The Strong Family: 8 Lessons in Faithfulness to Duty and to Each Other

Sure, money and career are important. But at the end of the day, family is all that matters. Single persons can devote themselves to career, but when a family forms, everything changes. Integrity and healthy relationships become the keys to true success. That's why when a partner is unfaithful, it is usually devastating to the other family members.

Together let's ponder the disappointment and betrayal people feel when a partner cheats. Maybe we can remember to appreciate our own family just a little more. Perhaps we can even take away a lesson or two that will help us to be better mates and parents.

Lesson one. Honor your commitments and do your duty. Someone is counting on you. In fact, if you step outside the bounds of marriage, the message to your wife and kids is: dad does not love us. I know this is a hard teaching, but hear me out.

Isn't it true that when a well known person (one you had respected) is discovered cheating, you feel disappointment at some deep unplumbed level? If so, you are getting a small dose of what the spouse and kids feel when something like this happens to the family. You husbands and dads--I hope you see why you must never fail, because of the effect it has on others.

For example, if you feel a little let down by unfaithful sports heroes, you're not alone. Plenty of people feel hurt and betrayed. I understand. Thank goodness I have found a solid spiritual base for my life; nevertheless, even I occasionally feel a little disappointment when someone I had looked up to lets me down. Let it be a reminder to us all to do our duty. Someone is counting on us.

Lesson two. Moms and dads, you are the first role models in your kids' lives. Don't let them down. In fact, if you have any public visibility at all, people will identify with you. Any appearance of impropriety disappoints and disillusions them.

No wonder many of us are disappointed. We took it for granted that what our sports coaches always told us was true: that sports build character. We thought that we could safely identify with someone and look up to someone as a role model without being embarrassed or let down. But dads, here is the good news. The failings of others will not bother your kids if you do not fail them or let them down.

Lesson three. I have always heard that integrity is important. I heard that the word integrity came from the Latin word meaning "whole or undivided." But I never really understood the term. Now I see that many people who are unfaithful have compartmentalized their lives.

Now I see that integrity means wholeness. That's one thing most of us love and respect about our moms. Mom is always mom. You get the whole Mom all the time. She may not be perfect, but she has integrity.

What can you say about a man who has a secret life? It is not a good thing. A man of character is whole. He is always the same. He is the same through and through, and he has no secret life.

Lesson four. Be a champ. Dad, your wife and kids are likely to put you on a pedestal. They want to look up to you. They want to respect you. They want to trust you. You are more than just a role model to them--you stand for something very special.

Watching the scandal stories, you can see with your own eyes how quickly a person can go from being a champ to a chump. Don't let it happen to you.

Now let me address myself to the ladies and kids (after all, even we grown-ups are adult children of our parents, and some of us are still big kids).

Lesson five. Maybe your dad is not such a bad guy after all. Is he home every night? Is he true to your mom? Then no matter how little money he makes--in the arena of fidelity, he is a bigger man than any successful person who cheats on his wife.

Lesson six. Be grateful for a husband who goes to work, comes home, watches television and works in the garage. If he is basically a good guy, don't give him such a hard time. Okay, he's not perfect. But don't we always say "No one is perfect?"

Lesson seven. Many men are far more decent than you realize. Many dads appear hokey and simple because they don't do a lot of "cool" things. Instead, they talk about work and the weather. They read the paper and watch the news. They tend to fall asleep on the couch (after a hard day's work). Therefore, some of us assume that dad is boring.

Could it be that dad is eschewing the exciting life in order to be there for his family? In other words, maybe he is living a quiet and dull life not because he has to but because he has chosen to. Maybe he is sacrificing selfish pleasure for the sake of his wife and kids.

Lesson eight. Dad may not be dumb. Dads sometimes appear dumb because they don't say much. Could it be that he is exercising patience and self control? Could it be that he sees things that trouble him, but holds his tongue? Could it be that he is sometimes hurt, but he says nothing because he does not want to return the hurt? Could it be that his thoughts and love are too profound for him to easily put in words?

Lesson nine. Cherish and appreciate your family's love. Men, have you ever received a mug or a greeting card from your child that says something like: "My dad is my hero?" Women, have you ever received a card that says "to the world's greatest mom?" If you have, cherish it, for it is worth more than any degree, title, or trophy the world has to offer. Make sure you are worthy of it.

Gentlemen, now that you have been reminded of what it is like to be betrayed and disappointed by someone, don't mess up. Put a picture of your wife and kids on your desk at work. Wear your wedding ring at all times (this applies to you wives too). When you travel, carry a big picture of your wife and kids with you and place it in plain sight in every hotel room you stay in.

Lesson ten. Get married. I know this is a little controversial. But I say it after thirty years of teaching and counseling. If you and your mate are just living together, may I suggest you consider tying the knot and making it formal?

Never mind what everyone says about it "just being a piece of paper" and so on. Marriage is not casual (even if you think it is). The formality of wedding vows before a justice of the peace or minister, witnessed by others, means commitment and fidelity. It says that you really mean it. If you are unwilling to sign on the dotted line and say "I do," it means you are not 100% committed. It has the appearance of impropriety.

Even if you are 99% committed, your mate is aware of the 1%. Trust me. After you are married, just for fun, frequently wear a tee shirt that says: Sorry, I'm already taken.

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