Fight the fade

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. J. David Bottomlee
  • 3rd Fighter Training Squadron commander
At the end of his esteemed military and political service, one of the Founding Fathers of America, George Washington, wrote to Alexander Hamilton, "I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of 'an honest man'."

General Washington desired the title of "an honest man" rather than "president" or "general." As a matter of fact, many of his contemporaries wanted General Washington to accept the title "King of America."

He recognized that maintaining one's integrity and character requires "firmness and virtue." He refused to allow his reputation of honesty to fade away.

Like General Washington, we must also remain firm in our desire to maintain integrity and character above all other desires. One of the best ways to ensure our integrity and character thrives is to live a consistent life. In other words, remember that you're an "American Airman" at work, at home, on the weekends and when on temporary duty.

While I was stationed at the U.S. Air Force Academy, one of the staff members admitted that he portrayed certain types of behaviors in front of the cadets. But when off-duty he felt it was acceptable to live a life and make choices that were polar opposite from his "on-duty" persona. I adamantly disagree. Your integrity and character will fade away if your on-duty and off-duty lifestyles conflict.

The term integrity implies consistency and wholeness. For example, a metal part on your car is said to have integrity when there are very few imperfections that result in failure when stressed. During the metal refining process waste materials such as sand, clay, and silt are methodically removed. If these impurities are not removed the tensile strength of the metal is critically reduced and will be the point of failure when an extreme load is encountered.

Similarly, we should strive to remove the inconsistencies in our lives that reduce our integrity. For example, telling a fabricated story to get out of a speeding ticket will start the fade. Or perhaps, fudging on your taxes or breaking a commitment to your spouse. While these may seem inconsequential at the time, your integrity will fade away.

On the other hand, everyone has "character." You see, character is simply defined as "the aggregate features and traits that form the individual nature of a person." In other words, your character is a sum of the choices you make. With every action you're either improving or degrading your character.

"Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny."
                                                               -- Author Unknown

Today, you must fight the fade of your integrity and character. Every thought and action either purifies your integrity or degrades it; either improves or degrades your character.

What will you choose?