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Integrity is not an option


During the last several decades, we have allowed integrity to become an “option” within our society. This “integrity-is-optional” attitude has become so prevalent that now it is actually destroying the American culture our Founding Fathers created and left for us. We will be judged as extremely foolish if we allow that valuable inheritance to slip through our fingers.

Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), whose intellect has been described as “one of the most powerful and searching ever possessed by man,” was an English lawyer, statesman, and philosopher who became a prolific writer. His goals in life were to uncover truth, to serve his country, and to serve his church.

We Americans recognize Bacon for his help in creating the British colonies in Virginia and the Carolinas. Thomas Jefferson considered him “one of the greatest men that ever lived.” We’re recognizing him by quoting one of his well-known quotations:

“It’s not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong; not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned; and not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity.”

In 1994, pro golfer Davis Love III reportedly gave himself a one-stroke penalty during the Western Open after he moved his ball on the green so it wouldn’t be in the way of another golfer’s putting lane. A hole or two later, he couldn’t remember whether or not he had moved his ball back to its original spot. Because he was unsure, he gave himself an extra stroke. As it turned out, that one stroke caused him to miss the cut; he was eliminated from the tournament.

Had he made the cut but finished last in that tournament, he would still have earned $2,000. However, when the year ended he was $590 short of qualifying for the following year’s Masters. He began 1995 needing to win a tournament if he were to qualify for that event.

When asked how much it bothered him to miss the Masters Tournament because he called a penalty on himself, Love gave a simple answer: “How would I feel if I won the Masters and wondered for the rest of my life if I cheated to get in?” But the story has a happy ending. He won a New Orleans tournament, thus qualified to play in the 1995 Masters just a week before the tournament began. He finished second and earned $237,600.

Our culture could be greatly enhanced if integrity became a vital part of our personal lives and a vital part of the lives of the other three hundred million Americans living in this country. Whether we play golf with integrity, as did Davis Love, or make integrity an important part of our personal lives, or require it in running our businesses, or expect it among our nation’s political leadership, integrity is basic for a healthy culture.

During the Korean War, Major Gen. William F. Dean was made a POW by the Communist forces. One day he was told that he was going to be shot by a firing squad but was granted a few minutes to compose a letter to his wife. He hurriedly penned what he expected to be his last words to his family. He wrote, Tell Bill the word is integrity.

“If you have integrity, nothing else matters.

If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”

Sen. Alan Simpson

Ken and Nan Webster have collected inspiration for many years from many sources, and now inspire readers of “A Matter That Matters.” Contact them at kennanco@gmail.com or visit www.kennancompany.com.

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