THINK ON THESE: The right thing to do

“Who you are in public is a test of your conviction, who you are in private,
integrity.” – Criss Jami, Healology


While searching for a story on integrity, I came across the story of sports hero Reuben Gonzalez that was shared by speaker and career coach Shravan Shetty. It happened during the final match of his first professional racquetball tournament.

“Gonzales surprised the racquetball world with his sportsmanship,” Shetty wrote. “In 1985, still looking for his first pro tour win, he and Marty Hogan, the sport’s perennial champ and pit bull, were locked in a give-game battle in Arlington, Virginia.

“It was tied at two games apiece, with Hogan serving and up 10-8 in an 11-point final, when Gonzales ended a furious rally with a forehand kill. The referee called the shot good. Gonzales regained the serve, momentum and the opportunity for a tremendous upset.”

What happened next astonished the spectators, according to pro Jerry Hilecher. “Rueben overruled the ref and called a skip (the ball touched the floor before hitting the front wall) on himself, handing the match to Hogan,” Hilecher was quoted as saying.

“No one could believe it,” Hilecher continued. “It was unheard of. It gave Rueben lasting respect from the other players and the fans.”

According to a report, when Gonzalez walked off the court, everyone was stunned. So much so that the next issue of a leading racquetball magazine featured Gonzolas on its cover. The lead editorial searched and questioned for an explanation for the first ever occurrence on the professional racquetball circuit.

“Who could ever imagine it in any sport or endeavor?” the editorial inquired. “Here was a player with everything officially in his favor, with victory in his grasp, who disqualified himself at match point and lost.”

When asked by news reporters why he did it, Gonzalez replied without much ado: “It was the only thing I could do to maintain my integrity.”

Cheryl Hughes said it well: “When people cheat in any arena, they diminish themselves – they threaten their own self-esteem and their relationships with others by undermining the trust they have in their ability to succeed and in their ability to be true.”

According to Wikipedia, the word “integrity” stems from the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete). In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.

“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not,” says American television host Oprah Winfrey (who, as an actress, received an Oscar nomination for Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple).

“Integrity is not a conditional word,” states John D. MacDonald. “It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will.

“Integrity,” he continues, “is not a search for the rewards of integrity. Maybe all you ever get for it is the largest lick in the ass the world can provide. IT is not supposed to be a productive asset.”

When someone says he lives with integrity, what does he mean by it? Barbara De Angelis has this answer: “Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationship. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.”

“To be or not to be” is the opening phrase of a soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. It is perhaps the most famous of all literary quotations. Whether you like it or not, there will come a time that you have to choose: to go abroad or stay in the country, to get married or stay single, to become a doctor or to become an engineer.

“We are all faced with conflicting desires,” Maxwell wrote in Developing the Leader Within You. “No one, no matter how ‘spiritual,’ can avoid this battle. Integrity is the factor that determines which desire will prevail. We struggle daily with situations that demand decisions between what we want to do and what we ought to do. Integrity establishes the ground rules for resolving these tensions. It determines who we are and how we will respond before the conflict even appears. Integrity welds what we say, think, and do into a whole person so that permission is never granted for one of those to be out of sync.”

If what you say and what you do are the same, then you are a man of integrity. Such an attribute was apparent in the life of American novelist John Grisham. The author was once described as “a straight arrow making his way along a very crooked path.”

In an interview with an American magazine, Grisham said he would rather be a nice guy than resort to filling his books with sex and gore. He refused to write anything that would offend or embarrass either his mother or his children.

Contrary to many in the publishing world might have predicted, his approach paid off big. Fan mail and sales from The Firm and The Pelican Brief were proof. Films made from his novels were all box office hits!

“Integrity binds our person together and fosters a spirit of contentment within us,” Maxwell reminded. “It will not allow our lips to violate our hearts. When integrity is the referee, we will be consistent; our beliefs will be mirrored by our conduct. There will be no discrepancy between what we appear to be and what our family knows we are, whether in times of prosperity or adversity.”

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