“He who walks in integrity and with moral character walks securely. But he who takes a crooked way will be found out and punished.”
Today, we live in a culture and society that no longer values morals and character. The word Integrity means: “Honesty, trustworthy, completeness, a firm adherence to a code of morals and values.” Recently I read the story of a professional athlete who would not compromise his integrity even though it cost him tens of thousands of dollars.
In May of 2005 American professional tennis player Andy Roddick was playing Fernando Verdasco, of Spain, in the round of 16 at the Italian Masters tennis tournament in Rome, Italy. Roddick was the number one seed in the tournament and a heavy favorite to win the match and advance. Roddick dominated as expected and had triple match point when something extremely unusual happened. Roddick couldn’t return Verdasco’s hard second serve but the linesman called the serve out and awarded Roddick the point and the match.
With the crowd cheering, Verdasco ran to the net to shake Roddick’s hand and congratulate him on his victory. However, Roddick knew something that the linesman, the umpire, the cheering crowd, and Verdasco himself didn’t know. The serve had not been out, but had hit on the line, making it in. Roddick could have kept the information to himself and accepted the victory. Instead he informed the umpire that the ball had been in and offered to show him the mark on the clay where the ball had hit to prove his point. The umpire reversed the call and awarded the point to Verdasco, who then went on to win the tennis match.
Sportswriter, Frank DeFord estimates Roddick’s honesty cost him at least “tens of thousands of dollars;” perhaps much more if he had gone on to win the tournament. However, integrity was clearly more important to Roddick than either winning or money. Andy Roddick lost a tennis match that day; however, he won something much more important in life.
Listen closely: being a person of integrity doesn’t mean being perfect. However, it does mean being authentic. Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one else is watching. Integrity says I’m the same person in my hotel room alone as I am out in public. Integrity isn’t lying, cheating, stealing, taking short cuts and not honoring your word. Always remember: in the end, no matter how educated, talented, gifted or wealthy you think you are, how you treat people and the honesty you display ultimately defines who you are. Integrity is not something you show others. It is how you behave behind their back, even when they’re not looking or listening.
Above all else guard your heart, so you can “Walk in Integrity.”
Be Worth Being,
Kevin Burrell has worked in professional baseball as both a player and MLB scout for the past 39 years, and currently serves as an area scouting supervisor. Kevin was drafted in the 1st round of the 1981 free agent amateur draft (25th selection overall), and played ten years of professional baseball with four different organizations. He and his wife, Valerie, live in Sharpsburg, Ga.
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