Last week I engaged the challenge we face in our day by the blurring of right and wrong. Too many are willing to make morality relative, suggesting that so long as I’m not hurting someone else there is no reason to call my behavior right or wrong. This approach can only result in a culture of selfishness and bondage to our own desires. In the midst of that discussion, I wanted to bring up another issue, but ran out of space. I began thinking about this other issue due to the death of Stan Musial. If you’re unfamiliar with Stan “The Man” Musial, you’re in good company. Throughout all the articles published about him last week there was a common thread: unless you’re from St. Louis (which I am), you probably never took much notice of one of the greatest baseball players ever to play the game.
For just a brief rundown, consider this: Stan Musial held 55 National League records when he retired. He never struck out more than 50 times in a season—that’s pretty impressive considering we had one guy alone strike out 39 times in a month last year! The only season he didn’t put up ridiculous numbers was during the year he served in the United States Navy. According to Willie Mays, he was one of the most supportive players when the “color barrier” was broken by Jackie Robinson. He played at the same level as Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, yet was never upset that he didn’t get the headlines they did. He was humble, courteous, and baseball’s consummate gentleman. Many have dubbed him “baseball’s perfect knight.” Even President Obama had this to say: "Stan remains to this day an icon untarnished, a beloved pillar of the community, a gentleman you'd want your kids to emulate." So, if he is that rare athlete that you’d want your kids to be like, why is it that we don’t hear about him? Why is it that we’re only interested in scandal rather than elevating a player like Stan? Why is it that we care more about reality television stars that are here today and gone tomorrow than we do about those who make the ultimate sacrifice for their nation?
Part of it is human nature: we’re not as interested in someone who is reliable as we are interested in the daily extremes of the unpredictable. We love gossip—and we should be ashamed of that as a culture. But, let’s consider the long term implications for ourselves if we continue to ignore and diminish character. We can’t escape how God made us—we realize there is something wrong when we lack character (see Romans 1:19-20), yet we find every justification for why it’s “okay” that we don’t have it (see 1 Timothy 4:1-2). So, as I stated last week, we make character into a relative mark. As long as I behave “better” than the next guy—or, we state it in a way that’s easier—as long as I’m not as bad as the next guy, then I’m alright. After all, I’ve never murdered anyone, and so long as I’m not hurting anyone else, I’m good. This sort of character evaluation is unsustainable. What happens when “not as bad as the next guy” degrades to the point where everyone has a lack of character? To avoid this, we must promote role models of character and virtue. There are still some left, I promise. Chances are, they’ve never made any effort to get themselves noticed. Make sure your role model is someone you know, someone you can look to for guidance, and someone of character.