Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Reuben Gonzolas. Have you ever heard of him? Most likely not, as he was an upcoming player in professional raquetball. And even less likely are you aware of his most outstanding move on the court...

There is a story about Reuben Gonzolas, who was in the final match of his first professional racquetball tournament. He was playing the perennial champion for his first shot at a victory on the pro circuit. At match point in the fifth and final game, Gonzolas made a super "kill shot" into the front corner to win the tournament. The referee called it good, and one of the linemen confirmed the shot was a winner.

But after a moment's hesitation, Gonzolas turned and declared that his shot had skipped into the wall, hitting the floor first. As a result, the serve went to his opponent, who went on to win the match.

Reuben Gonzolas walked off the court; everyone was stunned. The next issue of a leading racquetball magazine featured Gonzolas on its cover. The lead editorial searched and questioned for an explanation for the first ever occurrence on the professional racquetball circuit. Who could ever imagine it in any sport or endeavor? Here was a player with everything officially in his favor, with victory in his grasp, who disqualifies himself at match point and loses.

When asked why he did it, Gonzolas replied, "It was the only thing I could do to maintain my integrity."

Image. Honor. Reputation. Integrity.

From reading the daily headlines or watching the news, it seems that there remains a collective misunderstanding of the subtle differences between the words listed just above.

And to be fair, sometimes the definitions can sound very similar. As a teenager, I had a conversation with my father once where he explained the subtle difference to me. He said, "Son, it's very simple to remember. Reputation and image is what you do when others are watching you. Honor depends solely on what you do when others are not watching you."

There are very few things - other than memories and possibly peace of mind - that we will take to our final rest. But of those few things, one of THE most important things will be our personal integrity.

The word integrity is from the Latin root, meaning "whole." Integrity is the experience of feeling whole - whole in honesty, truth and virtue - with one's self. A pretty powerful experience for anyone to feel, wouldn't you say? It is knowing oneself thoroughly enough to separate the person that you are and feel versus the person that others may see you as or want you to be. And for many of us, we are a conglomeration of both persons, feuding over the same space.

I will pose to you what a confidante and friend had posed to me years ago. I was exiting out of college at the time and was in the midst of grieving over my father's death. I remember telling my friend, "I sometimes wonder who I am or am supposed to be." My friend thought for a moment and simply asked, "Picture yourself on a lazy summer evening in your most comfortable clothes. What would you be wearing? What would you be doing (or like to be doing) at that moment? What is it that you would be thinking about? Who would you be with at that time?" After a few moments of considering my answers, my friend said, "That is who you are. That is your peace."

Perhaps with all airs and images stripped away, it is the same for you. What would you be wearing? What would you be doing (or like to be doing) at that moment? What is it that you would be thinking about? Who would you be with at that time? This may very well be who you are - your integrity and wholeness may very well depend solely on what you do in times like these when others are not watching.

Be assured that Reuben Gonzales walked off the raquetball court with a blemish on his professional record for the loss, but more importantly, the integrity that is Reuben Gonzales remained intact.

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