I was in uniform today and I had a kid come up to me, visibly shaking. Nervous.
“Sir, How do I know if I have honor?“
Well, just by coming up to ask that question, I think he has more honor than many, many people already. Since he was obviously scared to do so, but he did it anyway, he has more courage than many, many people already.
I said, “Let’s take a seat.” After that, we chatted for a while. We talked about integrity, and the roots of the word going back to the Roman Legions. (I am not saying that the concept goes back to Rome, but literally the etymology of the word.) Integer. Integretas. Integrity. What it really means is reliability, with enough sturdiness to withstand attempts to break you.
We talked about armor, character, and character flaws being chinks in the armor. If you are introspective enough to self-identify those chinks in the armor — and we all have chinks in our armor — then you can protect those areas. If you are not self-aware enough to know where your chinks are, someone else will find it and exploit it, and possibly steal your honor.
We talked about selflessness and loyalty and duty and respect. Yes, those are all parts of the Army Values. We talked about courage, and how courage isn’t even its own virtue. Courage is just the culmination of all other virtues at their testing point. (Not my original thought.)
We talked about the fact that he will never know how much courage he has, or how much honor he has, until he faces challenge, hardship, or temptation. In the end, honor is all about caring enough to know what the right thing is, and then having the courage to do it at the testing point. It takes practice and training. It takes standing up to a bully once, even if you get your butt kicked, and then doing it again. Honor is the cumulative result of making the right decisions along the way, even when it hurts. But it also includes being truly ashamed of the miss steps, and the resolve to learn from them and do better the next time.
The kid was 18. Perhaps I spoke too deeply for an 18-year-old, but then, I would rather err on the side of talking up someone than talking down to them.