Where Can I Find an Honest Man?

By | December 8, 2020

[December 8, 2020]  The life of a Soldier is one of both honor and hardship.  Therefore, it is understandable that all relationships with their comrades must be via unconditional honesty.  This is why, today, I write about a man called Diogenes of Sinope, for he spent his life looking for an honest man.

Most have heard the story of Diogenes, the Cynic, who walked through the sunlit streets of Sinope and Athens, lantern in hand, looking for an honest man.  He is remembered for mocking the possibility of finding human virtue.1  It follows that his quest would be an eternal one; as symbolized in the lantern’s use during broad daylight.  Can a truly honest man exist?  That is the question Diogenes raises.

In Catholicism, there are several patron saints for Soldiers, but the primary one is St. Michael the Archangel, the defender of heaven.  If there were a patron-philosopher for Soldiers, it might be Diogenes of Sinope.  A comparison of his philosophy and the life and that of Soldiers in combat cannot be untangled.

Diogenes believed in self-control, the importance of personal excellence in one’s behavior, and the rejection of all that is unnecessary in life.  Thus, he rejected personal possessions and social status.  He was so ardent in his beliefs that he lived them publicly in the market place, taking up residence in a large wine cask and owned nothing.2

Perhaps the life of Diogenes explains why so many of my military peers were fans of his simple lifestyle.  It is not that we would live in a wine cask but the fact that we share a similar experience on the battlefield; the brutality and starkness, the need for fierce honesty, and a code of behavior that rewards excellence.

Many thought Diogenes to be crazy.  Yet, he was also one of the most respected and loved Greek philosophers of the 4th century BC and one of the most famous.

The story of Diogenes says that he did not exactly say he was looking for an honest man.  He said, “I am looking for [or seeking] human being” – an exemplar of humanity.3  Diogenes sought the real human, one worthy of a truth-speaking embodiment of man having the power of articulate speech.

Soldiers on the battlefield are both honest cynics and realists.  In place of the Diogenes lantern, they light their journey with great books, the company of reliable teammates, and great leaders who are on a similar quest.

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  1. https://nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/looking-for-an-honest-man
  2. He owned a cup that served also has a bowl for food but threw it away when he saw a boy drinking water from his hands and realized one did not even need a cup to sustain oneself. https://www.ancient.eu/Diogenes_of_Sinope/
  3. https://nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/looking-for-an-honest-man
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.

22 thoughts on “Where Can I Find an Honest Man?

  1. Darwin Lippe

    Wow, going back a long way but useful info on “honesty.” We all should be paying closer attention to what this article is about. I liked the fact that someone in ancient Greece was looking for an HONEST MAN. Too bad he never found him.

    Reply
    1. Dennis Mathes

      Yep, Darwin. Spot on comment. I too look for honest people that I plan to hire and be part of my business. Honesty is one of the top traits because I can teach just about everything else. Those who are honest don’t steal, lie, cheat, or show up late to work. They are the best employees. That is why telling the truth is so important for them. Let’s hire the honest folk.

      Reply
  2. Bryan Z. Lee

    Great article on what I thought was a simple subject. I was completely unaware of the ins and outs of honesty. Frankly, this is a great reason to study ancient philosophers, even one that is as weird as Diogenes, the Cynic. His outlook on life must have taken the people in his hometown by surprise.

    Reply
  3. Greg Heyman

    PHILOSOPHERS AREN’T RENOWNED FOR THEIR OUTRAGEOUS BEHAVIOR, BUT DIOGENES OF SYNOPE RANKS AS ONE OF THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL AND ECCENTRIC THOUGHT LEADERS OF ALL TIME.

    Reply
    1. Shawn C. Stolarz

      So very true. The stories I’ve read about Diogenes would shock most of us. The man surely lived his philosophy of austerity and a simple life.

      Reply
  4. Ed Berkmeister

    The most famous of the stories surrounding Diogenes though is surely when he is said to have met Alexander the Great. The conqueror of the known world, fascinated by the accounts of a philosopher living in a barrel, is said to have walked up to him and asked him what it was that he wanted. Diogenes replied: ‘I want you to move out of my sunlight.’

    Reply
    1. Kenny Foster

      He’s lucky that Alexander the Great didn’t have Diogenes’ head chopped off.

      Reply
  5. Dale Paul Fox

    If I remember correctly, Diogenes had a dog as part of his statue. “You’re nothing but a hound dog!” is what you’re telling someone when you accuse them of being a cynic. Coming from the Ancient Greek word for dog, kinikos, Cynics felt an affinity with dogs because they lived in the moment and would bark at anything that wasn’t the truth.

    Reply
  6. Eva Easterbrook

    Can you find an honest man? Certainly not any politicians that are honest. The question always remains, which is the least dishonest.

    Reply
    1. Jerome Smith

      That question is not that uncommon, Eva. Thanks for bringing it up. THis is always been the case, at least for me, during any presidential election. Which is the least bad. In the most recently election, however, the choice was easy since China Joe is, has always been, and always will be a terrible leader. Words don’t make a leader, actions do and that his how we should all be judged.

      Reply
  7. Max Foster

    “Most have heard the story of Diogenes, the Cynic, who walked through the sunlit streets of Sinope and Athens, lantern in hand, looking for an honest man.” I would wager that this is not true but that most folks have never heard of him. Surely our young college students have not heard of him. They no longer get a class in Greek philosophy, except to criticize it for being too “white.” Now don’t get me started on the PC professors that I know because it would take all day. Just suffice it to say that our education system today is dramatically failing our young and causing destruction of our most treasured values.

    Reply
    1. Eric Coda

      Pow, Max has once again smacked the leftist (read that as socialist/communist ideology) right between the proverbial eyes. They have no basic philosophy outside a bit of pseudo-Marxism and yet everything they say and do is cherrypicked from whatever idea they come up with that day. Thanks Max.

      Reply
    2. Len Jakosky

      Yes, excellent comment Max. I’ll support your comment and add that things are NOT getting better. However, I think the COVID pandemic is helping sort this out by forcing universities to downsize and many are getting rid of their tenured professors.

      Reply
      1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

        Getting rid of tenured professors will surely do no harm, as long as it’s those in the liberal arts and the grievance industry.

        Reply
      2. Yusaf from Texas

        Well said folks. Thanks. I like the way you guys think.
        👍👍👍👍

        Reply
  8. Army Captain

    Now, this is indeed a super article because it deals with a very important trait – honesty!

    Reply
    1. Ronny Fisher

      I agree with you Army Capt. An honest “man” is surely hard to find these days of PC ideology that hides the very nature of freedom and morality. PC is the bane of good men every where and we need to learn to stand up and say NO, we will not tolerate it because we are “honest men”.

      Reply
      1. Audrey

        Ronny, excellent comment. I couldn’t agree with you more than I do with your message that the PC ideology is killing freedom and thus creativity.

        Reply
    2. JT Patterson

      Army Captain, you are right. This is an unusually good article on honesty. Not unusual for Gen. Satterfield however. I like how he also links leadership to honesty. The two are inseparable.

      Reply

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