(see also CHARACTER)
Scientists now say that a series of slits, not a giant gash, sank the Titanic.
The opulent, 900-foot cruise ship sank in 1912 on its first voyage, from England to New
York. Fifteen hundred people died in the worst maritime disaster of the time.
The most widely held theory was that the ship hit an iceberg, which opened a huge gash
in the side of the liner. But an international team of divers and scientists recently used
sound waves to probe the wreckage, buried in the mud under two-and-a-half miles of water.
Their discovery? The damage was surprisingly small. Instead of the huge gash, they found
six relatively narrow slits across the six watertight holds.
Small damage, invisible to most, can sink not only a great ship but a great reputation.
USA Today, April 9, 1997.
What are you willing to do for $10,000,000? Two-thirds of Americans polled would agree
to at least one, some to several of the following:
Would abandon their entire family (25%)
Would abandon their church (25%)
Would become prostitutes for a week or more (23%)
Would give up their American citizenships (16%)
Would leave their spouses (16%)
Would withhold testimony and let a murderer go free (10%)
Would kill a stranger (7%)
Would put their children up for adoption (3%)
James Patterson and Peter Kim, The Day America Told the Truth,
In his book Loving God, Charles Colson draws attention to an incident involving
an Indiana judge named William Bontrager. Bontrager had to pass sentence on Fred Palmer, a
decorated Vietnam veteran who was found guilty of burglary. The crime was caused partly by
involvement with drugs and alcohol. Indiana law required a sentence of ten to twenty years
for Palmer's offense.
However, new regulations designating a lesser penalty had gone into effect eighteen
days after Palmer's arrest. To complicate matters, Palmer had become a Christian in jail
and seemed to have changed. Should the judge sentence Palmer, a man who had never been in
jail, to ten years or more? Or should he declare the older statute in violation of
Indiana's constitution and give him a lighter sentence? Bontrager did the latter. Fred
Palmer was out of jail in seven months, had a job, and was paying back his former victims.
The events that followed received national attention. The Indiana Supreme Court
reversed the judge's decision and ordered Fred Palmer sent back to prison. The judge's
attempts to fight the court's decision during the next two years led to his own indictment
for criminal contempt of court and, finally, his forced resignation. Fred Palmer was sent
back to prison, only to be released twenty months later by the governor. Bontrager's
convictions cost him his job, but not his integrity.
Klyne Snodgrass, Between Two Truths - Living with Biblical
Tensions, 1990, Zondervan Publishing House, p. 40.
During his time as a rancher, Theodore Roosevelt and one of his cowpunchers lassoed a
maverick steer, lit a fire, and prepared the branding irons. The part of the range they
were on was claimed by Gregor Lang, one of Roosevelt's neighbors. According to the
cattleman's rule, the steer therefore belonged to Lang. As his cowboy applied the brand,
Roosevelt said, "Wait, it should be Lang's brand."
"That's all right, boss," said the cowboy.
"But you're putting on my brand," Roosevelt said.
"That's right," said the man.
"Drop that iron," Roosevelt demanded, "and get back to the ranch and get
out. I don't need you anymore. A man who will steal for me will steal from me."
Today in the Word, March 28, 1993.
As professional golfer Ray Floyd was getting ready to tap in a routine 9-inch putt, he
saw the ball move ever so slightly. According to the rule book, if the ball moves in this
way the golfer must take a penalty stroke. Yet consider the situation. Floyd was among the
leaders in a tournament offering a top prize of $108,000. To acknowledge that the ball had
moved could mean he would lose his chance for big money.
Writer David Holahan describes as follows what others might have done: "The
athlete ducks his head and flails wildly with his hands, as if being attacked by a killer
bee; next, he steps back from the ball, rubbing his eye for a phantom speck of dust, all
the while scanning his playing partners and the gallery for any sign that the ball's
movement has been detected by others. If the coast is clear, he taps the ball in for his
par. Ray Floyd, however, didn't do that. He assessed himself a penalty stroke and wound up
with a bogey on the hole.
In China's later Han era, there lived a politician called Yang Zhen, a man known for
his upright character. After Yang Zhen was made a provincial governor, one of his earlier
patrons, Wang Mi, paid him an unexpected visit. As they talked over old times, Wang Mi
brought out a large gold cup and presented it to Yang Zhen. Yang Zhen refused to accept
it, but Wang Mi persisted, saying, "There's no one here tonight but you and me, so no
one will know."
"You say that no one will know," Yang Zhen replied, "but that is not
true. Heaven will know, and you and I will know too."
Wang Mi was ashamed, and backed down. Subsequently Yang Zhen's integrity won increasing
recognition, and he rose to a high post in the central government.
