Integrity…how do you teach it?

I am heavily involved in my local boy scout troop, actually I am the Scoutmaster. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the scouts, being scoutmaster means that you are the one who gets beaten up when things don’t go right and the one who’s primary responsibility is to teach the boys how to run things for themselves…it’s a very interesting position.

Over the past weekend when we were camping there was a situation and after many, many conversations with each of the scouts it seems like it was a minor thing that unfortunately escalated and one of the scouts was pushed around a little bit. Alot of it occurred because the scout that was victimized is struggling to find his place within the troop and is somewhat cocky and annoying.

Anyways…

I feel I have dealt with the situation correctly and without going overboard.

What I am struggling with is the way that the entire group of scouts reacted to the situation (or didn’t react to be more precise) and how to take advantage of this “teaching moment.”

So how do you teach integrity to a bunch of teenage boys?

How do you let them know that sitting back and watching this whole episode unfold from within the group of instigators or from the outside is not right?

How do you teach them that doing the right thing is ALWAYS the right choice no matter the consequences?

I wasn’t sure if this site was the right medium to “discuss” this situation but the more I thought about it the more I think that living a life filled with integrity is at the core of what we are discussing here. Without integrity, without being able to trust the person looking back at you in the mirror to do what is right no matter what then in my opinion we are wasting our time.

Is it sufficient to learn integrity just by watching other peoples lives?

I don’t think so, not with the firehose of data being thrown at us daily in this technological age. We see way to much about way too many people anymore and usually its not the good stuff in their lives its only the bad.

We as parents, youth leaders, friends, mentors and human beings have to actively counteract that inundation. We have to take the opportunity when it presents itself and let them know about doing the right thing.

So I think what I am going to do is talk in general about what integrity is, why it is so important, what value it brings to our lives and try to come up with a couple of examples from history that illustrate how integrity changed the world we live in.

Then I will try to explain that living with integrity means diffusing the situation that occurred this past weekend before it got started from within and if not then somebody from the outside should have stepped in and shut it down before anybody got hurt.

With this age group it’s going to be a balancing act between getting my point across and boring them to death.

What do you all think? How should this be handled?

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One Response to Integrity…how do you teach it?

  1. Chris says:

    Great post. This seems to be a common occurrence today. I think may be based in low self esteem surfacing as egotism. What I mean is that those who do not think highly of themselves try to feel better by putting others down.

    It is great that you have a desire to correct this in these boys, but you fight a losing battle if they are not getting the same values taught at home, school, or church. The telling point is your thought about them learning integrity by watching others. We learn it ALL by watching others. So the question becomes, How many examples of good character does the youth see on a day to day basis?

    I realize that this offers no answer, only more questions. Unfortunately I am not sure you can influence how a child thinks in only a couple of hours a week. At that level the most you can do is influence how they act via rules. And we all know how teens react to rules.

    The one thing that strikes me as a possibility is the “Scout Oath” and the code of conduct that they were taught to repeat. Perhaps helping them see the need to LIVE those principles instead of simply saying them would be a start. The only other thing that occurs to me is a need on the part of adults to look beyond the start of something (horseplay, teasing, etc.) to it’s ultimate conclusion. An innocent jibe leads to a not so innocent retaliation which then becomes a hurtful situation either emotionally or physically. That is why sarcasm is so wrong. Even when ALL parties involved laugh as if a joke, there is ego scarring happening. Every time, bar none.

    I wish you luck with your charges. And please keep up the posts. They may sometimes be ‘gritty’ but that is real life. The hope is there too, as it seems we only learn to walk by falling down first.

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