“I would rather fail in a cause that someday will triumph than triumph in a cause that someday will fail.”
Those words were once uttered by Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States; led the United States in World War I and secured the formation of the League of Nations. Among all of the quotations of famous, and not so famous people, as well as quotations I, myself, had made, this particular quotation is amongst my favorite. There are so many ways to interpret these words and all of them can be right or wrong depending on a persons point of view — like any other thing in this world of ours. There is, however, a little, short story that I have that goes along with this nugget of wisdom uttered by Sir Wilson. It is a short story that I have shared so many times in the past already yet, a story that I cannot help but share for it has such a powerful message that everyone can learn from if we only, truly understand what the story is about.
The story goes as follows:
When Honorius was emperor of Rome, the great Coliseum was often filled to overflowing with spectators who came from near and far to watch the state-sponsored games. Part of the sports venue consisted of human beings doing battle with wild beasts or one another, to the point where one was killed. The assembled multitudes made holiday of such sport and found the greatest delight when a human being died. On just such a day, a Syrian monk named Telemachus was part of the vast crowd in the arena.
Telemachus was cut to the core of his heart by the utter disregard he saw for the value of human life. He leaped from the spectator stands into the arena during a gladiatorial show and cried out, “This thing is not right! This thing must stop!” Because he had interfered, the authorities commanded that Telemachus be run through with a sword, which was done.
He died, but not in vain. His cry kindled a small flame in the nearly burned-out conscience of the people and within a matter of months the gladiatorial combats came to an end.
The point of the story? The greater the wrong, the louder we must cry out against it. The finer the cause, the louder we must applaud. Sure, it can be a scary thing to stand up for what is right and what is just and, now a days, it is quite hard to see the difference between what is right and what is wrong unless one was taught good morals and proper values. Sure, it has been said that the path of righteousness, of goodness, is a lonely path but, one must have courage to do what is right — to stand up for what is good. We may never find ourselves in such a drastic situation as Saint Telemachus (yes, he became a saint for what he did) as to put our lives on the line for something in our lifetime but, there are many other ways to fight for what is right — to do what is just and to stand up for what is good.
I remember another story that revolved around a spelling bee. In the fourth round of a national spelling contest in Washington, eleven-year-old Rosalie Elliot, a champion from South Carolina, was asked to spell the word ‘avowal’. Her soft Southern accent made it difficult for the judges to determine if she had used an ‘a’ or an ‘e’ as the next to last letter of the word.
They deliberated for several minutes and also listened to tape-recording playbacks, but still they couldn’t determine which letter had been pronounced. Finally, the chief judge, John Lloyd, put the question to the only person who knew the answer.
He asked Rosalie, “Was the letter an ‘a’ or an ‘e’?” Rosalie, surrounded by whispering young spellers, knew by now the correct spelling of the word. But, without hesitation, she replied that she had misspelled the word and had used an ‘e’. As she walked from the stage, the entire audience stood and applauded her honesty and integrity, including dozens of newspaper reporters covering the event.
While Rosalie had not won the contest, she had definitely emerged a winner that day. We often think that who we are determines what we do. Equally true, what you do today will determine, in part, who you are tomorrow. As another quotation goes, “Our deeds determine as much as we determine our deeds.”
You’ve heard the old saying so many times that you know it by heart: “Honesty is the best policy.” But it’s also worth noting that honesty isn’t always the easiest policy. Sometimes, the truth hurts, and sometimes, it’s tough to be a person of integrity…tough, but essential.
Charles Swindoll correctly observed, “Nothing speaks louder or more powerfully than a life of integrity.” Godly men and women agree.
Integrity is a precious thing – difficult to build but easy to tear down. As believers in Christ, we must seek to live each day with discipline, honesty, and faith. When we do, integrity becomes a habit. And God smiles!
LORD, YOU ARE MY FATHER IN HEAVEN. YOU SEARCH MY HEART AND KNOW ME FAR BETTER THAN I KNOW MYSELF. MAY I BE YOUR WORTHY SERVANT, AND MAY I LIVE ACCORDING TO YOUR COMMANDMENTS. LET ME BE A PERSON OF INTEGRITY, LORD, AND LET MY WORDS AND DEEDS BE A TESTIMONY TO YOU, TODAY AND ALWAYS. AMEN