You are my joy: A letter to my boys

My boys,
You are both stepping out into the adult world. A world of jobs, marriage, bills, temptations, joy, disappointment, love, frustration, and worry. I know I can't give you all the advice you need in just one little letter, but the attempt will be made. I am so proud of your accomplishments. You are both smart and kind and loyal. Mistakes will be made. It's what we learn from those mistakes is what make us stronger and wiser. I am going to make this simple and cover four attributes I gleaned from an article I read on one of the great Roman emperors Marcus Aurelius: humility, honor, nonjudgmental kindness, and personal integrity.

Humility: The dictionary defines humility as the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc. Being humble means doing your job to the best of your ability. Don't expect pats on the back for everything you do. Do excellent work because that is what you want and expect out of yourself. The accolades may follow, but what is important is what is inside you. You are the only one who knows your true capabilities. Others may praise you or perhaps even scold you. Look into your humble heart and keep going.

Honor: When I looked up honor, twelve different definitions popped up. What is honor? It's not glory or fame. To be honorable is to be honest, fair, and full of sincerity. Be good with your word. If you make a promise, follow through. Take care of those close to you. Be a true friend, brother, son, husband, father. If you live your life this way, you will not be filled with regrets.

Nonjudgmental kindness: This one can be tough. In this harsh, ugly, dark world we live in it is easy to lash out at others. The thing to remember is that everyone has a story. No one is a stereotype. Look at others with warmth and love in your heart, and I promise the world will begin to brighten.

Personal integrity: When I looked up integrity I found references to morals, ethical principles, and character. Integrity is not a sense of self-righteous snobbery. Integrity is digging deep into what you truly believe in and following that path. Your character will shine if you do the right thing.

I was raised by a man who lived all of these traits every day of his life. Papa was a man of true humility, honor, kindness, and integrity. He never boasted or bragged. He just lived his life, took care of his wife, children, and grandchildren, and left a grand legacy. I see him in both of you. You have his kindness and his stubbornness and his loyalty and his love. Keep him in your heart, listen to him every day, and you will live a worthy life.

Full disclosure: I am still a work in progress. I try to live these traits every day, but as a real human, I am full of rage and jealousy and anger. What I do, though, is remind myself that I can be a woman of humility, honor, kindness, and integrity. I then let the light enter me and a sense of serenity fills me. Every day is a challenge.

You two are my proudest accomplishments. You are my joy.

With all my heart,