Sunday, January 11, 2009
These are points of integrity that often vary from person to person – yet have a profound influence on your sense of self-honesty. How you set your priorities on this topic will have a significant impact on the quality of your relationships and your ability to truly be happy and live with yourself.
I notice that I have a particular disdain for individuals who are not up front and honest – often having a hidden agenda of one type or another. They pretend to be your friend when instead they are calculating how they can use your good heartedness or control you to get what they want while also working hard to get you and others to think highly of them. It is quite a feat they seemingly have mastered.
Whatever the reasons or motivations, these people eventually get stuck in the web of their own deceit. They come in all sizes and shapes – passive-aggressive, Jekyll and Hyde – what you see is seldom what you really get.
On the top of my list of such personality traits is the goodie-two-shoes – sometimes quiet, sometimes a slick talker, sometimes friendly, appearing to be so well meaning – yet ready to stab you in the back when you least expect it.
I feel that children who grow up without other siblings have some disadvantage. Siblings offer early exposure to many life lessons. In my opinion, the more lessons you can learn at home the better you are prepared to deal with life.
My sister, a year younger than I, has been a classic goodie-two-shoes personality; doing whatever she could to appease and please my father. In his eyes she could do no wrong. I had a much more outspoken and direct approach to life, stating out loud when I felt something that was not right, not fair, or not true.
I shared a bedroom with my sister as a young girl. One day, when I was about age 10 years old, I went to my bedroom after school to begin my homework. My sister was at her desk working away. I noticed that the window in our bedroom was broken and I asked her what happened. Her response was that she did not know.
Suddenly our father entered our room. He asked in an upset tone of voice, “Who broke the window??” I responded that I did not know, at which point my sister boldly stated, “Mary told me that she broke it!” My eyes bugged out of my head, as all of a sudden according to her I not only broke the window, I even told her I broke it. It was a double whammy. I stood there and reputed this as both of her statements were untrue.
My sister continued to insist that her story was in fact what happened. She was so convincing and had a long running reputation with my father as being the quiet “perfect” daughter that caused no trouble. That is as far as he could see, unaware of what really went on when he was not around.
I stood there and took a punishment for breaking the window and for lying.
It hurt me so much; I remember crying more from the pain of not being believed. Why wouldn’t my father believe me? Was it because I spoke up? Was it because at times I questioned what I was being told? Was it because he equated a verbal daughter who had opinions and who stood up for herself with someone who was wrong?
I knew right then and there that I never wanted to be like my sister. I could never behave a certain way just to please someone. Nor put someone else in jeopardy to save myself from an undesirable consequence. I would have nothing to do with being fake, manipulative, or coming across with a goodie-two-shoes façade.
That day taught me a lesson that has remained with me: that my happiness would be what I created in my life and it would be based on actions that were held to a certain level of integrity and honesty. My acid test was to strive to be the same person on both sides of the door. I would be the same person in public that I was in private. I would stand up for myself even though it may not be popular at the time with others.
While I certainly didn’t like what my sister did that day, the lesson I learned gave me a valuable heads up on what was coming in the “real world.” For one thing, as an adult I have been able to recognize this personality trait in others more easily. This has saved a lot of time and unnecessary stress. For this, I am thankful.
Holding myself to a higher standard of behavior has made a big difference for me. Think about it – how true are your actions to what you know is right? It is often harder to do the right things, but in my experience it has always benefited me in the long run.
What I did not know then but do know now is that this trait is also fundamental to a sense of personal strength and commitment. There is no virtue in being seen and not heard, the lesson my father and my schooling sought to instill in me. There is virtue in doing what you know is right and living your life so that all your actions are consistent in this way. This often means standing up and speaking out, regardless of the consequences. You have a choice.
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