What is Military Truth?

[May 28, 2020]  U.S. Army General Omar Bradley once said that “leadership is intangible, and therefore no weapon ever designed can replace it.”  Bradley understood that truth shines a light on everything a leader does or does not do.  He was adamant that truth was the fundamental element of leadership and that there is no such thing as narrow as military truth. Still, he believed truth is independent and self-evident if we only can remove the cobwebs that surround it.

It would be no surprise to those who knew Omar Bradley that he believed in living the truth.  That is how he lived his life and why he was able to ascend to high levels of leadership in the U.S. military.  Living the truth, to him, was more important than professing the truth.  Like so many great leaders, he would never shade or distort the truth.  That way, he gave those who he worked for and those who worked for him, the raw truth in all its good and evil.

Truth can be as beautiful as it is terrible.  We can see in Western politics where our political elite believe they own the truth, and only they have the answers to difficult questions.  This leads to corruption of the mind, where truth is nothing but another element in their quest to gain power, influence, and things.  Corruption starts with the first lie and only expands its sway from that point forward.

Psychologists warn us that failure distorts our perception of the world.  Religious leaders warn us that not telling the truth changes our souls, damages our character, and harms our relationship with God and with those most valuable to us.  This corruptive effect on our selves should be a warning to those who are quick to lie or distort the truth.  This is why we should strive to always tell the truth even when, and especially when, it hurts.

I wrote a few years ago about the leader’s folly of exaggerating the truth (see article here).  In it, I laid out the argument that there is a trend of leaders who exaggerate the truth, pad their resumes, overstate their professional credentials, and misrepresent their career achievements.  I noted that this is sad because they firmly believe that they can escape the truth.  Maybe they can participate in the short-term, but eventually, a leader will be found out.

The lesson is one that bears repeating.  Never say or do anything that is not brutally honest.  Being a leader is hard but being an honest leader is harder.  Yet, an honest leader is the only righteous path.  In the end, the truth never hurts as much as a lie.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

18 thoughts on “What is Military Truth?

  1. Dennis Mathes

    Right! Truth is truth, it matters not if it is from the military or the church. We know that telling the truth does, indeed, help “set you free.” And most will never know the value of this great and sage advice.

    1. Bart Rhodes

      Of course and this is why I keep reading and reading and reading this leadership blog.

  2. Darwin Lippe

    For the Christian, the ultimate expression of truth is found in the Bible, in Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6). Of course, most philosophers and skeptics will dismiss His claim, but for the Christian, He is the mainstay of hope, security, and guidance.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Sadly, I will argue that you are right, not because you are a good Christian but because so many non-Christians who think everyone else is a knuckle-dragging caveman. These post-modernists believe that values are relative and that it is only the powerful who determine what is ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ That is why so many people today chose suicide, alcoholism, and nihilism as a way out. They have no anchor in life.

  3. Valkerie

    Excellent article, General Satterfield. I enjoyed this one very much as I have in the past.

  4. Lynn Pitts

    In relativism, all points of view are equally valid and all truth is relative to the individual. This leads to nihilism and ultimately to death.

    1. JT Patterson

      Oh, trying to be philosophical, Lynn? I see your point but I think that all those who are not intellectually lazy have now agreed that the relativism you write of is rejected as nonsense.

  5. The Kid 1945

    What is reality? What is fact? What is actuality? How does perception affect truth?

  6. Roger Yellowmule

    One way to understand truth is simply to look at its opposite, or opposites, namely, lies and bullsh*t. Lies differ from bullsh*t in that the liar must track the truth in order to conceal it, whereas the bullsh*tter has no regard or sensitivity for the truth or even for what his or her audience believes.

    1. Danny Burkholder

      Right and “Truth” is a property not so much of thoughts and ideas but more properly of beliefs and assertions.

    2. Yusaf from Texas

      According to the coherence theory of truth, a thing is more likely to be true if it fits comfortably into a large and coherent system of beliefs.

      1. Janna Faulkner

        Hi Yusaf, good to see you back on Gen. Satterfield’s leadership blog. Thanks for pointing out ‘coherence theory of truth’ and its main tenant. It starts with Plato. I recommend reading more about it, as it helps us focus on the important. Those who have not had the chance to think about truth this way are missing something.

  7. Wendy Holmes

    Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. –Thoreau

  8. Eric Coda

    Truth is truth, it makes no difference if we are discussing the military, a CEO-run successful company, your family, …. it matter not.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Eric, you have a point. So, “What is truth?” — a very simple question. Of course, answering it isn’t so simple. We can offer definitions like “Truth is that which conforms to reality, fact, or actuality.” But this basic definition is not complete because its definition is open to interpretation and a wide variety of applications.

    2. apache2

      If there is such a thing as truth, then we should be able to find it. If truth cannot be known, then it probably doesn’t exist. But, it does exist. For example, we know it is true that you are reading this. Weird, huh?


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