by Jerod Breit, Director of Member Safety
Philanthropy: on track.
Community Service: good.
Courage: Wait, what?
Often, chapters are caught up in “checking off boxes” to ensure they are meeting the minimum standards. Too often, though, it is forgotten that there is more to a values-based brotherhood than just simply existing. Setting goals and objectives is great; in fact I do it every day. But going through the motions doesn’t come from your heart. Sure, you might have passion for the organization, but how much impact is really being achieved?
Let’s focus on one box, a single primary task: “Protect my future and the future of my Chapter.” It’s something for which you are going to have to dig deep to decide what matters more: the next party or remaining a chapter on your campus? It’s going to take courage. You must examine your priorities, what matters most to you. Courage, and the drive to do better, comes from your heart, not a checklist. It takes heart because, literally, it means heart. Courage is a heart word.
In Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, she describes courage and its origin. The root of the word is “cor,” which is the Latin word for heart, originally meaning “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” This directly applies to fraternity life now more than ever. Too often I see men sacrifice their moral compass (and our organizational values), because they live in a culture that praises doing the wrong thing and then promoting those actions to the world via social media with a sense of misplaced pride.
In our everyday lives, we are faced with choices and challenges; they come in many forms. For instance, think about choices that require bravery – acts that in the moment require a sense of selflessness to accomplish them. If you were walking down the street and saw a child in a burning car, it would take bravery and instinct to rush toward danger and help that child. Many, if not all of you, would immediately say, “Of course I would; you have to help a child.” I would agree. No matter the danger, the overwhelming majority of humans would rush to the child’s aid.
But bravery is not something we need to talk about. Countless forms of brave and selfless Delta Chis live their lives in service to their communities and their countries. But an emphasis on service to our fraternal community is something that is missing. What we need to discuss is something that needs repeated reference and persistent praise: courage.
Courage is something that comes from deep within, when one recognizes what he sees or hears as being wrong. Unfortunately, every person, every time, does not stand up and say, “Stop! That’s wrong. You shouldn’t do that.” If your brother was the one in that burning car, each of you would not hesitate to rush to his aid. So why don’t we see this every day?
I can tell you why – because it’s hard.
I constantly hear young men say that college is for rebellion and experimentation. Fraternity and sorority life is constantly bombarded with attention on the negative, the mistakes and patterns of behavior. Don’t get me wrong; they are holding us accountable just as we should ourselves. I thought a brotherhood was more than having friends, sharing a beverage, or living under the same roof. It shouldn’t be easier to hold strangers accountable for their actions than the people who mean something to us.
But it’s hard to expose your inner self in a moment of wrongdoing. Is speaking out against something too hard to do when the person(s) making the wrong decisions is your brother? Shouldn’t we respect someone more for standing up to wrong? More importantly, why not praise someone who chose to listen and found an alternative?
We can. It starts with demonstrating the right way to conduct ourselves, every day, in a persistent and daring manner. The most stubborn and unwilling of people will tell you, “no way.” But it works. Want to know how I know it works? Because our Ritual teaches us how to live that way.
Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, a Navy Seal, Rhodes Scholar, and White House Fellow, wrote a phenomenal book entitled Strength & Compassion. In it he says,
Courage has a hue even deeper than bravery, however, and that is perseverance. It is perseverance that builds. Great things are won and lasting things are built not in a flash of action but in a long, slow, quiet series of everyday acts performed over a lifetime of steady effort. It is, in fact, the courage to do the thing that we must do, day after day, that enables us to meet the greatest challenges. Lives flourish and justice is done by the steady force of human beings who proceed with a quiet, persistent courage.
Perseverance is something we should be talking about in our chapters and colonies. How can we use the same perseverance you already muster (to get through an exam, to clinch an internship, to earn your degree) in order to change the culture of character in your chapter and on your campus. The best way to do that is by being the one who (physically and metaphorically) stands up, not because someone is watching, but because it’s the best chance to change a brother’s behavior.
In your mind, draw a line and label it “tough choices.” On one side, you can watch things happen the way they always do, expecting the proverbial hammer to drop after you watch something bad happen. On the other… just over the line, put the word “better.” Because that’s all anyone wants from one another, just to do a little better each time you’re tested. No one is asking you to demonstrate life-altering acts that will go down in the history books. But if just one brother tests the threshold of courage when the moment arises, just over the line, change will be imminent.
Talking the talk about how others should be better in public without walking the walk won’t cut it. Can you cross the threshold in order to save your chapter or colony from a destructive path? Or will the threshold literally hold you back from greater things that will inevitably leave a lasting impression.
We all need to be that “guy” who is the embodiment of the values and expectations of Delta Chi. I know this because using words like character and justice sound familiar, don’t you think? These are the values you need to show the world you care about, regardless of how others think doing so makes you look. You can forge the culture you want to see and not settle for the culture others tell you is “tradition.” New members and potential new members will see you do this. It will be because of the culture you created that you and the chapter can avoid constantly having to go before IFC, the University, or Headquarters to defend your commitment to the character Delta Chi demands from its members.
C.S. Lewis said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the point of testing.” Will you let your brothers make choices that can impact their personal futures? No more hypotheticals or cleaver analogies. I am asking you… Will you be the guy Delta Chi needs, right here and now, protecting our future?
In 2017 one thing people of our society are certainly not afraid of doing is showing the world who we are as individuals. Being proud of yourself isn’t taboo. But the moment will come when you must be more than the clothing, hairstyle, and shoes, revealing who you are at your core. You will be testing the commitment you made to the values of Delta Chi and shaping its future by casting a shadow on the behavior you know, and I know, should be left behind.
Bravery in battle takes arming yourself; it’s a fact of life. Courage in life takes educating yourself on how to respond when certain situations present themselves. The Delta Chi International Fraternity is here to help, no matter the situation in which you find yourself or someone else. When you need help, just remember, you’re not alone.
No matter the situation facing your chapter or colony, either individually or collectively, there is a path toward becoming the coalition of courageous men we need to be, not only to set the example for the Greek community, but also for ourselves and those who will join our brotherhood in the future. With respect for ourselves, respect for each other, and a little perseverance, we can do the right thing.
It can feel like a lonely journey, but over time, as we have seen throughout history, it only takes a small group of dedicated, hard-working individuals to change the world. Why? Because it is the only thing that ever has. Today, right now, can be the first step in casting the die that will leave an impression on your chapters and colonies long after you graduate.
Jerod Breit is Delta Chi’s Director of Member Safety. A former law enforcement officer and a constant advocate for advancing justice, Jerod serves our membership as a change agent for helping our members better live our values on a consistent basis. You can seek his assistance and guidance at any time; contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.