The Cardinal Virtues: A Firefighter’s Guide to Life

After a busy couple of weeks, I have once again found myself sitting on the front porch of my home pondering the path that the Lord has laid out in front of me. Many of us think that we are in control and celebrate the manner in which we have chosen to...


After a busy couple of weeks, I have once again found myself sitting on the front porch of my home pondering the path that the Lord has laid out in front of me. Many of us think that we are in control and celebrate the manner in which we have chosen to move through life. Sorry my friends, but the simple act of gazing up at the stars tends to give a man the proper sense of perspective. How can any of us think ourselves to be all that important, when placed in the face of such endless beauty? 
 
As the smoke from my cigar trailed off toward the south, my mind began to drift in another direction. I thought of those fine folks who chose to spend a couple hours of their lives with me, either in Indianapolis at the FDIC, in Baltimore at the Firehouse Expo, or in one of the many places where it has been my good fortune to teach over the past 35 years. There are some really neat folks in this fire service of ours.
 
I thought of their many kind words, and their challenge to me. Many among them have urged me to keep writing of the ways in which we can all make the fire service a better place to be. I thought of their many criticisms and vowed to improve my approach to the living of life here on earth.
 
The thoughts came drifting into my mind, slowly at first and then picking up speed. The thoughts became words, and I felt that I had to rush in to my computer and record them for your future use. Maybe these words are a bit simple, and maybe they are not. What I want these words to do is grab you by the heart and make you think about them.
 
Are you aware that there are four cardinal virtues that have guided the lives of literally millions of men going back beyond the beginnings of the great nation of ours?   These are some of the guiding principles that shaped the lives of the founding fathers of our nation. I want to share them with you. I want you to think of the impact of accepting them into your life. I want you to see if making them a part of your moral compass can make you a better person and a more effective member of the fire service.
 
It has been said that there are four cardinal virtues that can make you a more upright and honorable person. The list is short, but more meaningful than you will ever come to know at first blush. These virtues are:
 
·                     Fortitude
·                     Prudence
·                     Temperance
·                     Justice
 
I have frequently lectured and written about the importance of a leader’s moral compass. It is my most fervent belief that a morally upright person is a better leader, and a more effective member of society. Let me now share my personal thoughts about the value of these virtues and the potential for their impact upon your life and career.
 
Fortitude has been defined by some as being that noble attribute of the mind whereby we are enabled to undergo pain, peril, or danger in the performance of duty. This virtue is said by many to be equally removed from rashness and cowardice. What a great way to describe the mindset that we should adopt with regard to our duty to serve our communities and our fellow citizens.
 
Think about it. I am defining a mindset that speaks of the fact that we know there is danger in what we do as firefighters. There are also equal measures of pain and peril. After more than 46 years as a first aid man, teacher, firefighter and officer, I cannot recall the number of times I have been injured or faced death. In this way I am no different than you. 
 
I guess like many of you, I never really looked at the serious side of what we do. Oh, it was there and I trained to do my job better. I guess that I just accepted it all as part of the bargain. That is fine for me to say, but for you younger members of the fire service, I need to stress the whole equation for you.
 
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