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Sports and the power of integrity

From the May 2002 issue of The Christian Science Journal

I went to a big school, and we played a lot of college baseball games every year. Toward the middle of one season, we had a game with a well-known rival school in California. My first time at bat, I hit the ball hard. Just before my second at-bat, one of my friends who was watching the game from the stands motioned for me to come over because he had something to tell me.

My friend had been sitting near the other team's dugout and had overheard their manager tell his pitcher to hit me with the ball the next time I came up to bat. He hoped I would be intimidated and not play well.

I was pretty loose as I stepped into the batter's box. The first pitch was a fastball right behind my shoulder, but I hit the dirt, and it missed me. The next pitch was right at me. It missed me, too, but the umpire thought it had just barely struck me. I could have gone along with him, but I looked him right in the eye and told him that in all honesty it hadn't. I couldn't look at my team or my coach, because I knew they would be mad at me for not taking advantage, even though it would have been unethical.

At that moment, even though I should have felt a lot of pressure, I actually felt peaceful in the strength of that honesty. The next pitch was low, but over the plate, and I hit it over the centerfielder's head. To me, that was my payoff for honesty, because I got a triple. If I had resented the pitcher, I know I wouldn't have played that well. As I stood on third base, it felt like I was alone, just with God, and had the satisfaction of having done well, while also being honest. It was a powerful experience for me.

In athletics people can see and feel God's goodness—His spiritual power—expressed in the athlete's accuracy, precision, intelligence, aptitude, and grace. When an athlete adulterates his or her ethics and integrity, the athlete is essentially looking for help from a false god—namely from dishonesty. I say this because of a statement from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy that has meant a lot to me over the years: "Honesty is spiritual power. Dishonesty is human weakness, which forfeits divine help." Science and Health. p. 453. This spiritual power is the underlying strength and energy that come when we feel God's goodness inside us—when we choose to be honest, for example. I know I felt it that day on the field.

I knew they would be mad at me for not taking advantage.

The perceived rewards of dishonesty are inevitably a big disappointment. Sometimes it might look as if dishonest people get ahead. But in the long run, nothing beneficial results from selfishness and immorality.

As this passage in the Bible puts it, "I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found."Ps. 37: 35, 36.

Of course, anyone who believes mistakenly that dishonesty can be a benefit in some way can abandon that notion at once. And some people do reach a point where they see that relying on their own physical and mental resources isn't enough. At that point, they don't have to start over. They just have to start fresh. Just as light shines immediately on the face of someone who turns toward the sun, the power of God can be felt immediately by anyone who turns away from cheating or corner-cutting and into the light of honesty.

More than ever, the world needs expressions of honesty, and every bit of the spiritual power that goes with it. "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee," the Psalmist wrote.Ps. 25:21. Such integrity is a victory in itself.

So whether on the playing field of sports or on the broader playing field of human life, integrity and honesty can bring great happiness—the happiness of feeling closer to God.

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