Ask for a definition of integrity. You will receive a dozen. Indeed, in the abstract, this indispensable trait of character is sometimes vague, elusive, and hard to get a handle on. When we see it, however, we know it, and it wins our everlasting admiration and respect.
An incident two weeks ago on the professional golf tour provides an outstanding example. Brian Davis was locked in a playoff with Jim Furyk for the championship of the Verizon Heritage tournament. His golf ball trickled off the green on his approach shot and settled among grass and small twigs. In taking his club back to strike the ball his club slightly tickled a small slender reed. The movement was barely visible, but Davis thought he saw it from the corner of his eye. A violation of rule 13.4 prohibits disturbing a loose impediment around the ball.
Davis reported what he saw to a tournament official. A replay confirmed it. He called a two-stroke penalty and conceded the championship to Furyk.The episode cost Davis a chance at his first victory on the PGA. The violation would have gone unnoticed had the golfer not shown capacity to stand firmly by the rules of the game.
Davis may have lost the tournament but he maintained his greatest single asset—his self-respect. This is what the tournament official had in mind when he said of Davis, “This will come back to him in spades, tenfold.”
Self –respect is the most powerful of all motivations, in the lifelong quest for individual integrity. It is the one thing no one can afford to lose.