If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.
-Virginia Woolf, 20th century
One of the best things to be said of my Dad was that he was an honorable man. In many respects that made him a throwback to an antiquated past era. His code of honor most likely was most likely developed by his parents (also extremely honorable people), his upbringing in the Baptist Church, his time in Boy Scouts, and while playing sports (which in his day actually stressed the honorable truth that it mattered more “how you played the game” than whether you won or lost. That is clearly a concept that seems totally lost in our “win-at-all-costs” modern sports era.) It was then fine-tuned by his time serving in the U.S. Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant during the Korean War. In his day there was a clear Code of Honor for officers in the military.
His code of honor was solidly middle class in flavor. As Brady Kiesling, an archeologist/ancient historian and former member of the U.S. Foreign Service, describes such a moral code in this way: truth-telling, punctuality, earning one’s pay, paying one’s fair share, not causing unnecessary distress, taking responsibility and … not putting oneself first when another has the better claim.
That describes my father perfectly. And as Kiesling suggests, in my Dad’s era most Americans would agree that such rules are a good basis for a healthy society. Today, however, from the lowest levels of society to the highest offices in the land, the idea of a sense of honor based on a voluntary adherence to a code of behavior seems incomprehensible. Many people no longer seem to feel bound by any limitation on their freedom of action. Society’s rules of behavior do not apply to them and they certainly have never internalized them. The result is a life of violated contracts and falsehoods morally justified precisely because they are narrowly self-serving.
While my Dad was certainly not perfect. He and I had our struggles and often did not see eye-to-eye, nevertheless, I know he was always an honorable man. You could trust his word better than most any signed contract. He always told the truth, even if you did not like to hear it. And he treated every person with respect and fairness.
It is certainly true that I am not perfect. I know I have made mistakes in raising my children, as a husband, as pastor, even as a friend. But I hope that I come close to living my life as an honorable man as my father did. In my mind, that is one of the best qualities any father can possess.
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida