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Rock Solid Integrity

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Maj.) Daniel Thompson
  • Joint Base Charleston Wing Chaplain
A military recruiter found a young man who met all of the requirements and was ready to enlist. Once the recruiter explained the importance of being truthful on the document, the applicant began filling out his paperwork. But when he came to the question "Do you own any foreign property or have any foreign financial interest?" he looked up at the recruiter and sighed with a worried expression. "Well," he confessed, "I do own a Toyota."

The young man was enlisted the next day.

"Integrity First" is our logo, but is it our life? It was for Abraham Lincoln. After all, how do you suppose he acquired the title "Honest Abe?" Though at age 23 when a business venture imploded causing him incredible debt, in time Lincoln paid back every penny. When the political environment was fierce, Lincoln rightfully authorized no bargains at the 1860 Republican Convention and advised his constituents to "never add the weight of your character to a charge against a person without knowing it to be true." When his first secretary of war was caught for improprieties in awarding defense contracts and other shady dealings, Lincoln basically fired him.

President Lincoln fully understood honesty is fundamental to a leader's credibility because he knew if you don't believe in the messenger, you won't believe the message. It follows, then, whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. The public can only stomach mistakes made in poor judgment, though is less forgiving for mistakes in motive. Because his intensions were sincere, Lincoln sincerely led. He was much more than a manager of political and tactical affairs, he was a leader. After all, Lincoln set the example for the words of Peter Drucker, "Managers do things right. Leaders do the right thing."

For all intents and purposes, Lincoln always did the right thing. When there was a person who he knew to be dishonest, Lincoln would simply not deal with him. He would stand with people when they were right, but part with them when they would do wrong. Consequently, his honesty was formed in telling the truth, even when the news was bad. What was the result? Did people then turn on him? The opposite happened! Lincoln gained more respect and support for ideas than those who chose to conceal the truth.

Although President Lincoln did have his flaws, the 16th president attained success, approbation, and a positive image by upholding his integrity and honesty. As Airmen and Sailors, we can learn from this great commander in chief who modeled for us a sense of honesty even in the smallest things like refraining from stealing office supplies or not embellishing on performance reports.

Doing the right thing means having a rock solid integrity. This rock solid integrity will guide interactions within relationships on and off base. If you are married or have a "significant other," integrity would be the very reason why you would avoid flirting or develop a romantic companionship with someone else. Rock solid integrity will help ward off temptation from cheating on an exam, fudging on your government travel expenses, or regularly showing up late to work.

Ultimately, the texture of a person's rock solid integrity is measured by what he or she does behind closed doors. Behind closed doors you may be robbed of your possessions, your happiness, or your rank. But, there is one thing that no one can take away from you, and that is your integrity. It can only be given away. Never forget integrity first, service before self, and excellence always. Let that foundation be your rock!