Perhaps one of the more significant news items of last year came from a survey by the Josephson Institute for Ethics.
After interviewing 20,000 students, the Josephson poll determined that dishonesty was on the increase among today's young people: 47 percent of high-school students admitted to stealing from a store in the past year. And 70 percent admitted to cheating on an exam, while 92 percent confessed to lying to parents. The editor in chief of the Journal of Ethics, J. Angelo Corlett, commented that the survey "should sound an alarm that people don't take ethics seriously in our society ...." Mr. Corlett also felt that the poll said something about "parents' ability to instill ethics" (USA Today, Oct. 19, 1998).
Considering all of this, one conclusion is that parents who hope to set a good example and teenagers who are confronting difficult choices every day will be strengthened by understanding the basis of ethics, honesty, and integrity.
It is God; it is spiritual.
Ethical behavior can't be firmly rooted if it depends on the ever-changing mores and customs of society. Honesty and integrity, to be lasting, will be grounded in each individual's understanding of and relationship to the divine Principle. In discovering more of God's nature as the one Principle, pure Truth and Love, we also learn more about ourselves as God's "image" and "likeness" (see Gen. 1:26) - the manifestation of Principle and Truth and Love. That's how we also discover our real nature, in which integrity is inherent in our being, permanent in our living.
This kind of spiritual realization provides a solid basis for setting a good example and helping to promote integrity. A teenager doesn't have to be molded by peer pressure to be or do something that isn't natural to him or her. In fact, each person is actually somebody else's peer, and can be a positive influence for good, for integrity, for higher motives, in the lives of friends.
Sometimes it's suggested that dishonesty is a way of succeeding, of getting something we want, or of avoiding some restriction, punishment, or limitation. But what dishonesty really does is corrode our inner life. It finally traps us. It chains us to a cynical and ultimately meaningless view of existence. It's never a strength, and doesn't bring freedom.
In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "Honesty is spiritual power. Dishonesty is human weakness, which forfeits divine help" (pg. 453).
Honesty puts us squarely on the side of God. So it can't be naive or weak. Honesty is part of living a whole life, a complete life, a truly successful life.
The Apostle Paul wrote to his fellow Christians, "Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Col. 3:9, 10). Paul's words are really timeless. And the "new" man or woman that we "put on" - through holding fast to our relationship with God - is joyful and satisfying.
Honesty is power in your life. And peace. It's liberating. Honesty enables us to see and know and be who we truly are - the sons and daughters of God.
And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord. Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. Psalms 40:3, 4
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