The Voice Of Fear


How do you know what you are going to do?

I don't have to think about what I am going to do.


Because I have a code.

Honor is the code of the heart. It doesn't look at outcome, it simply follows a code.


The training of soldiers is the clearest example of this honor-before-outcome philosophy. A soldier is stripped of his or her individuality and in its place is instilled the greater good of the group. The only way soldiers can perform their duties in life and death situations is if they care more about something other than themselves.


This connection with something greater than themselves allows them to disconnect from their own survival instinct. I have begun every day for the last seven years reading a different story of each soldier who won the Congressional Medal of Honor.


There are 3,400 of them. I have 845 to go.


When I am done I will start over. I want to start my day remembering human beings who put honor ahead of outcome. The stories are so moving and inspiring and the sacrifices so great that I carry them with me all day long. If these people could put honor ahead of outcome then I surely can in my daily life.


Honor simply means that you will follow the rules you have agreed to no matter what the situation. There is no dishonor in not following rules, but only if you don't agree to the rules before you commit. A conscientious objector says they will not kill for any reason and therefore will not enter into service for their country. If they are willing to abide by the consequences of there decision then there is no dishonor. However, if a soldier arrives on the battlefield and then decides they will not kill or follow orders, that is a breaking of the honor code and they might face a firing squad.


The code of a soldier must be extreme and absolute because of the nature of war. In civilian life, however, we can follow our own code. To be honorable you simply have to maintain your code regardless of outcome.


For example, let's say a person doesn't want to be sexually faithful in a relationship. So long as they told their partner up front and accepted the same behavior from the partner, then there is no dishonor. But if the same couple enters into a monogamous relationship , being unfaithful is obviously dishonorable. Honor is not moved by outcome, but fear is. If a person cheats based on the possibility of a positive personal outcome, then they have no honor.


In 1978 I went to a wrap party for the movie “Grad Night” which I co-starred in. The details of the movie will be in a future chapter. I went to this party with a girl who was an extra on the film. We had no prior connection but we became friends during filming so I was her date.


The party was pretty wild so I didn't venture far from her because she looked pretty overwhelmed. Both of us were pretty low key so we just watched and laughed. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and as I entered, another girl followed me in and announced that she was going to have sex with me. 


**For the record, she was an incredibly hot young woman, I was single and this had never happened before. I think I was experiencing my 15 minutes of fame from being Mario from “Grad Night,” so the temptation was pretty great to just go for it.**


But I had a simple rule: I leave with whom I came.


I told this girl that we could not do this tonight but if she was interested in getting together some other time that would be great.


She was mad.


“How do you even know what the girl you came with is doing?” she asked. “She could be gone for all you know.”


“That's true,” I said. “But it's not about her. I leave with whom I came.”


This comment caused her to pick up a bar of soap from the sink and throw it at me. Fortunately I was able to duck as she stormed out. 


I looked in the mirror and just said “Wow!”


I returned to my date without sharing any of the details and remembered that I had forgotten to pee. I tried to think how long I could wait before I went back to the bathroom without it looking too strange. The rest of the night I got so many angry stares from the bathroom girl that I thought her eyes would burn right through me.


The party eventually ended and I drove my date home, shook her hand goodbye and never saw her again. When I told several of my male friends this story, they couldn't believe I left with her.


“I leave with whom I bring,” I said.


They all laughed and said I was nuts. It is no surprise that all of those male friends have come and gone because some time later each acted in a dishonorable way towards me.


You don't have to be a soldier or face death to have honor. You only have to have a code that does not bend under the weight of possible outcome.

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