Winters believed that the cornerstone of character was honesty, and that from there you worked to develop a moral compass that was guided by the virtues of courage, fairness, consistency, selflessness, and respect for your fellow men. He felt that integrity was paramount as well, noting that “it is easier to do the right thing when everyone is looking,” but “more difficult to do what you should do when you are alone.”
To these core values, Winters added his own ascetic precepts, choosing to abstain from canoodling with women, drinking alcohol (he was a lifelong teetotaler), and, as we shall see, swearing.
For Winters, keeping his personal honor code was a matter of integrity and self-respect; he wished to be able to look in the mirror and hold his head high. He also believed that moral excellence kept the mind pure and sharp, and enabled a man “to make decisions quickly and correctly.”
Winters believed that this kind of dedication to maintaining integrity made him a better commander and earned the loyalty of the men who served under him. One of his favorite maxims was “Lead from the front!” and he felt it his duty to command his men from a position that was beyond reproach; he never wanted his behavior to serve as grounds for charges of hypocrisy or act as a distraction
Many monks take some kind of vow of silence upon entering a religious order. This usually doesn’t require not speaking at all, but rather speaking only at certain times, and even then avoiding trivial conversation and useless and unnecessary words. Since thoughts influence words, and words in turn influence thoughts, ascetics believe that garrulous speech inhibits the development of self-knowledge, access to deity, and the ability to live more harmoniously with one’s spiritual path.
Here again, Winters proved monkish in temperament — a generally reserved and quiet man, he wasn’t one for idle chit-chat. When he spoke; you knew he had something important to say.
He also stripped his speech of all profanity — believing such words were needless and unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman. Vulgarities disrupted the stillness of mind he worked so hard to cultivate; he understood the secret encapsulated by the Benedictine monk Andrew Marr: “Silence is not a mere absence of words or thoughts — it is a positive and substantive reality.”The Way of the Monastic Warrior: Lessons from Major Dick Winters