I was never in the military. I got really close. I was going to join the Marine Platoon Leadership Classes program. I tested well. I passed the physical. It was 1973, and I was asked to sign on the dotted line. If I signed, the Marine Corps would pay my tuition, and upon graduation, I would commit four years of my life as a Marine officer. I didn’t sign. To this day, I can’t remember why.
So I created my own code of conduct. I came to it by living and working with those around me. In other words, the people I hung out with, the people I was attracted to.
My code of conduct included work hard, play hard, be truthful, deal honestly, care for others, practice loyalty, make your word your bond, and make money doing it.
I failed often. When all was going well, I was all in. Under pressure, I didn’t live my code. The money or my self-interest won out.
When I made this choice, I hated myself.
I would make all kinds of excuses to myself and rationalize my behavior six ways from Sunday, but I didn’t live my code. I was too scared, self-centered, and unaccountable. I talked my code but knew in my heart of hearts, it was my ideal and not my day-to-day reality.
Getting sober made me face reality.
Six months into AA, I realized I did not have the compulsion to drink alcohol. To me, this was a miracle. These first three steps of AA worked for me.
- I admitted I was powerless over alcohol–that my life had become unmanageable.
- I came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.
- I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood Him.
It was after my head cleared that I started to pursue this God. This God who had watched me promise myself each day that I wasn’t going to drink. This God who watched me break my promise every day. This God who created me, who loved me, who was patiently waiting for me to turn my life over to him. That’s when he could do his good work in me. And he did! He performed a miracle in my life.
Within six months of pursuing God in earnest, I discovered the truth about myself and the truth about God. I became a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. Little did I know then, I was adopting a code to live by. I was a new man in Christ, the old was gone and the new had come. I had a code.
What I learned about an effective code of conduct.
After talking to Lee and the other Marines, I thought about the elements in their code of conduct. I then analyzed my code of conduct as a born-again believer in Jesus. I believe there are three elements that must be present in a code of conduct if it is to be respected and admired.
- It requires entrusting your life to a power higher than yourself. To a power, you can always rely on.
- It must give a clear purpose to your life. A purpose so compelling, you are willing to sacrifice your own life.
- It must benefit others even at your own expense.
An effective code of conduct is all about submission, purpose, and fulfillment. And that is why I admire men and women who live by a code. Men and women of the United States Marines. Men and women who are active disciples of Jesus Christ.