For a few weeks we have been looking at our theme for this year, “Radical: Living a Life of Conviction.” We looked at the impact of words that help us define “conviction” and how words like commitment, character, and integrity do not have any power until someone chooses to live by them. Without action behind these words they themselves are powerless.
A very powerful word, when there is action behind it, is “integrity.” The word itself, although understood by most, is a little bit of a challenge to define. The dictionary defines integrity as “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” So what does this mean? To better understand integrity, I’d like to illustrate it with a story of two men with very similar last names.
In the 2008 Beijing Olympic semifinal tennis match between James Blake and Fernando Gonzalez, the two were in the final set and both were fighting hard to win the match. At one point, Blake served, and during the rally the ball nicked Gonzalez’s racket before going out of bounds. It was not seen by the umpires, and though Blake protested, the point was awarded to Gonzalez. Gonzalez went on to win the match. Surrounding that match was a lot of discussion about Gonzalez’s actions and whether he should have alerted the umpire.
In contrast to what Fernando Gonzalez did, National Racquetball Magazine tells the story of Reuben Gonzales, who was in the final match of a professional racquetball tournament. It was Gonzalez’s first shot at a victory on the professional circuit and he was playing the perennial champion. In the fourth and final game, at match point, Gonzales made a super “kill” shot into the front wall to win it all.
The referee called it good. But Gonzales, after a moment’s hesitation, turned around, shook his opponent’s hand, and declared that his shot had “slapped” into the wall, hitting the court floor first. As a result, he lost the match. He walked off the court. Everybody was stunned. When asked why he did it, Reuben replied, “It was the only thing I could do to maintain my integrity.” (1)
Every parent hopes that his or her child will grow up and have integrity. At Dalat we challenge our students and staff to be people who “live a life of conviction” by being people of integrity. We may never be in a situation where our integrity is challenged with a gold medal at stake, but every day we have the opportunity to live out our integrity in numerous ways. Though it might be difficult to define integrity, our actions will define it clearly for those around us in powerful ways that ultimately may be more important than a gold medal.
(1) Walter B. Hoye II; Leadership From the Inside Out, Xulon Press, 2005