In this first in a series of two on Ben Roethlisberger, Character and Integrity, Dr. Wall comments on talent vs. character in the latest NFL draft and how that might actually be relevant for you.  To see the second in this series click here.

Do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in You.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You.

Psalm 25:20-21 (NASB)

My son, Marty, hooked me up with an article on Yahoo Sports about the recent emphasis in the NFL Draft on picking players with character over players only with only talent.  The fall from grace of Ben Roethlisberger and Tiger Woods in recent months has led NFL recruiters to put a premium on character.  As Marty put it: talent can be developed, character is who you are.

NFL teams seemed to take a strong hint just a day after Ben Roethlisberger was suspended without committing a crime. If there was a theme to the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night, it was that character was put on equal if not higher footing than talent. Nothing said that more than the Denver Broncos’ selection of Tim Tebow with the 25th overall pick, but the message was evident throughout the first day.

The article goes on to articulate that character was major factor throughout the draft.  Talent, without the character to back it up, can hurt a team.

Roethlisberger, who has led the Pittsburgh Steelers to two Super Bowls,  is a case in point.   Roethlisberger has had two sexual assault allegations, one in Lake Tahoe in 2008 and one in Millegdeville, Georgia last month.   In Milledgeville , a 20-year old college coed accused Roethlisberger of sexual assault in a bar bathroom, charges that were later dropped.  The NFL was not amused and last week suspended him for six games.

Ben Roethlisberger showed a pattern of behavior that damaged the integrity of the game, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday.

Goodell suspended Roethlisberger this week following at least two incidents in which the Steelers’ quarterback was accused of sexual assault.

“We’ve established there’s a pattern,” Goodell told the Associated Press Sports Editors in a meeting at his Park Ave. offices. “We go back through all the incidents and try to understand is there any kind of pattern, and we have enough information to believe he’s not making sound judgments at critical points.”

Goodell also said he has the flexibility to change the six-game suspension if new evidence of misbehavior emerges.

Roethlisberger’s behavior has led his fellow players to doubt his leadership ability.  In this video from ESPN over the last weekend players and former teammates of Roethlisberger comment on his ability to lead the team, with one colleague saying that he believed fully 60% of the players were disgruntled with Roethlisberger’s leadership.  Another said that yes, Roethlisberger had two Super Bowl rings, but he also had two legal accusations and the latter two were carrying more weight than the former.  There was even some rumors floating that the Steelers would seek to trade Roethlisberger altogether.

You can only reach as high as your integrity.  Life is tough enough without adding to your troubles that you can’t be trusted or that your word is no good or the promises you made to your spouse or kids are expendable.

Here’s another way to look at the talent/character debate.  In Dr. Henry Cloud’s recent book, Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality, he likens integrity to the wake behind a boat.  The wake is the result of the boat’s path and this wake has two sides.  He writes there are two sides to the wake we leave behind us as well: The task side and the relationship side.  The task side asks, are you getting the job done?  Are there good results?  On the relationship side is how you are effecting others.  Are they blessed for being with you?  Do you leave others thriving or are they drowning?

It’s one thing to get a job done, to get results.  It’s another altogether to leave a trail of tears.

It’s not a question of which is more important, talent or character, task or relationship?  It is a both/and.  You need the skill to accomplish your goals.  You need the character to make sure your accomplishments last and the dignity to make sure you don’t use those around you for your own ends.

For example:

-you may be a great housekeeper and your home may be spotless and everything in it’s place, but if your kids and spouse are terrorized by your demands, your clean house means nothing.   Better a morsel in the attic than living in a spotless house of strife.

-your marriage looks awesome and then your spouse finds out you were having an affair.  All of a sudden, that “awesome” marriage doesn’t look so good.  It’ll take a lot of work to repair the damage you’ve done.  If you are living a double life you can expect a multiple of problems.

-your spouse asks you where you were and you tell her it’s none of her business and that you are a big boy and you can do what you want and quit being a control freak.  You’ve just told her more than you realized:  You’ve told her she doesn’t matter, that you don’t need her or her opinion, you don’t want her in your life, you don’t want her input or influence in your life, you don’t want to protect her and you don’t want her to protect you (she needs to know where you are so she can contact you in an emergency and vice versa), and that you have things to hide because if you were a person of integrity you would be proud and happy to let her know what’s going on in your life.

Hey, look.  Life is tough enough.  Why multiply problems for yourself?  Let your integrity protect you.  Or to say it another way:

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

Proverbs 11: 3

If you want the fast track to ruining your life, throw your integrity out the window.  Live your life however you want.  Don’t have any principles.  Don’t be responsible.  Make promises you have no intention of keeping.  Be totally offended if anyone points any of these things out.  Say that’s just not you.  Be stubborn and refuse to change or improve or grow or try to improve anything.  Be consistent in being inconsistent.  Let your loved ones know that you can be dependably NOT relied upon.

This way you can blame everyone else when no one wants to have anything to do with you.


For the second in this series on Ben Roethlisberger, character and integrity:

Lessons From Ben Roethlisberger: Character Counts, Part 2 of 2

In this second of a series on character and integrity, Dr. Wall uses Ben Roethlisberger’s latest troubles as a launching pad to discuss the effects on our loved ones of not being true to our word.

Check out these other blogs on similar topics:

Boring Integrity

Integrity seems boring, but it’s the only way to go.

Faithful in Small Things

Dr. Wall ponders how little lies ruin our lives. Let your words and actions match instead.

How To Make Your Spouse Crazy

Dr. Wall advises couples to let each other know what’s going on without having to be asked.  The options aren’t recommended unless you are bound and determined to ruin your life and everyone in it.


Dr. Bing Wall is a marriage therapist with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa.  To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473.  For more information about Dr. Wall click here.

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