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Men of Character

Written by Tom Greene (Georgia)

Our founders knew a lot about character. It was character that led these three ordinary men to a limestone outcropping in the darkness 152 years ago. It was character that sparked these men to create “the light of our fraternity.” That same light has illuminated the greatest friendships and the most cherished memories of my life. 

That “light” that we often reference is an homage to our ideals of Love, Honor, and Truth. Three simple words that likely roll off your tongue these days. But what is the modern interpretation of these words and how should we put them into practice today? After all, it was a different world in 1869. No radios, telephones, television, and certainly no internet or Instagram. In those days, words meant a lot more than they do today.  

Despite the technological advances, these three words have not lost their meaning. We just have to work harder to put them into practice. And work harder to live a life of character that is commensurate with the ideals put forth by our founders. It’s what Walter Sears was writing about in the preamble to our Fraternity creed when he wrote “no obligation will be more binding than our plighted word (promise).” It means doing what you say you will do. Because your reputation, integrity, and credibility are all based on your ability to deliver on promises you make to others.  

The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus once wrote, “good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character. He was often fond of saying “character is destiny.” That advice is as appropriate today as it was in 475 BC. See, even today, ideals matter; actions matter, and character matters. However, you cannot have good character if your actions betray your ideals. And that’s why hazing does not fit in our organization. Because you simply cannot pledge to uphold our ideals and betray the organization with your actions. Our fraternity was founded to end the system of physical abuse and hazing of underclassmen at VMI. And anyone who chooses to wear the badge designed by James Hopkins has committed to uphold those ideals.  

“Nothing gives such a blow to friendship as the detecting another in an untruth. It strikes at the root of our confidence ever after.” 

--William Hazlitt  

So, during National Hazing Prevention Week, take a moment to pause and reflect.  Are you living a life true to the ideals set forth by our founders over 150 years ago?  If not, take this time to pause and reflect on what you stand for and why. The truth of your character can only be expressed by the choice of your actions. Let your actions be the light that shines forth for another 150 years.  

© 2015-2022 Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.
9 North Lewis Street, P.O. Box 1869, Lexington, Virginia 24450
Phone: (540) 463-1869 | Fax: (540) 463-1669 | Email: headquarters@sigmanu.org

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