Yesterday, at exactly 11:16PM, my middle son, David, turned 18 and in so doing became a legal adult. He is able to vote for the next elected official and enter into binding contracts. He is able to sign himself out of class if he chooses and he will now be reported by name on census forms. He is more than a big boy; he is a man, physically and statutorily. I wonder, as I reflect upon this momentous occasion, if he is ready for the adult world and if he has the character of an adult in the world today.
As I reflect upon his life, I pray that he will continue to develop his character of:
- Charity – David and I had the opportunity to visit the former Charlestown Navy Yard on a regular basis. As we made our way to weekly appointments, we would walk by expired parking meters. After a few weeks, we scoured the car for loose change (and then filled our pockets before we left the house) so that we could anonymously refill the meters. I pray that he will continue to be that kind of man.
- Hospitality – David regularly invited friends to our home for afternoons of video gaming. He’d ask, on their behalf, for his mom to procure snacks and soda so that his guests would be cared for (they even ate, over a week or two, a case of Vidalia-flavored potato chips). I pray that he will continue to be that kind of man.
- Accomplishment – As part of your participation in the scouts, I remember the courts of honor I attended, celebrating David’s advancement through the ranks and his proficiency in certain skills worthy of merit badges. He has a treasure trove of skills and abilities that he ought to be proud of. I pray that he will continue to be that kind of man.
Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Titus 2:6–8
- Adventure – Through storming through the front door like a warrior or through playing in the driveway with abandon, David receive stitches in his palm on one occasion and his leg on another. I hope my son will, forsaking recklessness, will risk something to taste life fully. I pray that he will continue to be that kind of man.
- Responsibility – one formative experience, as he is oft to repeat, was when his mom gave a “time-out” to David’s favorite toy (Dusty, the talking Vacuum Cleaner). With glee, he recounts that there are consequences to bad behavior (even when performed by the inanimate). He learned that he was responsible for himself and those he leads. I pray that he will continue to be that kind of man.
- Whimsy – I have a picture in my office of my now adult son in a banana suit while volunteering at VBS. He also wore the suit at a recent PAX East Expo. It was funny, quirky and unexpected. I pray that he will continue to be that kind of man.
- Service – David has been active in the church; as an usher, as a representative for the “Got Goat” program, working the sound board. He has utilized his skills in service to God and others. I pray that he will continue to be that kind of man.
May we all strive to be adults of character, as I pray my middle boy will.
Happy Birthday, David.
On Sunday the local professional football team, the New England Patriots, advanced to the Super Bowl. It was a convincing win against an able opponent and hopes were high for a 4th NFL championship for the franchise. Then ‘deflate-gate’ happened: the integrity of the win was called into question due to the lower-than-acceptable air pressure maintained in the footballs used by the Patriots. The league and the media were swift in demanding an explanation why New England apparently cheated and in questioning the coach’s and the team’s integrity.
Before we cast aspersions upon the guilty parties, can we all agree that we all have ‘deflate-gate’ temptations in our lives? Call it what you want – a competitive advantage, a societal norm, or a standard practice – but aren’t there things we do that violate the rules? Aren’t there actions we take where the risk of getting caught is superseded by the reward of getting away with the infraction? We speed on the highway, we lie to our spouses, and we steal from work. We usually gain, but occasionally we get caught. We pay our fine, confess our dishonesty and lose our job. Then we go back to what we always do: dabble with dishonesty and disregard some rules. We say, “It’s not a big deal.” But is it?
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Luke 16:10
One virtue that the Bible espouses is integrity, which Merriam-Webster defines as ‘an unimpaired condition’ or ‘soundness’. It describes an object’s measure of strength or fortitude irrespective of external conditions or circumstances. When used in the context of human ethics, it is the opposite of hypocrisy. A person of integrity is someone who has strong moral and ethical character in every situation. Paraphrasing an accountability question we occasionally ask, you are a person of integrity when the ‘real’ you and the ‘visible’ you are consistent. We have integrity when we can be trusted with little or with much because the person of integrity is, at the core, trustworthy.
I have my suspicions about the integrity of the Patriots’ head coach, Bill Belichick, in light of ‘deflate-gate’ and other well-publicized infractions of the NFL rules, but I must not expend my energies to address his character issues. My energies should be exhausted developing my character and you should be developing yours. There are rules I break to achieve a marginal competitive advantage (like neglecting to cite sources) that tarnish my integrity, whether I am ever caught or not. There are illegal societal norms and standard practices (like speeding) that call my character into question, whether or not I receive a ticket. When it comes to matters of character, nobody’s perfect.
I look forward to seeing the Patriots play in the Super Bowl. I hope they can win, with their integrity intact, another championship. It is, however, just a game. A greater gain I have received this week is the reminder that a person’s true self will eventually be revealed, for good or for ill. I hope, when my true self is revealed, it will show me to be a person of integrity. We may not be perfect, but we can all be honest. Thanks, Coach Belichick and your team of AFC Champions, for reminding me of that.