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.