April 12, 2019

Standing up for your convictions

Col. Ken Reyes
Travis AFB, Calif.

Have you ever found yourself in an awkward situation where you know the circumstances are illegal, immoral, unethical or for self-gain?

The juices inside you start to boil and you become upset that such a thing occurred. You tell yourself, “Go, talk to the person about the problem; make it right.”

It turns out you can’t move a muscle toward the person, let alone move in their direction, so you stomp off or passively ignore the situation and walk away frustrated, yet determined to stand up for your convictions another day.

There is an old saying, “Life is filled with great intentions.” Unfortunately, for many people and even me at times, standing up for personal convictions is like telling people, “Let’s stay in touch,” but then you never do or, “Call me if you need anything,” but you find yourself irritated when someone calls to share their needs. You never thought they’d actually call, did you? How about this common phrase: “How are you doing?” Do you really want to know? Do you have time to look someone in the eye and prepare yourself for whatever might be said? I think the majority of us would rather hear “fine” and go about our business. My personal favorite is, “I’ll pray for you,” but you never do.

Convictions keep us sharp, ready and able to meet any need. To me, convictions are the fuel of freedom. It is the food that feeds our sense of ‘being’ as bread and water is for the body. It is a foundational quality of the Air Force’s first core value — integrity. Convictions have at least three elements: wisdom, skill and virtue.

Wisdom knows what to do next. Wisdom is fueled by our senses and we become aware something may not be right or may be out of place. We become more alert and ready. Skill knows how to do it. For many of us, our experience kicks in telling us the best course of action. Unfortunately, one of the courses of action is to do nothing because of fear, being passive or not wanting to get involved. For the rest of us, our hearts and minds go through our life’s inventory of what is the best course of action.

Finally, virtue does it. Virtue is the moral character to stand up for what is right and to say something. Isn’t this what our Air Force Core Values compel us to do? I believe it does. The next time you see someone doing something and it requires your attention because it is unsafe, stupid, disrespectful or harmful, remember your convictions. Remember we have an obligation to do what is right and to right what is wrong. Sydney Harris said, “I am tired of hearing about men with the courage of their convictions. Nero, Caligula, Attila and Hitler had the courage of their convictions — but not one of them had the courage to examine his own convictions or to change them, which is the true test of character.”

Finally, I stood up to my fear of confronting someone who I believed was in error. With grace and dignity and a little shaking of the knees, I approached the person, introduced myself, expressed the purpose of the moment, shared my feelings then listened to their side of the situation. I found most people receive honesty when shared with respect and care. This person was not only appreciative someone would actually talk with him about his behavior but promised to make better decisions. I walked away a better person for sticking to what I believed was right and honorable — no boiling juices and no false promises to do it right next time. Society says, “It’s none of your business.” If you are a person of conviction, I say doing what is right is your business.

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