Much of the news surrounding this week’s Masters Tournament has centered around rule violations, penalty strokes and possible disqualification. With constant media attention, many high profile athletes are under immense scrutiny and I’m reminded of the passage in Luke 2:12 “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.”
But what about the instances when no one is watching? Someone once said “Character is what you are in the dark.” The events this past week reminded me of a similar story that happened to the son of a friend of mine.
The July 20, 2006 headline on the sports page of the Springfield, Illinois State Journal- Register read, “HONEST DAY’S WORK- LOWEN SPORTSMANSHIP HELPS NELSON ADVANCE AT PASFIELD”
The newspaper related that thirteen year old Evan Lowen made an honest but tough decision while competing in the crucial semi final match of the Drysdale Junior Golf Tournament.
The article explained, “(Jordon) Nelson was aided by the sportsmanship of Springfield’s Evan Lowen during their Wednesday semifinal victories. Nelson parred the first three holes to take a 2 up advantage on Lowen. Both players reached the par-4 fourth in regulation, but Nelson settled for a three-putt bogey. When Lowen converted his two-foot par putt Nelson’s lead was down to one.
“As he walked off the green, Lowen realized a mistake had been made. He immediately contacted his scorekeeper and informed her that he had failed to move his ball mark.”
“Playing alongside Lowen and Nelson were (Ben) Patton and Josh Edison. Lowen’s mark was in Josh’s line, and Lowen had moved his mark one club head length to the right. After Edison had putted out, Lowen replaced his ball (without moving the marker back to the original spot) and made his putt.
“The decision to inform his scorekeeper was an easy one for Lowen, even though it meant he forfeited the hole and as a result was three strokes down. “I’d rather lose and not feel bad than win and know that I was a cheater,” Lowen said. Nelson wound up winning the match play competition 4-3.
Integrity has been defined as what you are when no one is looking. For a thirteen year old boy to tell the truth when no one else saw his mistake and so much was on the line is really admirable. James 3:13 reads, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” The testimony of good deeds is more important than any trophy that can be won in athletics.
Young Evan Lowen is to be commended for his integrity under pressure. That decision, made in about a ten second window, reflects uncommon maturity, wisdom and humility. It’s sad that we often see the opposite these days; famous athletes many years older than Evan taking illegal drugs to enhance their performance, lying under oath about their activity, violating signed contracts, cheating on their wives and whining about the rulings that go against them.
James describes that boorish behavior as motivated by ego and selfishness. “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:16-18)
Evan’s decision to tell the truth goes deeper than good sportsmanship. His integrity is rooted in a maturing relationship with Jesus Christ. You see, Evan is the son of Eddie Lowen, the minister of the West Side Christian Church in Springfield. Eddie and his wife Sharon have successfully passed the baton of faith onto their son. It’s reflected in a lot of ways, but it’s gratifying when it’s showcased in such a dramatic way.
“As much as I would have liked seeing him advance to the final match, seeing him affirmed for his integrity is sweeter”, Eddie wrote in an E mail to some friends. Then he added, “Now if we can just get him to pick up his socks!”
The father’s pride in his son’s character is understandable and justifiable. Appreciative letters poured into the newspaper and to the Lowen home for days. One of the letters to the newspaper came from Eddie Lowen thanking, “those who have unforgettably communicated to my son that there are still “good people who value good character over good performance.” Way to go Evan! You make us all proud.