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Friday, February 10, 2012

The Gift

I believe that honor, and the character it generates, are gifts which we can receive from only one source—ourselves.

As a child, I was taught the goods from the bads, the rights from the wrongs, and the moral from the corrupt. Some of those lessons stuck. Others weren’t quite as sticky. I’ve never really been in trouble, but I have to admit, I’ve dangled my toes over the edge a time or two.

With age, they say, comes wisdom, and I guess I’m old enough now to understand that the quest for wisdom should really never stop.

The longer I’ve searched, the more I’m convinced that each person’s character is the outward manifestation of his or her sense of honor—their sense of responsibility, and their personal ethics. It is possibly the most singularly critical component in how we are perceived by the world.

A long and often brutal military career taught me that both honor and character can quickly evaporate in the absence of some sort of spiritual or moral compass. Without an internal, highly-personalized, and well understood sense of ethical values, the volatility and temptations of this world can quickly scorch and blister the most noble of intentions.

In the high-pressure, high-stakes arena of combat, as well as the world of business, the ever present ‘situational ethics’ (the bending of the rules to fit the right now) often offer the quickest, most temporarily satisfying solution. It may be quick; it may even be profitable, but if it comes at the sacrifice of honor, it’s no bargain.

I’ve learned that it’s not about flags, monuments or medals. I’ve come to understand that it’s not about fame, profit or position. It’s about each of us, and the manner in which we navigate the moral and ethical white-water rapids this life offers. It’s the quiet, internal strength, and the adherence to a personal moral structure, that creates the most favorable, and honorable conclusions.

Society may offer innumerable excuses and justifications for taking the easy way out, but no valid reasons.

In the end, for me, the search continues. I believe personal honor, and the character it generates, require constant attention, refinement and education.

I’ll let someone else wave the flag and cash the big checks. I have my hands full trying to simply be a decent person.

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