Human nature is weak, and we tend to yield to temptation when we think nobody can see
us. In fact, if there was no police force, many people would not hesitate to steal. This
is not to say that when we do something bad, we feel no compunction at all, just that man
is weak and prone to yield to temptation. But even if nobody witnesses our sins, and not a
soul knows of them, we cannot hide the truth from the eyes of our conscience. In the end,
what is important is not that other people know, but that we ourselves know. When Yang
Zhen told Wang Mi that "Heaven will know," he meant that the gods would know
what he had done: in other words, his own conscience.
A person who sins neither in thought nor deed, and is fair and just, gains enormous
courage and strength. As a leader, you need courage born of integrity in order to be
capable of powerful leadership. To achieve this courage, you must search your heart, and
make sure that your conscience is clear and your behavior is beyond reproach.
Bits & Pieces, June 25, 1992. Taken from Konosuke Matsushita
(founder of Panasonic) Velvet Glove, Iron Fist, PHP Institute, Tokyo.
What qualities in employees irritate bosses the most? Burke Marketing Research asked
executives in 100 of the nation's 1000 largest companies. At the top of the list was
dishonesty. Mrac Silbert, whose temporary employee firm commissioned the study, says,
"If a company believes that an employee lacks integrity, all positive
qualities--ranging from skill and experience to productivity and intelligence--become
meaningless." Six other factors were discovered, making a total of "seven deadly
sins" that can cause you to lose your job. They are listed below in decreasing order
of irritation value.
1. Irresponsibility, goofing-off and doing personal business on company time.
2. Arrogance, ego problems and excessive aggressiveness. Bosses dislike those who spend
more time talking about their achievements than in getting the job done.
3.Absenteeism and lateness.
4. Not following company policy.
5. Failure to follow the rules makes management feel an employee can't be trusted.
6. Whining and complaining.
7. Laziness and lack of commitment and dedication. If you don't care about the firm, they
won't care about you.
The Pryor Report, Vol. 6, Number 1A, 1989.
Throughout his administration, Abraham Lincoln was a president under fire, especially
during the scarring years of the Civil War. And though he knew he would make errors of
office, he resolved never to compromise his integrity. So strong was this resolve that he
once said, "I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the
end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth,
I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me."
Today In The Word, August, 1989, p. 21.
It is said that as the great Michelangelo painted the magnificent frescoes on the
ceiling of the Sistine chapel--lying on his back for endless hours to finish every detail
with great care--a friend asked him why he took such pains with figures that would be
viewed from a considerable distance. "After all," the friend said, "Who
will notice whether it is perfect or not?" "I will," replied the artist.
Today In The Word, August, 1989, p. 40.
Booker T. Washington describes meeting an ex-slave from Virginia in his book Up From
Slavery: "I found that this man had made a contract with his master, two or three
years previous to the Emancipation Proclamation, to the effect that the slave was to be
permitted to buy himself, by paying so much per year for his body; and while he was paying
for himself, he was to be permitted to labour where and for whom he pleased.
"Finding that he could secure better wages in Ohio, he went there. When freedom
came, he was still in debt to his master some three hundred dollars. Notwithstanding that
the Emancipation Proclamation freed him from any obligation to his master, this black man
walked the greater portion of the distance back to where his old master lived in Virginia,
and placed the last dollar, with interest, in his hands.
In talking to me about this, the man told me that he knew that he did not have to pay
his debt, but that he had given his word to his master, and his word he had never broken.
He felt that he could not enjoy his freedom till he had fulfilled his promise."
Douglas E. Moore.
Stuart Briscoe tells of being hired by a bank. He was young, new, and just learning the
business. One day his boss told him, "If Mr. _______ calls for me, tell him I'm
out." Briscoe replied, "Oh, are you planning to go somewhere?" "No, I
just don't want to speak to him, so tell him I'm out." "Let me make sure I
understand--Do you want me to lie for you?" The boss blew up at him. He was outraged,
angered. Stuart prayed and God gave him a flash of insight. "You should be happy,
because if I won't lie for you, isn't it safe to assume that I won't lie to you?"
Moody Bible Institute Founder's week, 1986.
In his book Integrity, Ted Engstrom told his story: "For Coach Cleveland
Stroud and the Bulldogs of Rockdale County High School (Conyers, Georgia), it was their
championship season: 21 wins and 5 losses on the way to the Georgia boys' basketball
tournament last March, then a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the state finals.
"But now the new glass trophy case outside the high school gymnasium is bare. Earlier
this month the Georgia High School Association deprived Rockdale County of the
championship after school officials said that a player who was scholastically ineligible
had played 45 seconds in the first of the school's five postseason games. 'We didn't know
he was ineligible at the time; we didn't know it until a few weeks ago,' Mr. Stroud said.
