Parenting, Social Justice

On Integrity: An Open Letter to My Kids

Dearest children of mine,

It is a tough time in our country right now. Every day, thanks to the connectedness of social media, we are bombarded with everyone’s opinion about the root of the problems, the extent to which those problems exist, and the best way to solve them.

For a while now (thanks to cell phone videos), we have been witness to an overwhelming amount of incidents involving the excessive use of force on African Americans by police officers. These officers have gone unchecked and unpunished, and people that care are rallying to speak out against the injustice of it all. One such form of protest came from Colin Kaepernick, an NFL football player that chose to take a knee during the national anthem. What appeared to me as a peaceful form of protest has a huge portion of the country divided on whether this form of protest was “appropriate”.

This issue has sparked healthy, necessary conversations in the country and in our home about civil and human rights and the importance of knowing and doing better.

In an effort to continue this conversation, I want you to know some truths I’ve discovered about how to be a better human:

I hope you fight. Every day that the good Lord has given you breath in your lungs, I hope you make that one more day to fight for what you believe in. I especially want you to fight for justice and freedom for ALL HUMANS. If that means you kneel during the anthem and you offend the sensibilities of everyone you know, so be it. As long as you’re doing it for the right for all people to be treated equally, then I will kneel right next to you.

Do not let others define you by what you do. Be defined by WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU STAND FOR. Don’t let someone tell you “you’re too young” or “you’re just a student – stick to learning” or “you’re just an athlete, stick to athletics”.  You use whatever platform you have to speak out against injustice. That platform was given to you by God…not for the sole entertainment of everyone around you. You have a voice – use it.

Value loving others over being loved; listening over being heard; justice over your comfort; humanity over symbolism; what is RIGHT over what is orderly.

Don’t share internet memes without sourcing their accuracy, especially when it comes to important issues. Your credibility is everything. Do your research. Know what you’re talking about.

Sit with the lonely kid at the lunch table. Make popularity your enemy. There will come a time when you have to stand up for what is right and it will cause you considerable grief from people who don’t agree. Stand up anyway.

Be intentional about knowing people who look differently, live differently, and spend their money differently than you.

Respectfully, but assertively question authority. Even mine. I’m not always right and neither is anyone else. Be humble when you’re right about someone and own it when you’re wrong.

Avoid clichés, especially those with a religious tone. It’s not an effective way to witness. Don’t just say “What would Jesus do?” or wear it on a bracelet. ACTUALLY DO WHAT JESUS DID.

Do not become complacent. Your silence on a matter as important as racial equality is just as toxic to the problem as if you were instigating it. Declaring your beliefs is not enough. You need to back it up with action. As James 2:17 says, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Trust your gut.

Above all, know that I love you. And there is no other thing you can do in this life that will make me more proud than standing up for those that have been rendered powerless or speaking up for those who have been mistreated.

Because news flash – THAT’S WHAT JESUS DID.

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