Commentary

September 7, 2012

Chaplain sends parting thoughts to a beloved community


It is no easy act to leave a post that you truly love. It is the people that make any duty memorable. Knowing I was leaving soon [Aug. 22], some have asked, “Chaplain, do you have any parting thoughts?”

As I pondered this question I thought: “What can I tell you that you do not already know from our interactions thus far?” So the best I can do is reinforce some lessons that I believe you already know. If you are a leader at any level in the United States Army or in the community, I am sure these lessons are buried somewhere in your psyche. Because that is so, I want to reinforce what you know with what I have learned in the crucible of life. Some lessons follow:

Success is not something you put in your hip pocket. Success is something that must be earned every day. It is one thing to take ground. It is another thing to hold the ground you seized. Tacticians know this. This is true in every field in life to include military life, corporate life, married life, parental life, political life and especially in our spiritual life. Success is like riding a bicycle — you either keep riding or you fall over. There is no standing still. Keep pedaling.

Be patient with your naysayers, critics and rockthrowers.  They are your gut check, your vetting process, your sanity check. While they may not agree with your vision and may be adamantly opposed to what you are trying to do, I have come to learn that if they are not radioactive in their critique, they can make a valuable contribution in the refining of — and in some cases the elimination of — unworkable ideas. My critics have made me a more mature and thoughtful leader, and that is what we want to be in the first place.

It takes a team to make a leader. Leaders are not developed by themselves. Mentors, role models, seniors, subordinates, institutional learning and hard work with reflection have roles to play in the formation of a -leader. The competing forces in our lives can make us bitter or better. The choice is ours.

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste. This statement did not originate with me, yet it challenges all who would heed its message to learn from mistakes, from failures, from shortcomings when we are tested beyond our limits. In crisis we practice learning to stand with others in the storms of life. Like lifting weights, every time we push through the resistance, we come out stronger. Together.

Never be in awed with yourself. People who believe their own press reports risk becoming victims of pride.  Self-proclaimed legends can be delusional, arrogant and incredibly hard to live or work with. We can be humble without sacrificing effective leadership.

Pain is inevitable; misery is optional. I got this line from author Erma Bombeck.

The chief point here is that life is mostly about attitude.  Pastor Chuck Swindoll had it exactly right when he said, “I am convinced that life is 10 percent of what happens to us and 90 percent of how we react to it.” Choose wisely.  Blaming, excuse making, scapegoating and finger pointing is bad business. Taking responsibility for our thoughts,  feelings and actions is fundamental in winning at this game called “life.” While there are some exceptions, much of who we become is the result of our choices. When we  accept responsibility for what we do and fail to do, we can continue to learn and grow.  It is easier to act our way into right feelings than to feel our way into right actions. Feelings are real, but they are not always a right guide for behavior. People who live out of feelings alone ride an emotional roller coaster. Living from one mood swing to the next is a messy way to live. Learning to manage that balance of emotions and reason is part of our maturation as leaders. Look at crisis and stress and relationships as opportunities to practice balance.

Live above the fray of belittling people. The old adage bears repeating, “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small mind discuss people.”  While I cannot vouch for the originator of this quote I can argue for its truthfulness.  My final word of encouragement to all, pastorally speaking, is: “God can take our scars and turn them into stars.” While all scars may not be completely healed on earth, many of them can be, or at least the pain can be dramatically lessen. Despite the hard and perhaps uneven hand you have been dealt, you can be bigger than what has happened or is happening to you (Ephesians 3:20)

May God’s blessing, power and benediction rest upon you all! Always out front! Army Strong!




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