'Some people have said we should have just kept quiet about it, that it was just 45
seconds and the player wasn't an impact player. But you've got to do what's honest and
right and what the rules say. I told my team that people forget the scores of basketball
games; they don't ever forget what you're made of.'"
Ted Engstrom, Integrity.
Integrity is more than not being deceitful or slipshod. It means doing everything
"heartily as unto the Lord" (Col. 3:23). In his book Lyrics, Oscar
Hammerstein II points out one reason why, a reason Christians have always known: "A
year or so ago, on the cover of the New York Herald Tribune Sunday magazine, I
saw a picture of the Statue of Liberty . . . taken from a helicopter and it showed the top
of the statue's head. I was amazed at the detail there. The sculptor had done a
painstaking job with the lady's coiffure, and yet he must have been pretty sure that the
only eyes that would ever see this detail would be the uncritical eyes of sea gulls. He
could not have dreamt that any man would ever fly over this head. He was artist enough,
however, to finish off this part of the statue with as much care as he had devoted to her
face and her arms, and the torch and everything that people can see as they sail up the
bay. . . When you are creating a work of art, or any other kind of work, finish the job
off perfectly. You never know when a helicopter, or some other instrument not at the
moment invented, may come along and find you out.
Oscar Hammerstein II, Lyrics.
One day in 1956, songwriter Johnny Mercer received a letter from Sadie Vimmerstedt, a
widowed grandmother who worked behind a cosmetics counter in Youngstown, Ohio. Vimmerstedt
suggested Mercer write a song called "I Want to Be Around to Pick Up the Pieces When
Somebody Breaks Your Heart." Five years later, Mercer got in touch to say he'd
written the song and that Tony Bennett would record it. Today, if you look at the label on
any recording of "I Wanna Be Around," you'll notice that the credits for words
and music are shared by Johnny Mercer and Sadie Vimmerstedt. The royalties were split
50-50, too, thanks to which Vimmerstedt and her heirs have earned more than $100,000.
In my opinion, Mercer's generosity was a class act. By "class act," I mean
any behavior so virtuous that it puts normal behavior to shame. It was a class act, for
instance, when Alexander Hamilton aimed high and fired over Aaron Burr's head. Benjamin
Geggenhiem performed a class act on the Titanic when he gave his life jacket to a woman
passenger and then put on white tie and tails so he could die "like a
gentleman." That same year, 1912, Capt, Lawrence Oates became so frostbitten and lame
on Robert Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. Rather than delay the others in
their desperate trek back from the Pole, he went to the opening of the tent one night and
said, "I am just going outside and may be some time." He thereupon walked to his
death in a blizzard. Certainly a class act.
On the stage, the tradition that the show must go on has produced a number of class
acts. Katharine Hepburn and Orson Welles have both appeared onstage in wheelchairs. During
the run of The King and I, Gertrude Lawrence was dying of cancer but told no one. When she
missed a series of performances, the producers wrote her lawyers, suggesting she was
faking illness. They warned that if this continued, she would forfeit her share of the
profits. The letter arrived on a Monday; Gertrude Lawrence had died over the weekend. It
was a class act of a different order, but a class act nonetheless, for writer Laurence
Housman to take off his jacket at a proper English tea party so that a man who had just
arrived in shirt sleeves would not feel embarrassed. Even simple good sportsmanship can
rise to the level of class act, as it did with tennis player Mats Wilander in the
semifinals of the 1982 French Open. At match point, a shot by Wilander's opponent was
ruled out. Wilander walked over to the umpire and said, "I can't win like this. The
ball was good." The point was played over, and Wilander won fair and square.
John Berendt, Esquire, April, 1991.
Several years ago, in Long Beach, California, a fellow went into a fried chicken place
and bought a couple of chicken dinners for himself and his date late one afternoon. The
young woman at the counter inadvertently gave him the proceeds from the day-a whole bag of
money (much of it cash) instead of fried chicken. After driving to their picnic site, the
two of them sat down to open the meal and enjoy some chicken together. They discovered a
whole lot more than chicken--over $800! But he was unusual. He quickly put the money back
in the bag. They got back into the car and drove all the way back. Mr. Clean got out,
walked in, and became an instant hero. By then the manager was frantic. The guy with the
bag of money looked the manager in the eye and said, "I want you to know I came by to
get a couple of chicken dinners and wound up with all this money. Here." Well, the
manager was thrilled to death. He said, "Oh, great, let me call the newspaper. I'm
gonna have your picture put in the local newspaper. You're the most honest man I've heard
of." To which they guy quickly responded, "Oh no, no, don't do that!" Then
he leaned closer and whispered, "You see, the woman I'm with is not my wife...she's
uh, somebody else's wife."
Charles Swindoll, Growing Deep in the Christian Life, p.