Many people make the mistake of confusing fame with honor. In reality, seeking fame may actually lead to dishonor. Consider one man who sought to make a name for himself – the late West Virginia Senator, Robert C. Byrd. Throughout his 51-year career Senator Byrd channeled millions of dollars into “pork-barrel” construction projects to essentially buy votes from his own constituents. Shamelessly, most of these projects bore his name. In his book, ‘Great Government Goofs’, author Leland Gregory shares a few of them.
The List goes on…
The list includes the Robert C. Byrd Expressway, Robert C. Byrd Highway, Robert C. Byrd Industrial Park, Robert C. Byrd High School, Robert C. Byrd Aerospace Technology Center, Robert C. Byrd Bridge, Robert C. Byrd Visitors Center at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Robert C. Byrd Hardwood Technology Center, Robert C. Byrd Cancer Research Center, Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dams, Robert C. Byrd Institute, Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center of West Virginia, Robert C. Byrd Community Center, Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholastic Recognition Award.
This is not the honor of which our military speaks. This is grandstanding. True honor consists of living up to a code of conduct that demands courage, honesty, selflessness, loyalty, and righteousness. It means living honorably, conducting yourself with honor.
Purity V.S Life
Now understand, maintaining your honor may draw criticism and reproach from others, especially from the dishonorable. If you courageously stand up for what’s right in the company of cowards, you will be mercilessly maligned. Therefore, living honorably and seeking praise will often lead to completely different outcomes. True honor can only belong to the honorable – to those who sacrifice self to do what’s right and fulfill one’s duty.
An illustration from nature can help us understand the character of true honor. Author and founder of Our Daily Bread, Henry G. Bosch tells the story of a rodent that lives in the forests of northern Europe and Asia – the Ermine. This slender creature is known for his snow-white fur in winter. It fiercely protects this white coat against anything that would soil it.
Fur traders take advantage of this unusual trait of the ermine. They don’t set a snare to catch him. Instead, they find his home, which is usually a cleft in a rock or a hollow place in an old tree. They smear the entrance and interior with grime and chimney soot. Then they turn their hunting dogs loose on the creature who flees to his shelter. However, once it sees the filth covering its home it stops. Rather than soiling its pure white coat, it turns and faces the dogs. For the ermine, purity is more precious than life.
This is how honor operates in the soldier. Whenever danger or the dogs of this life threaten him, he maintains his honor. Even if it kills him, he will fulfill his duty and keep his oath to the nation. Honor may not bring you praise, promotion, or a long, superficially successful career. But it will make you a true leader of soldiers and an imperishable example for others to follow.
Honor is indispensable to both the soldier and to the Christian believer. Jesus Christ warned us against seeking praise and a good reputation from people (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18). Instead, He told us to do what’s right as if only God is watching, so that God will be the one who rewards us. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34). And He promised, “Where I am, there will My servant be also, and My Father will honor the one who serves Me” (John 12:26).
Dear Father in heaven, may I not seek the empty praise of this world. But inspire me to seek the true honor that comes from faithfully serving You and living honorably before You. Please grant me, O God, the courage, strength, and fortitude to fulfill my military duties and to return with honor from every deployment. Amen.