October 9, 2007
by Charles R. Swindoll
When the death of Richard Nixon and the twentieth anniversary of his resignation were strangely juxtaposed only a few months apart, the networks were overloaded with revisits to and retrospectives on Watergate.
I was intrigued by a book by Leo Rangell, M.D., a psychiatrist who explores what he calls “the compromise of integrity” in his careful, articulate analysis of the inner workings in the head and psyche of Richard M. Nixon and several of his closest confidants. It’s called, appropriately, The Mind of Watergate. Within the book is the transcript of a verbal investigation between Senator Howard Baker and young Herbert L. Porter. Here is just a small portion of it.
Baker: “Did you ever have any qualms about what you were doing? . . . Did you ever think of saying, ‘I do not think this is quite right.’ . . . Did you ever think of that?”
Porter: “Yes, I did.”
Baker: “What did you do about it?”
Porter: “I did not do anything.”
Baker: “Why didn’t you?”
Porter: “In all honesty, probably because of the fear of the group pressure that would ensue, of not being a team player.”
Porter’s answer keeps coming back to haunt me these days. How much of that whole, ugly nightmare could have been prevented if only someone had had the courage to stand alone? If only the fear of doing wrong had been greater than “the fear of group pressure”?
It’s terribly hard to stand pat and buck the tide . . . alone.
All this strikes much closer to home than a break-in in D.C. or a breakdown in the Oval Office. It’s a major motivation behind experimentation with drugs or sexual promiscuity or wholesale commitment to some cult or cooperation with an illegal financial scheme. Group pressure is terribly threatening.
So be on guard! When push comes to shove, think independently. Think biblically. If you fail to do this, you’ll lose your ethical compass.
Watergate is a timeless lesson: It is not as hard to know what is right to do as to do what you know is right.
If being a team player requires doing what is wrong, you’re on the wrong team.
Reprinted by permission. Day by Day, Charles Swindoll, July 2005, Thomas Nelson, inc., Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved. Purchase "Day by Day" here.