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The Role of Mentorship
If rules initially have a role in habituating virtue, it is critical for the person making the rules to possess that virtue. In this way, the rules are right-minded and constructive, becoming a pathway one can take to becoming a good member of the profession. As noted earlier, Aristotle likened the acquiring of virtues to playing an instrument, which requires a teacher and habitual practice. Unless one is a musical prodigy, one does not pick up a guitar and, by fooling around with it, play it well. One might, after a fashion, be able to make pleasant sounds with it, but without someone to provide instruction and example, developing true proficiency will be long and arduous, fraught with mistakes, and certainly inefficient. One might even pick up a book and memorize the principles of good guitar-playing. Those who have tried that method know that doing so might make them better to an extent, but to achieve true excellence it takes a good role-model and teacher.
For the Christian, the role model is of course Jesus Christ. By emulating what we know of his life, we begin to learn how to live virtuously. But, it is not always obvious how Christ’s example would inform the Christian intelligence professional. To that end, junior intelligence professionals must look to older ones to acquire the necessary virtues. Junior officers can learn from seeing how virtues are embodied by those who are effective at moral officership. Only then can they incorporate virtues into their own characters.
Exercising a virtue involves a delicate balancing between general rules and an awareness of particulars. Awareness of the particular carries more weight, in the sense that a good rule is a summary of wise particular choices, not an exclusive choice itself. The rules of ethics, like rules of medicine, should be held open to modification in the light of new circumstances. The good intelligence professional must cultivate the ability to perceive, then correctly and accurately describe his situation and include in this perceptual grasp even those features of the situation that are not covered under the existing rule. The virtues provide a framework around which officers must engage in this process.