Refreshing our memory: What integrity looks like

Tonight I came across this post from my Winnowing blog.  I wrote it back in March of 2008.  This week, while we drown in news about Eric Holder and Jerry Sandusky, I thought it might be nice to remember what genuine integrity looks like:  Integrity does what is right, even when no one is watching, and a lie would serve you better. 

In the film Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, the famous golfer from the 1920s is playing in a championship when to his dismay he accidentally causes his ball to move before he has actually swung. He immediately calls the official over and informs him of what he’s done. Jones’ primary competitor declares that he didn’t see it happen; the official didn’t see the action, and after polling the spectators it seems that no one else saw it either.

“Are you sure that your ball moved, Mr. Jones?” The official looks at him pointedly.

“Yes, sir. I know that I caused my ball to move.”

“Well then, you are to be congratulated.” The official’s face shows both his disappointment at having to assess a penalty stroke, and great admiration for Jones’ honesty.

Jones looks blandly at the official. “That’s like congratulating a man on not robbing a bank. I don’t know any other way to play the game.”

We want our heroes to have such honesty and integrity, whether we admit it or not. But the greatest heroes are those of whom we probably know the least. The current media darlings are daily falling on their faces, caught driving drunk, in possession of illegal drugs, parading their infidelities and serial marriages. Politicians perjure themselves, writers plagiarize their content, and we hear about it with sinking hearts. Is no one honest?

Yes, many are. But I suspect that their very integrity is one reason we will not hear much about them. The great heroes of our day will only be known when the definitive biography is published. Until then, unless they publicly flaunt their virtues like the Pharisees–praying, giving, serving for the cameras–we will know them only by the omission of their names from the current feet-of-clay listing. And I suspect that, like Bobby Jones 80 years ago, the attitude of those as-yet unsung heroes is the same as in the parable recorded in Luke’s gospel:

” So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” (Luke 17:10)

Would that we all were such “unworthy” servants, expecting no trumpets or commendations for our own honesty.

8 responses to “Refreshing our memory: What integrity looks like

  1. LivinRightinPGH

    Excellent… reminds me of the integrity shown by Barack “Milhouse” Obama with his many campaign pledges and promises….

    Oh….wait…..I better find another example.

    My bad.

    • I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying, PGH:

      Are you somehow implying that President Pinocchio isn’t always on the up-and-up?
      That he plays fast-N-loose with truth?
      That he tells the not-so-occassional fib?
      That prevarication is in his blood?
      Is THAT what you’re saying?

      Hmmmm, I hadn’t heard that before……

      Of course, I usually get my news from NBC and PBS, and they certainly haven’t informed me of any such misdeeds.

      How very odd.

      • LivinRightinPGH

        Obama’s Presidency has been like the punchline of that old joke about the man choosing between Heaven and Hell. The sales pitch on Hell appears so much more fun, so the guy decides to choose Hell, only to end up in pure agony and misery. When he questions the discrepancy between the sales pitch and the reality, the Devil tells him: “It’s simple! Yesterday you were a prospect, and today, you’re a client.”

        Thank you, so very, very much, President 180. You’ve been the exact opposite of everything you said you were going to be.

  2. Oh, and for what it’s worth:
    ”Bobby Jones’ was actually a pretty good movie. Jim Caviezel was excellent, as usual, and you don’t need to be a golf fan to enjoy it.

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