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The Ten Ancient Principles

If you are still with me as we approach the halfway point through the Ten Ancient Principles I would like to pause for a moment. First to say thank you for investing your time in reading this and also to explain a bit about where it came from and where we are headed. I first heard this list in a presentation last summer called Foundations: Powerful Leadership and Character at a training session for police leaders at the Center for Public Safety at Northwestern University. This is the complete list:

Submit to Authority
Serve Others First
Keep Your Commitments
Pursue a Balanced Life
Honor Age and Experience
Respect All Human Life
Protect Your Family
Respect the Property of Others
Tell the Truth
Be Content with What You Have

The list came with a very brief outline and the principles were described as:

  • Time tested
  • Has universal application
  • Provides an inner compass
  • Provides good results when applied
  • Has a positive impact on society
  • Other principles find origin in these ten

The presenter mentioned “spirituality” as one of the slices in a balanced life and noted that God’s name has been used through history to “formalize agreements,” but was silent on the origin of the list. Given the venue it should come as no surprise that credit was not given to God for carving them onto stone tablets, but it does not take a biblical scholar (fortunately) to see a resemblance to the Ten Commandments. I was impressed with how acceptable this message was to a secular audience of law enforcement leaders by changing the language used and focusing on the benefits gained, rather than on the source of the information.  It would be a mistake to recognize and benefit from these truths without recognizing the author, but there is value in it either way. That’s the truth about truth, it is true because it is, not because of where it comes from.

Here is the roadmap for the rest of the way, the two lists of ten side-by-side.

Submit to Authority Do not worship any other gods besides me.
Serve Others First Do not make idols of any kind
Keep Your Commitments Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
Pursue a Balanced Life Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
Honor Age and Experience Honor your father and mother.
Respect All Human Life Do not murder.
Protect Your Family Do not commit adultery.
Respect the Property of Others Do not steal.
Tell the Truth Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.
Be Content with What You Have Do not covet


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  1. I had the chance to work with Bob Vernon, Pointman Leadership, at a conference in Idaho several years ago. He has a powerful message that incorporates many of these ancient principles.

    Character-based Leadership is an essential quality for the police. I believe we are called to take moral leadership in our communities, which is a call to higher standards of character.

    My son is a Marine and I work with them almost daily in my assignment here in Afghanistan. So I can appreciate the leadership and “can do” attitude that they bring to a mission. GEN Krulak, former commandant of the Marine Corps, gave some powerful lessons on character and integrity that I have incorporated into my own Police Dynamics training.

    I particularly like his analysis of the word “integrity.” He traces its roots to the Latin word “integritas” and talks about how it was used by the Roman Legion to designate a soldier who was totally prepared — physically, mentally, and spiritually — to accomplish the mission at hand.

    But my favorite quote on leadership comes from GEN Norman Schwarzkopf. He said, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.” Well said, General!

    Note to Kevin: Thanks for giving us a great forum to discuss and learn about character and ethics for law enforcement. As a “Modern Knight” we must remember the rules of chivalry…!

    Sheriff Ray Nash

  2. Thank you, Sheriff Nash, for the the insight on the word “integrity.” I did a little more digging regarding the connection to the Roman Legion…

    During the time of the Caesars in the Roman Empire, which includes the time of the earthly ministry of Jesus, the Roman army would conduct morning inspections. As the inspecting Centurion would come in front of each Legionnaire, the soldier would strike with his right fist the armor breastplate that covered his heart. As the soldier struck his armor, he would shout “integritas,” which means wholeness or completeness, confirming that his armor was sound and that the soldier beneath it was well protected.

    At about the same time, the imperial bodyguard, known as the Praetorian, were ascending into power and influence. The Praetorian did not shout “integritas” to signify that his armor was sound. Instead, as he struck his breastplate, he would shout “Hail Caesar,” to signify that his heart belonged to the Emperor, not to his fellow soldiers or to a code of ideals.

    As the centuries past, the Praetorian guard became notorious for its moral depravity and corruption, while the Legionnaires tried to maintain their high moral standards. To signify the difference between the two organizations, the Legionnaire when striking his armor would no longer shout “integritas,” but instead would shout “integer.”

    Integer means “complete” or “perfect.” It not only indicated that the armor was sound, it also indicated that the soldier wearing the armor was sound of character. He was complete in his integrity…his heart was in the right place…his standards and morals were high.

    The armor of integrity continued to serve the legion well for many years, but eventually even the Legionnaires were overcome by the moral decay that had infected the whole Roman Empire. Strangely enough, the armor itself became an outward symbol of this loss of integrity.

    A 4th century Roman general wrote, “because of negligence and laziness, …the customary armor began to feel heavy since the soldiers rarely, if ever, wore it. Therefore, they first asked the emperor to set aside the breastplates and mail and then the helmets. So our soldiers fought the Goths without any protection for the heart and head. They took their armor off and when the armor came off—so too came their integrity.”

    It is no wonder then, that the Apostle Paul uses this same image – the image of a Roman Legionnaire’s armor, to describe how each of us is to maintain our integrity: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:13–17).

    A soldier’s armor is a powerful image for the integrity that we are called to maintain, regardless of our profession. It is what equips us and protects us, and without it, we cannot hold the line – we cannot win this battle.

    Chris Stephens
    Pastor and Police Chaplain

  3. That shift from integrity to loyalty from the Praetorian Guard reminds me of a great quote attributed to USAF Col. John Boyd, “If the boss demands loyalty from you, give him integrity. If he demands integrity from you, then you can give him your loyalty.”

    You can change the century, but you can’t change the principle.

  4. I really respect the wisdom found on your postings and the way in which they reflect intentionality and cognizance of the meaning of your daily work. The ten ancient principles and the way in which they reflected Biblical wisdom was edifying to the supernatural timelessness of the Book. I hope you will keep up the insights…

  5. Kevin
    I currently (and probably until retirement in 10-12 yrs) teach rookie cops about DUI enforcement and collision investigations. Rest assured I will be using your writings as part of my curriculum with my young “knights in the making”. I appreciate your work. Respectfully, your brother in Christ, Jimmy.

  6. Thanks for the kind words brother – stay safe.

  7. I really like this article alot. And it gave me good information too.

    Thank u,
    Mr. John I. Mericle

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