Success at the Expense of Integrity

Warning: This will most likely be an incoherent rant…

Is one truly a success when he has compromised his integrity?

Some would say, “Of course not! A persons integrity is what truly matters.”

Others would argue, “Of course! A success is a person who wins, no matter the cost. Life is all about the survival of the fittest. You do whatever it takes.”

Over the last 24-hours, in light of the whole scandal surrounding the Baylor basketball program, I have been doing a lot of thinking on success and integrity.

It seems that in our world, especially in the arenas of athletics and business, we have become so captivated with winning…with success, that we have become desensitized to the idea of integrity.

We learn of NFL teams placing “hits” on their opponents (let’s be honest, we all know the Saints aren’t the only ones out there doing this…they were simply the ones who were caught). We learn of business people who fudge numbers, steal formulas, and even create false accusations against competing businesses in order to succeed. We learn of basketball programs who knowingly violate rules.

Some may say, “Come on, we’re talking about phone calls.”

Yes, we are talking about phone calls…1200 calls and text messages that were in violation of the NCAA rules. These are rules the coaches and staff would have been well aware of. Win at all cost, right?

But, in the end, those calls and text messages helped land some big-time recruits that have turned the men’s and women’s basketball programs around…leading to an undefeated season and national championship for the women. Win at all cost, right?

For me, the issue is amplified when we remember that Baylor University is a “private Baptist University.” This is a university where, according to their website, “students are part of a Christian community of faith.”  Shouldn’t this university be operating above reproach? Win at all cost, right?

1200 phone calls and text messages over a 29-month period? Certainly members of the administration were aware of this activity. I mean, this isn’t one of those instances where it happened a few times and a coach could say, “I guess I just forgot what day it was.” This was an intentional action of violating a rule. Win at all cost, right?

Unfortunately, the achievement of success at the expense of integrity is not limited to the world of sports and business. A lack of integrity can be found in the world of higher education, in churches, in non-profit organizations, etc. And, this lack of integrity is often justified when the results are positive. Win at all cost, right?

So, a university boosts their test scores in order to receive a higher ranking. It results in more students attending at a higher tuition. Therefore, it’s okay! Win at all cost, right?

A church covers up a scandal involving a pastor because he is really good at preaching, has a “likable” personality, and really gets people excited about coming to church. News of the scandal would almost “ruin” the church. Therefore, it’s okay! Win at all cost, right?

A church pays for helicopters to drop candy, flies a plane over in order to feature a skydiving Easter bunny, and across the street a family is struggling to figure out where their next meal will come from. But, that stuff really brings in families and just might expose them to the Gospel. Therefore, it’s okay! Win at all cost, right?

The CEO of a non-profit takes a little “extra” and uses the company accounts to pay for lavish vacations, private jets, and a $60,000 SUV. But, the organization did some great work. Therefore, it’s okay! Win at all cost, right?

And, then, I look at myself. Have there been times when I’ve chosen success over integrity? Certainly. I’m not innocent in all of this. And, let’s be honest, my beloved Ball State University has had its fair share of scandals and violations.

Looking at the Baylor case simply reminds me that the best success is when ones integrity is still intact.

The truth of the matter is that it’s NOT okay. We don’t have to give up our integrity to succeed. A person can be successful and full of integrity. It might be more difficult to be successful when we are unwilling to compromise…when we refuse to take the easy road, to lie, steal, cheat, and destroy. But, it can be done. Win at all cost? I’m not so sure about that…

“Observe those who have integrity and watch those whose heart is right because the future belongs to persons of peace.” Psalm 37:37

“Integrity guides the virtuous, but dishonesty ruins the treacherous.” Proverbs 11:3

“Offer yourself as a role model of good actions. Show integrity, seriousness, and a sound message that is above criticism when you teach, so that any opponent will be ashamed because they won’t find anything bad to say about us.” Titus 2:7-8

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