Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


Does It Pay to be Nice?

Anyone who thinks that “nice guys finish last” hasn’t paid much attention to golf lately.

Last week Jordan Spieth won the Travelers Championship in amazing and miraculous fashion. During the final playoff, his 60-foot shot from the bunker rolled into the hole and won the match.

My grandfather, George Ulett, loved golf. I loved him—and riding around in his little electric golf cart. When I turned twelve he hired a pro to give me lessons. I anticipated years of chasing little white balls around the local course. In time, I would excel and Grandfather would probably want to buy me a golf cart of my own—pink with tassels!

I showed up for my first lesson in baggy, plaid Bermuda shorts and a huge t-shirt. I was beginning to develop a figure, but not sure yet how to dress it. Plus, I was at that awkward stage of poor coordination and a terrible fear of looking silly. Since golf wasn’t a spectator sport in our town and since I’d do almost anything to make Grandfather happy, it seemed like a good fit.

Jordan Spieth is now the youngest player (after Tiger Woods) to win ten tournaments in his career. But that is not his most important statistic. Golf Digest has ranked the “Top 30 Nicest Guys” on the PGA tour. Players were graded on several criteria, including how they treat their fans, their caddies, and how they behave when no one is looking.

Jordan Spieth came in first place.

In 2014 he established a charitable trust that supports youth with special needs, junior golf, military families, and the fight against pediatric cancer. In an interview with Sports Illustrated Spieth said, “When I look back on my life, what we accomplish (with the foundation) will be more important than anything I do in golf.”

He’s right. Poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou wrote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

People will eventually forget what Jordan Spieth has said. They may even forget his impressive statistics in time. But he will linger in many people’s memories as a really nice guy.

By contrast, “nice guy” is a moniker that Tiger Woods will never recapture because his achievements were obliterated by his moral failings. Tiger didn’t make Golf Digest’s list.

The New Testament authors have captured many of the things Jesus said, but it was his genuine kindness that made him someone that people wanted to follow.

Paul’s letters to the churches were written to disciple new Christians. He wanted to help people grow to be more like Jesus when he wrote to the Colossians, “Since God chose you to be the holy people whom He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love.” (Col 3:12-14)

I am grateful that my golf game isn’t the marker by which my own life legacy will be determined. Even with weeks of lessons, I couldn’t reliably hit the ball. Instead I left some truly spectacular divots, spent a lot of time wading through water, and generally had no talent for finding golf balls once I had hit them.

Riding around in the golf cart remained my favorite part of the game. That and hanging out with my kind and generous grandfather, George Ulett.