Rediscovering Integrity for our Children

How do we teach “integrity” to children and help them to become fully integrated persons?

by Sister Maureen, O.C.D., Supervisor of Education
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

What is integrity?

Integrity is a word that continues to fascinate me, and over the years the depth of its meaning grows within me. Originally, I understood the definition of integrity as an honest person. Later on, I realized that “integral” and “integrated” are forms of this word and have deeper meanings than just “honest” or “fair.” Our society considers an integrated person to be one who “has it all together” – educated, talented, successful, self-assured, etc.

Are there different kinds of integrity?

To have integrity, or to become integrated persons, means that all parts of our personality are mature and whole, or as much as possible in our human condition. Integrity encompasses our spiritual and moral maturity, our intellectual and cultural growth and training, as well as our emotional and physical well-being. An integrated person has all parts working in harmony with each other while reaching a level of development appropriate to age. Most of us have facets that are not quite in sync with other parts, but we still continue to strive for the “wholeness” goal.

Integrated persons live in the light of all the components of their being and draw on that combined strength. The core of this strength is their ever-deepening relationship with Our Lord, who is truth. The following are components of the “wholeness” of integration.

  • Spiritual and moral integrity is obtained by the consistent use of spiritual and moral knowledge and the experience of a relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. Choices in daily life are led by beliefs, training and prayer. When choices are in opposition or conflict to God’s teachings and will, then we are not living with integrity; we are not “whole.”
  • Intellectual and cultural integrity is similar. This does not mean reaching the highest academic degrees. It does mean, though, making use of the talents, gifts and opportunities that have been provided for intellectual, educational and cultural development and using these to the best of ability and for the good of others.
  • Psychological development is extremely important to become a person of integrity. A certain level of development appropriate to chronological age is necessary: ability to think, reflect, analyze, judge, make choices, and act in socially acceptable ways. These include the use of our emotions. Young children are not capable of thinking and acting as a ten or twenty year old; we don’t expect it. Conversely, when someone who is forty dresses and acts in ways appropriate for someone who is seventeen, we recognize that something is “amiss.” We strive for the maturity, or integration, that is commensurate with our age.

Do these meanings of “integrity” leave out the original understanding of “honest”? I believe not. A person who is honest is one who has truly become integrated and has the capacity to be truthful in all areas of his or her life and in his or her relationships with everyone – family, friends or strangers.

How do we teach children “integrity” and help them to become fully integrated persons?

After more than 40 years in education (which includes teaching a lot of parenting classes), I have seen that the children who are becoming persons of integrity are generally those whose parents are themselves mature and integrated and not afraid to guide their children according to these same values. Realizing the stages of human development appropriate at each stage of development, good parents strongly attend to these stages, helping their children to develop each component of their being. This takes nurturing children’s spiritual lives through Mass and the sacraments, prayer in the home, and lessons in sharing, giving and forgiving in the family.

Mentoring their growth in integrity also means encouraging children to strive for the best in their education and developing their abilities or talents. (It is encouraging the children to pursue THEIR interests and abilities, NOT to fulfill parents’ unmet dreams).

It is exposing children to educational and cultural opportunities that will help them develop their potential. It does not permit children to be filled with the negative aspects of the secular and technological “world.” Teaching children about integrity takes courage and creativity on the part of parents and teachers.

Some of these lessons are difficult. Parents must allow children the freedom to realize consequences for negative choices. Responsibility for self and others contributes to becoming a whole, or integrated person. Responsibility is learned by being permitted to take responsibility. If a child is rescued and excused by the parents taking over the responsibility, personal integrity will never come about.

The most important part of helping children to become fully integrated human beings is through example. Where children see their parents acting in age-appropriate, fully integrated ways, they will follow, for parents are the children’s greatest heroes. Parents who pray, receive the sacraments, make faith an active part of the home and train and nurture the growth of their children “24/7” in all facets of their development, will eventually rejoice in children who have become completely and fully integrated young Christian leaders who can help change the world.


Please help us in our mission to assist readers to integrate their Catholic faith, family and work. Tell your family and friends about this article using both the Share and Recommend buttons below and via email. We value your comments and encourage you to leave your thoughts below. Thank you! – The Editors

To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, read their biography in the right sidebar and visit their website.

They publish a beautiful print magazine, Spirit of Carmel, and we encourage you to support the work of the sisters with your prayers and through donations and subscriptions to the Spirit of Carmel.

If you are able to help them, please click on the image of their magazine to visit their subscription and donation page.

If you hear God calling you to the religious life, I encourage you to visit their vocations page. – Deacon Mike

Or for more information, please contact:
Sister Grace Helena, OCD, Vocation Directress
920 East Alhambra Road
Alhambra, California 91801

Print this entry

About the Author

Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

Author Archive Page

3 Comments

  1. Beautiful! Integrity is a natural result of fully integrating faith into life to such a degree that all of life is informed by our faith. This is only possibly by God’s grace and us fighting to exercise our will over our Sinner to choose our Saint and breath our unique breath of God into the world, the breath given us at our Holy Conception.

    The disintegration we see in society and in individual (perhaps our own) lives results from faith becoming more and more separated from daily life. In this Year of Faith, our challenge of evangelization is less to get people to read the Catechism and the documents of Vatical II, and more to offer a simple way to unwrap our faith and live it in everyday life.

  2. Deacon Patrick,

    >>to offer a simple way to unwrap our faith and live it in everyday life.<<

    I find that many people respond well to practical help offered. Many are searching for that deeper relationship in prayer and in their ordinary, everyday activities.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *