of doubt in his wife’s mind.  She will think: My husband lies to his mother.  Who does that?  If he’s capable of that, what else is he lying about? When he tells me he’s late at the office, is her really late?  Is he lying to me, too?  Does he have a lover he winks to when he talks to me on the phone?

The same doubts would go through the husband’s mind if she calls in sick for work when she is NOT sick.  When you are NOT WHOLE your spouse will doubt your integrity.

Lack of integrity doesn’t only introduce doubt.  It introduces a loss of trust, fear, worry and insecurity…to everyone in the family.  And when people feel this way, all bets are off on normal behavior.  Pretty soon the couple and the family starts to have trouble.  When integrity is broken, chaos isn’t far behind.

This same doubt will infiltrate your children, if you are not a man of your word.  If your kids doubt your integrity, they will quit talking to you.  Or be surly when they do.  Why talk to dad?  I never know when he’s telling me the truth.  One of the main needs of children is to talk with their dad as they sort out their teenage years: Why am I here?  What am I good at?  Where do I fit in?  How do I fit in?  What is important in life?  Who should I marry?  What will I do for a living?  How do I handle that crazy teacher?  How do I handle failure and success?  How do I not give up?  What is the meaning of life?  These are the questions of adolescence.  They are the questions every teenager longs to ask his father.  But if his dad isn’t a man of his word, his child will not ask.

You think you can divorce and this will be fine and your kids will recover, kids are resilient?  When you divorce, you have broken your promise to your wife or husband.  Your kids know this.  They know that mom and dad are supposed to love each other.  They know what a marriage vow is.  They’ve heard mom or dad say that they would be there for them.  Oh, yeah?  I need dad today and I won’ see him until Saturday and it’ll take a day or two just to feel comfortable with him because he’s never around and then I have to go home to mom and…and why would I ask advice from someone who has made a promise to me and mom and then broke that promise?  So teenage boys and girls from divorced homes grow up without one of the most important developmental needs: Chats with dad.  Is it any wonder many of them flounder?

Sometimes I think if people had integrity, I’d be out of work.  Surely people need therapy after traumatic events, like an accident that is nobody’s fault, but most of the issues that people bring to my office have to do with a lack of integrity: Lying about schedules, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, porn, gambling, affairs, falling out of love.

Falling out of love?  This is an integrity issue?  Yes.  You made a promise.  You said, til death us do part.  Now you say you just don’t have those feelings any more.  You can’t change your feelings.  Your feelings tell you that I love you but I’m NOT IN love with you.  I don’t love you THAT way.  There’s no passion.  It’s just not there.

So?  You made a promise.  Your promise is only as strong as your feelings?   Really?  That’s it?  All I mean to you is the buzz I give you and if I don’t give you a buzz then you are out the door?  You are this fickle?  Blown too and fro by the wind?  We have no foundation?  Commitment means nothing?  Your word means nothing?  Patience, perseverance, sticktuitiveness, fortitude, none of these are in your character?

Let me get this straight.  You don’t operate any other aspect of your life this way.  You don’t feel like going to work in the morning and you still go.  You don’t feel like paying your bills and you pay them anyway.  You don’t feel like exercising and you exercise anyway.  You don’t feel like flossing your teeth and you floss your teeth anyway.  I’m below work and paying bills and exercise and flossing?

And now you are not only going to divorce me, you are going to take the kids away from me for half of the time (or more) and you are going to put me at or near the poverty level and you are going to rip my heart out and trample all over it in the street and then you want to be friends?  AHHHHHH!

Whole.  Undivided.  We could use a few more good men and women of their word.  Men and women who do the right thing even when they don’t feel like it.  Women and men who CHOOSE to love, CHOOSE to give,  CHOOSE to keep their word.  CHOOSE to do the right thing, even when it hurts sometimes.

If you follow your feelings instead of your principles, I feel sorry for you.  I feel more sorry for your loved ones.

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For the first blog in this two-part series on Ben Roethlisberger, Character and Integrity see:

Lessons From Ben Roethlisberger: Character Counts, Part 1 of 2

In this first in a series of two on Ben Roethlisberger, Character and Integrity, Dr. Wall comments on talent vs. character in the latest NFL draft and how that might actually be relevant for you

To see Dr. Wall’s blogs on Tiger Woods’ integrity problems check out:

Two Lessons from Tiger

Dr. Wall explores two lessons we can all learn from the recent news that golf legend Tiger Woods had an affair.

Lesson Number Three From Tiger

Dr. Wall draws another lesson from the recent Tiger saga. Click here to read Dr. Wall’s blog on the first two lessons from Tiger Wood’s recent problems with infidelity.

Needed: A New Culture Where Sexuality Is Protected In Marriage; Another Lesson From Tiger Woods

Dr Wall laments the cheapening of sexuality in our society and proposes a better way.

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Dr. Bing Wall is a marriage therapist with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa.  To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473.  For more information about Dr. Wall click here.

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