“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”C.S. Lewis
There are moments when someone slaps us on the back and says “good job.” There are times that a smiling person sincerely says, “Thank you”. There are occasions when we are awarded or even honored, but there are many more occasions when nothing is said and no one notices. For the thousands of peoples that are recognized and given their few minutes in the lime-light, there are billions of people that go about their everyday lives doing their duties with no one ever noticing them in any extra special way.
This may fill some parents’ hearts with righteous indignation, and we might try to go about seeking to ensure that our children know that they are properly appreciated, but I want us to consider a thought: when the children in our lives leave our influences and go out into their own lives, what will fortify their souls and keep them going? What happens if their lot falls into the vast majority of people in the world that are never recognized or appreciated?
We have little control over the way the world will react to our children, but we can influence the way they respond to the world’s reaction. John Ruskin said these words over a hundred years ago, “The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become because of it.” If our children can learn to value being and becoming, more than getting, then, when the hard days come, the days that no one notices their efforts, they will not be crushed by their own obscurity. They will have a chance because they are fortified by the innate value of accomplishing their duty. They will know the true worth and transforming power of integrity.
It is one thing to say that this is our goal, but it is a totally different matter to go about establishing this kind of character in our children’s lives. We, like Paul, will say, “For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” But how? Maybe these words from British educator Charlotte Mason might help:
“We entertain the idea which gives birth to the act and the act repeated again and again becomes the habit; ‘Sow an act,’ we are told, ‘reap a habit.’ ‘Sow a habit, reap a character.’ But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worth while…It is possible to sow a great idea lightly and casually (and reap a character)…”
This quote assures us that often the thing wanting is the liberal but gentle sprinkling of living and noble ideas. Parents can plant the inspirational seeds of indomitable character and courage by introducing our children to backrow heroes. By reading to them about quiet faithful people, we are sowing ideas.
The best place to start is in the greatest book of all, the Bible. Often it is the well-known heroes that get all the attention in Sunday schools, Bible lessons, and family devotions, but what about those that are not on the top twenty lists? What about taking time to meditate on Andrew, Peter’s silent brother that always brought people to Jesus, the first apostle to faithfully die for Christ? Or Jonathan, the prince that knew he would never be king? He loved his father and loved his friend, all while doing what was right, even unto death. Then there is Joseph, not the dreamer, but the quiet carpenter. The one who is never talked about much except during the yearly Christmas pageant, but was trusted by God to raise his only begotten son. What about the likes of Caleb, Silas, and Barnabas, those that grace the pages of Scripture, coming and going without fanfare or attention, but are honored and remembered by the God who keeps the records that really matter.
For those inclined to read beyond the Bible there are many other great characters to add to the ranks of those already mentioned. Our children will love the heroes that they read of in their storybooks and will naturally want to be like Robin Hood, but what about taking time to think over Little John? They don’t need a lecture, just a word will do when it is accompanied by a good story. Maybe after a moving reading, we can simply say, “You know, I like Sam Gamgee!” In great literature there are many backrow heroes for our children to know and love: rabbits like Emma, faithful creatures like good old Mole, Rattie’s best friend, silent sisters like Mary Ingalls and Beth March, stalwart and sensible Elinor Dashwood, knowledgeable and kind Dickon, overlooked but unexpectedly brave Mina, and timid but determined Neville Longbottom. Each one is an idea lived out before our children and each idea is an opportunity to sow a notion that will become an action that can turn into a habit.
As I send my children out into the world, I know they will not always be appreciated, but I hope I can send them out with a host of examples, a collection of back row heroes who can help them do right when no one is watching.
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