A Courageous Stand By Lee Ellis
Despite the seeming lack of honor and accountability that we see in our culture today, I still choose to believe that most people that I encounter have good character and will operate ethically. Would you agree?
Interestingly though, when I was a volunteer for three years in a prison ministry at Maxwell Air Force Base, I observed that almost all of the inmates believed that they had good character. They typically explained that they were victims who had been framed by business competitors, political opponents, or some malpractice in the justice system.
Character sounds good, but have you ever clarified what that means? In the POW camps, we had a Military Code of Conduct to govern our conduct. It was simple and very effective. Following that same model, my team and I came up with the Honor Code—seven behaviors that cover our definition of good character. They’re very practical and appear deceptively easy.
- Tell the truth.
- Treat others with respect.
- Keep your word /commitments.
- Be ethical.
- Act responsibly, be accountable.
- Be courageous.
- Live your values.
Now if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that these are not easy. None of us is capable of living up to them all the time. Most of our character violations come through pride, greed, and anger—lurking underneath those emotions you will usually find doubts and fears.
The way we overcome those doubts and fears is by clarifying what is at stake, what is honorable, and then courageously choosing to move forward to do the right thing. And when we see that we’re drifting off course, we courageously correct back.
Whether you’re facing a tough decision or after you have made a mistake, take the courage challenge: lean into the pain of your doubts and fears to do know what you know is right, even when it doesn’t feel natural or safe.
We have to recognize that battling for our honor means fighting against part of our human nature. That’s why we have to constantly refocus on our true north. As a Christian, that means that I’m committed to living in a way that honors God. I can only do that when I trust Him for the outcome.
Even when suffering in the POW camps, with no control and no way of escape, I knew my real security and salvation rested in the arms of the Almighty. Our faith can give us the resilience and commitment to stay true to our character and our deepest calling—to reveal and represent our Lord on this earth. And remember, his open arms of mercy are always there, calling us to repent quickly and turn back to His way.
Taking a Stand
Our culture is struggling with honor and desperately needs courageous accountability. It requires honorable leadership—leaders who go first, setting the example. No one can do that perfectly. We (and especially the younger generations) are looking for authentic leaders who will take a stand for honor and then live in vulnerability—admitting when they fall short and then correcting back quickly to the right path. This way of life and leadership is only possible when you have a strong core, and it’s the basis for my latest book on the topic.
What about you? Are you guarding your character with an honor code? Are you willing to take the courage challenge to overcome your doubts and fears? Are you really committed to battle every day to grow in character and righteousness? I believe that you can do it, and you won’t have to do it alone.
Lee Ellis is the president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, A retired Air Force Colonel, his newest book is entitled Engage with Honor: Building a Culture of Courageous Accountability (FreedomStar Media 2016).
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