My beloved Whitney Houston died the day before a presentation I made to the confirmation class at St. Theresa's Parish in Oakland on "The Moral Life: What's So Great About It?" As tempting as it was to use her life’s story as an example of what happens when you stray from the moral life, I decided to build rapport and give examples the best way I know—via Sports and Spirituality. And as with sports, what better way than with a "Top 10 list." Here goes.
WHY choose the moral life
A person with integrity is an integer—he or she is undivided. They are whole. The opposite of a person of integrity is a hypocrite. Yes, Jesus taught mercy and compassion. He may have eaten with tax collectors and befriended prostitutes but his disdain for one group was clear—the hypocrites. A hypocrite wears one face in public that is inconsistent with whom they are in private. One with integrity is who he or she is front stage and back stage.
The reputation of the moral person speaks for itself. Adolescence is a time when one may be hypersensitive about their reputation. The movie “Mean Girls” was popular for a reason; they exist. They perpetuate rumors and yet they are on defense against another knife going into their own back. The one who chooses the moral path, however builds a reputation that is honorable.3. When it comes time for your college letter of recommendation…
Teachers have a lot to say. I guarantee that colleges are not concerned about an applicant’s personality traits. Although we may prefer the company of some personalities over others—some people tend to be quiet, while others are boisterous, or some are nervous, while others are calm--personality is not subject to moral evaluation.
Are you honest? Are you responsible? Do you make the class better because of your positive presence? Would you want to work with yourself in a group project? If the answer is “yes” to these questions, a teacher has a lot to say.
Relationships matter at every age. Although adolescence may appear to be a time when the parent to child relationship is challenged, any figure of authority that works with them is aware of the “nature of the teen.” The coach to athlete relationship is especially important because many coaches spend more time with a young person on a daily basis than any other adult in the athlete’s life.
Coach Lou Holtz said that the answer to “Three Big Questions” will lead to a lifetime of success.
1. Can I trust you?
2. Are you committed to excellence?
3. Do you care about me?
He tells his athletes to ask these questions of him. He guarantees the answer is “yes.” Is yours?
5. Make your parent(s) proud
I looked at John and Jackie Harbaugh on Thanksgiving night and thought they must be proud. Their two sons pursued their passion—coaching football and succeeding at it. More importantly, their two sons are best friends.
The nature of the teen is to test the limits. But the teen deeply wants the love and admiration of their parent(s) whether they admit it or not. One of the core questions I ask in my Foundations of Ethics: Morality and Justice course is What kind of person do I want to be? Time and again a strong number of my students write “someone my parents will be proud of.”
In atypical Top 10 Fashion, the next 5 will be posted tomorrow.
Christ and Fully Human & Divine