“Justice, bravery, benevolence, veracity, politeness, honor and loyalty” - Bushido code of the Samurai Warrior
The Samurai Warriors were a fixture of mid-evil Japanese culture and have developed a modern cult like following. There is much to learn from the Samurai Warrior code. These men were bound together by a common purpose, a common way of life and a loyalty to each other that was formed in the protection of life, in the preservation of honor, and in the knowledge that their cause is just. Central to the Samurai culture was the Code of Bushido. To be a Samurai was to live this code in its fullest.
I have found myself increasingly identifying with the Code of Bushido and its guidance through the ordinary, and not so ordinary, travails of normal life. Its guidance has many applications to leadership, to creating and maintaining a cohesive organization, to being a good follower, or to simply being a good partner to your spouse and parent to your children. Each of us will no doubt have our own interpretations of the meaning of each word of the Bushido code but few of us could deny that the words themselves stir strong identification with concepts or experiences each one of us has had.
The Code of Bushido strongly applies to our professional lives not only because some of our professional lives resembles a modern form of combat but because the fundamental human condition has not changed for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Temptations to act rashly, to do things that are quick solutions to avoid immediate pain are ever present. Each and every one of us face these situations big and small on an almost daily basis. What separates the good from the bad, the tough from the weak, and the lawless from the principled is the adherence to some moral code, to some standard. The Code of Bushido is based on six simple tenets:
Justice is the first element of the code. This stands not for doing what is right per se but rather seeing to it that right is done. It’s relatively easy for most of us to stand by and watch injustice happen to others and do nothing. After all, it’s not us being wronged and why should it be our business ? The truth of the matter is that it IS our business to see that justice in the world is served. It is part of the larger balance of our culture and our world. It is fundamental.
Bravery empowers us to do the right thing, to stand up for justice and to face consequences that can be quite unpleasant. It is not a lack of fear but rather a certainty that good will prevail and that we will personally survive the storm or danger that we face. It also means that if we don’t survive, we can have honor in knowing that we faced our travails and challenges face on. Bravery reveals itself unexpectedly and without warning. It is a force from within that we draw upon to weather the storm. It is as essential as the food that fuels our body. Bravery is the food that fuels our soul.
Benevolence is the softness inside, even in the roughest soul, that manifests itself in kindness and self-sacrifice. It is truly a virtue to show benevolence to those less fortunate and to those that are in need of a hand-up in the world. Without benevolence, we don’t have a culture nor a functional society. Instead, we have a group of individuals fighting to defeat each other.
Veracity, derived from the Latin root veritas, is our duty to illuminate the truth. It is the bedrock of an individual’s reputation and dependability. Veracity is more than simply voicing the truth as we see it. Most importantly, it extends to seeking, seeing and accepting the truth concerning those that surround you and the truth about our self. This can be a bitter pill to swallow. Sometimes its painful in what the truth reveals. However, in the end its always the only way to improve our condition.
Politeness is a creed that demands we treat others with basic human respect even if they don’t deserve that respect. Politeness is a social lubricant that can serve to offer another person the benefit of the doubt. It will also deny an enemy insight into your state of mind. Politeness is a fundamental tool at your disposal.
Honor is a state of mind defined by what you consider to be honorable deeds and motivations. We bestow honor onto ourselves through our own actions. We view ourselves through our notion of honor. We develop our self esteem through the view of ourselves as honorable or dishonorable. It is extremely important that we understand our own sense of honor and to be true to this sense by doing what we consider to be honorable.
Loyalty is the bedrock of any group, of any society. It forms the strongest bond of our group and demands that we put our loyalty to others, to causes, or to family above our own desires and needs. In my experience, loyalty is the most important of the Bushido code. Without it, we truly have no safe harbor in the world.
Our modern society has long ago departed the ways of our warrior past and yet we still face many of the challenges and difficult situations that faced our ancient ancestors. The Bushido creed is but one guide that our modern life can learn from. Our society would be better off if we put our faith in ourselves and measure our self worth in the context of the six fundamental tenets. With such a solid basis for living, we are better off as leaders in our businesses or communities, better off as members of our society, as simple human beings, as husbands or wives, as parents and as warriors in our own unique way.