“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a question posed to nearly every child while growing up. The answers vary greatly from child to child. Everything from doctor to President of the United States. Police officer to paleontologist. Firefighter to rocket scientist.
Shaun and I had a conversation about career choices the other night. Since going to work at my new job last spring, he has asked several times what he would have to do to work for my company. My answer has been simple, stay in school, study hard, and by the time I retire, you should be finished with college and able to apply for my old position. Oh wow, that seems like a long time to his nine year old mind.
After hearing my answer, Shaun said he wasn’t sure he was up to that challenge. I assured him that he has all the time in the world to get ready for a career, whatever it is. The most important thing, I told him, is to find a career about which he can be passionate. One that will make him feel fulfilled. One for which he feels God has equipped him.
If one day he decided to follow in my footsteps that would be a remarkable compliment. However, that is not my goal. As a parent, or in this case, a bonus parent, my goal is to show him how to take his own footsteps.
By demonstrating a healthy work ethic, I can teach Shaun the value of hard work. More importantly though, I have the opportunity to teach Shaun about integrity. Yes, work is an obvious area where integrity shows in one’s life. More importantly, I want him to see integrity at work in the day-to-day stuff that goes on around him.
A huge part of demonstrating integrity to Shaun is seen in how I treat his mother. He sees us tease each other. We laugh together. We cry together. I open doors for her. When she’s tired, I create an environment where she can rest. When she needs a break from the men in her life, I take Shaun outside to play.
When I travel for work, the last part of my day is spent on a video call home to say goodnight to the two of them. He doesn’t just hear the words “I love you” spoken, he sees them lived.
It is important to me that Shaun sees me consistently doing the right thing for the right reason. Notice I used the word “consistently” rather than “always.” I’m still human, and prone to failing. When I do, integrity demands that I admit my wrongs.
Shaun has gotten to know me so well. He can see when I’m struggling. He can sense when anxiety is getting the better of me. At such times, he will come over an place a hand on my shoulder. “Kent, you need to go meditate.” He doesn’t expect perfection.
The twelfth step of Narcotics Anonymous says “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs..” In all our affairs. That’s a big order, but not an impossible one. The key word is “tried.” Recovery doesn’t demand perfection. It demands effort.
Integrity is the key to practicing spiritual principles in all my affairs. Whether Shaun, or Amanda, or my sponsor, or anyone else is around, integrity allows me to be me wherever I go. It is the glue of my recovery. It helps my to stand strong in the face of temptation. It even helps me avoid temptation in the first place.
Amanda and I are as honest with Shaun about addiction as one can be with a nine-year-old. His innocent mind cannot begin to grasp the horrors of addiction, nor the depths to which it has taken us. We pray he never discovers these things for himself. By practicing the spiritual principles we are teaching him integrity.
I have learned what it’s like to lose everything due to a lack of integrity. Through the twelve steps of NA, and the spiritual principles, I’m learning how to rebuild my broken life. I’ve found a new way to live. One that is worthy of the admiration of a child.
At 56 years of age I finally know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a person who is known for my integrity. For me, that is the fulfillment of my ongoing search for a new way of life.
Have a remarkable day!