“Epic Integrity” on Beauty and the Geek?
Can a social experiment that throws together eight stereotypical pairs of beauties and geeks for a chance to win $250,000 yield a vision of epic integrity? It probably wasn’t what the team creating Beauty and the Geek expected when they started the show. But, as I watched the season finale last week, I was struck by the actions of one of the finalists. He was doing the right thing even though it cost him the chance to win and even though everyone would have understood if he’d kept his eye on the prize. The difficulty was that in order to win, the teams had to convince their old opponents that they had gotten all they could out of the experience and had grown the most personally.
Earlier in the week, I listened to the first message, “Don’t Cut Corners”, in “The Office” series from the Theater Church’s podcast by Mark Batterson. Ironically, Mark’s message about not cutting corners in the workplace could have used Beauty and the Geek as a modern example of what he called “epic integrity.”
The season had boiled down to Scooter and Megan against Cecille (CeCe) and Nate. Scooter and Megan were nice and seemed to get into the game’s premise of expanding their horizons beyond being just a beauty (i.e. superficial and intellectually bereft) and a geek (i.e. styleless and socially inept). They were a solid couple but didn’t really stand out strongly, and they definitely lacked the killer instinct to win. In sharp contrast was the opposing couple, or at least the female half of the couple. CeCe could give Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39) a run for her money as a manipulating, self-centered, unfeeling woman who loved power and had no qualms squashing people in order to win. She was paired with Nate, a house favorite for his kindness, optimism, and gung-ho attitude in all the contests. He made friends with everyone, and even in the height of competition, his opponents wished him well.
So, the finale came down to a good but kind of ho-hum couple vs. a mismatched Prince Charming and the wicked stepsister. Prince Charming (Nate) realizes that CeCe’s character hasn’t grown at all - she’s still the wicked stepsister grasping for power. He knows how much he’s gotten out of the show personally, and wants the same for her. And he sacrifices his own chance at winning $125,000 (half the grand prize) to help this fellow human on her journey of personhood. He goes around to all the people who will be voting, and ask them not to vote for his team. He explains that CeCe has always been able to manipulate life and get what she wants, and she’ll never learn that this isn’t okay unless she gets a different message loud and clear - a message that the way you play the game, and the true goal of the game, is more important than simply winning.
Although Scooter and Megan won, in the end, it was Nate who won the biggest prize. He had already been a house favorite, but now he proved how worthy he was of people’s admiration. He became the kind of person you could trust to do the right thing and not to be bought. The kind of person who wants what is best for you as a person more than to avoid conflict. Who believes in the reward of personal integrity even though it meant giving the lion’s share of the spotlight to the Scooter and Megan as the winners. Each person, as they voted, shared how much they appreciated Nate, how positive his influence on the household had been. I have to believe that he got more out of the experience than anyone else in the house, to hear how much each person believed in him and loved him.
Mark asks us to have that kind of epic integrity in our daily lives at work. His words aren’t aimed to make us squirm like worms on a hook as we think about all the ways we’ve messed up and sacrificed our integrity, but to call us to greatness in the future.
In the message, Mark says something powerful - you’ll have to listen to the podcast to get it in context, but I thought this is a under-taught principle: “Here’s the deal. Just because something looks like a God thing, feels like a God thing, and is endorsed by your friends as a God thing doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a God thing. An opportunity isn’t an opportunity if you have to compromise your integrity!”
I hope you’ll check it out and be encouraged to make the hard choices day in and day out. I didn’t do justice to how funny Mark is when he talks - you’ll have to find out for yourself!
PS - if you don’t want to listen to the podcast, you can go to Theater Church’s evotional and read the message in text format.
About the Author
An artist and storyteller, Tina Bembry is a young adult who often wonders “where do I fit in?” at church, so she has a strong desire to help churches promote community, places to serve, and spiritual health for young adults.