H20 tob Go! Chapter 6 (cont's)
Word-Growing Moral Courage and Preparing for Moments ofTruth
One reason we want to
ask a lot of What If questions of our teens is that doing so helps them define who they are. They are becoming young
adults. They will be going off to college where and when they will have to make their own decisions without our presence,
limits or rules. How do they feel about a whole host of issues? Where do their priorities lie? Who are they, independent
Another reason we want to ask a lot of What If questions is that our teens are growing emotional
maturity. They cannot develop true character without emotional maturity. They cannot take a stand unless they are strong
enough to be able and willing to take a stand. Our children will be tomorrow’s leaders innovators, and contributors—some,
public figures. Their principles and ethics will be on display and in public view. And as we all have seen, it
will too late once a famous athlete, a known politician, a successful business person or popular personality to come to terms
with ethics and values.
If we look to anyone we truly admire, we will find that what we really respect is the
core of his/her character. There is a consistent, and unwavering philosophy(Philosophy vs Rules
) and standard of behavior (see Heart of the Manner and The Tao of Money) that does not seem to waver. The core does not alter with situations
or relationships. It does not recede during crisis or loss. It stays in place. It rests deep inside, (and will over
time define a soul). How a person conducts his or her life reflects that inner core. That is what defines a principled
human being. And that is what we all strive to be. We are not at all perfect. We will make lots of mistakes
and we will be striving to be better our whole lives. But, as parents, we want to give our children the desire to strive—the
desire to be principled.
And the last reason we want to ask a lot of What-If questions is to prepare our
kids. We do not know how many of those questions they might actually have to contend with. As I said at the very beginning
of this book, life will be more intense, or conflicted for some of us than for others. Also, history has shown that
times of feast and famine, war and peace do truly alternate. We do not know which one our children or grandchildren
Regardless of what life brings, we want Heart, Humor & Optimism to be emotional protectors and we want
strength of character to see our children through anything they might face.
Although the following story is extreme. It makes this point:
When my son was in Sunday school, my husband and I went one afternoon
to a very special lecture given at our Synagogue. The Dutch woman speaking had been honored for her heroic efforts during
World War II. She was responsible for hiding and ultimately saving a number of Jewish children from extermination. But what
she spoke about that day was very specific and very compelling–how does one prepare for a moment when there is no time
to think–when whatever has been instilled since childhood rises to the fore, and instincts take over, without reservation?
And so it was, that this very brave young woman- who had been reared with much love, and gentleness, honoring above
all else, the sanctity of life, whose devout Lutheran father taught her justice and ethics, and tolerance– found herself
in the midst of none of those principles, and when a Gestapo officer knocked on her door and demanded to come in and search
her house– had a decision to make. If he searched enough, he would find the children she was hiding.
So, when he
entered, walked passed her and started moving from room to room, She went and found the pistol someone had given her just
in case. And when he turned back to her and commanded to be lead into the basement, she looked him straight in the face, shot
and killed him. She had never held a gun, she had never used a gun, and she never thought she could or would kill anyone,
point blank and not in self-defense. Standing there before us, she said that whatever gave her the courage and the moral certitude
to commit that act came from the code of ethics her father had instilled in her. When, therefore, her moment of truth came,
she not only knew what needed to be done, she knew without hesitation that it was the right thing to do. Long story short,
those children were saved and she lived to tell the story.
How do we lay a foundation, and plant the seeds of moral
courage? How do we help our children grow into adults who will know to take action when necessary, in the face of fear, or
conflict, when there is no moral ambiguity, there is only one right thing to do and that right thing will be hard, uncomfortable,
or even dangerous?
I spoke in my past column- Moral Dilemmas and Tough Choices-about choices that kids face in
school, and with their peers. And I said that it's very hard for most to differentiate when to report an incident, and when
not? Do they rat on a friend and be responsible or stay silent and remain loyal?
My main theme was that kids need
lots of practice, so that they can sort out conflicting feelings, and better know how to respond and take an action when they
find themselves in various situations. They first need to hear our voice, our beliefs and our principles so that they can
then develop their own and those can be in place when there is no time to think or discuss ramifications.
ability to seize the moment and do what is ethically or morally right comes from deep inside our soul-- so sure and solid
an instinct that may appear in an instant, but that has actually taken a long time to grow–very much like learning and
memorizing multiplication tables for what seems like forever, then finally knowing them by rote, and being able to throw out
the answer without a second's thought; or learning how to drive- passing the written exam, practicing, putting in required
hours, finally taking a road test, then having to spend a much longer time behind the wheel, in lots of different situations
before instinct and reflex ultimately kick in and run on automatic.
Hopefully, our children will not have such
dramatic moments of truth as did the Dutch heroine who shot the Nazi officer. But even those choices that are less life threatening,
or heart wrenching, require the same attention to principle. Our children can, with constant discussion, develop principles
that will instinctively support and guide their decisions.
It starts, as I stated in my Moral Dilemmas column,
with asking "what ifs?"
As our children grow, we can keep asking, every time something happens that they hear
or read about, and that they are old enough to understand--What if you were in that situation? What if a relative or a best
friend came and confided in you that he or she had committed a crime, rape, or murder? What would you do? What if you had
to appear before a Senate Committee on steroid abuse, and let's say, you did take steroids, and let's say they were going
to ask you if you did and who else besides you did, and let's say it could cost you your baseball record, and it would be
very difficult for your family, especially your kids, what would you do? Again, the whole exercise is to decide into what
category go the "have to do something no matter what happens to me" situations and the "I have time to think
and talk this over before I make a decision" situations.
A friend at whose house my husband and I had dinner,
asked how we instill the strength in our children to stand up to authority, if and when that authority becomes questionable?
I told her I thought certain principles had to remain forever larger than any one person, or uniform, or title, (as in the
Constitution) and it must always be the messenger to whom we pay close attention. How those in authority behave will not be
our children’s sole problem. How they eventually stand up to those with whom they might be emotionally involved, as
well as to their peers will be life long, and probably offer a more constant challenge. But, if they have a philosophy in
place that defines a standard of behavior and justice then they will know who rises to the occasion and who does not.
We do not know what will happen in the world. And we do not know if our own children's lives will be turned upside down
by events over which they have no control. We can however, help them prepare to be morally courageous adults. All of us will
have moments of truth, some big, some small, some profound, some inconsequential. The sum total of who we are, what we hold
dear, what we respect and honor, and what we will fight to protect, help guide our actions.
The sum total of who
our children become, what they hold dear, what they respect and honor, what they fight to protect, will be our responsibility
to help shape and our children’s responsibility to maintain. May God bless them all, and may all our children grow moral
courage to pass on to their children and beyond.