To Thine Own Self Be True
Perspectives: True to yourself, a tale of two golfers.
Written by Bryan Hyde on November 8, 2012
OPINION – A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit with my dear friend Jim on his deathbed. Because it was clear that he was nearing the end of his life, I asked him to share with me the most important truths he had learned in his 75 years.
Not surprisingly, his first response was that life is about “loving and being loved in return” and how this outweighed all material concerns. His second response surprised me.
He quoted a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet where Polonius counsels his son Laertes, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Jim told me that although he had read these words many times throughout his life, he said, “Now I feel them in every part of my heart.”
To illustrate what he was relating, he spoke of a young man who was an exceptionally gifted professional golfer. This golfer had the world in his hands with a highly respected career, lucrative endorsements, and a beautiful wife and two children. But this young man squandered all of it through his failure to be true to himself and lost his family and his reputation.
I thought of my conversation with Jim a few days ago when I heard about another golfer who also faced a test of character.
Blayne Barber is an aspiring professional golfer who was in the process of completing the PGA’s qualifying school. His quest to tour with the PGA ended last week when he brought attention to a mistake he had made in filling out a scorecard nearly a week earlier.
While in a bunker, Barber had inadvertently moved a leaf with his club and took a penalty stroke. His caddy said that he didn’t see the leaf move, but Barber took the penalty anyway. The problem is, the correct penalty in such situations is actually 2 strokes; something Barber didn’t realize until talking with a former teammate following the tournament.
The promising young golfer had a tough decision to make.
Had he simply taken the 2-shot penalty at the time, Barber would still have made the cut and progressed to the second stage of PGA school. But by admitting that he had signed an incorrect scorecard, he faced mandatory disqualification.
In the grand scheme of things, his mistake was miniscule. No one had to know. No one would have been harmed. Even his caddy was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
But Blayne Barber knew. In his own words, “”I continued to pray about it and think about it, and I just did not have any peace about it, I knew I needed to do the right thing. I knew it was going to be disqualification.”
His decision cost him the opportunity to advance in the PGA. But it gained him something of far greater value.
As Barber puts it, “Doing the right thing and doing what I know is right in my heart and in my conscience is more important than short-term success.”
By choosing to be true to himself, Blayne Barber sacrificed certain material gains. But he gained long-term character that not only brings him peace but stands as a powerful example for anyone who learns of his story. Which is of greater value in the long run?
Great minds throughout history have correctly observed that our character is best revealed in those moments when no one else is watching. Those who are consistently true in the seemingly small decisions are more likely to be true when faced with great decisions.