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Be Happy - Choose Integrity
May 20, 2003
by Debbie Gisonni

We all grow up with a set of experiences and lessons that shape our value system and create our foundation in life. I grew up in a lower middle class immigrant family. For the most part, my parents set a good example as honest, hard working people who always did the right thing. I'm not saying we were perfect. I had a godfather who did "favors" for the mob and a mother who frequently "acquired" salt shakers and handfuls of sugar packets from restaurants. Despite that, my parents must have done something right as I've never had the urge to swipe a sugar packet!

In housing construction, the stuff that holds the foundation together is called mortar. In life, that mortar is called integrity. Similar to houses, foundations in life can either start with cracks or develop them later. Even if you grow up in the perfect "Beaver Cleaver" household, things happen in life that cause stress on your foundation. Like a house settling as a result of gravity and bad weather, your life settles as a result of situations such as divorce, neglect, fear, abuse, peer pressure, work stress, illness, poverty, etc.

Cracks in your foundation may cause your integrity to waver. People who grow up poor may feel pressured to steal to make ends meet. People who were abused as children may not be emotionally capable of breaking the cycle of abuse with their own kids. People who weren't loved may think they can only find love in gangs or drugs. While you can't change the foundation created by the environment in which you grew up or the subsequent life events that follow, you have a choice to fill in the cracks with love and to learn from them, or to use them as an excuse for immorality. That's why two children who grow up in the same exact household can take their lives in entirely different directions. One fills in the cracks, the other chooses to widen them. It's all about free will.

And just for the record-so you don't think every Italian-American is part of the mob and enamored by "The Sopranos"-my father immediately cut off all communication to my godparent's family as soon as he got word of my godfather's activities with organized crime. I've never seen or heard from them since.

Five ways to choose integrity in your life:

  • Set an example for those around you - always tell the truth.
  • Take responsibility for any wrongdoing.
  • Don't cheat, steal or buy anything from someone who cheated or stole to get it.
  • Pay back personal loans, even if it's just a dollar.
  • Don't keep anything that isn't really yours, including praise.

Copyright © 2003 Debbie Gisonni, All Rights Reserved.

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