One of the greatest lessons I learned about building relationships as a chaplain candidate came from the instruction I received from a first sergeant assigned to an explosive ordnance disposal unit.
The first sergeant briefed my chaplain candidate class about his unit’s accomplishments and responsibilities. One year prior, an EOD Airman was killed in action when he stepped on a mine while on mission; he paid the ultimate sacrifice. With red eyes and tears about to fall, the first sergeant explained what that Airman meant to the unit. Following, fellow chaplain candidates asked the first sergeant questions.
When my opportunity came, I asked him one thing, “Of what would you like to see new chaplains do more coming into the Air Force?”
The first sergeant paused for a moment, looked me in the eye, and responded, “Come around before the bad things happen.”
He did not need to explain any further — I knew exactly what he was saying. Building relationships is important because people need to know you care about them and what they do.
In order for someone to initiate a relationship, he or she must first establish trust, show effort and maintain accountability. I’ve come to understand building a relationship is not always easy, but amazing things happen when good relationships form. Relationships give people a sense of belonging, identity and purpose.
Throughout my lifetime, my relationships have strengthened my well-being and understanding of myself. In my faith, I have a tremendous relationship with God. In my personal life, I have relationships with my parents, coworkers, spouse, coaches and trainers, as well as those with whom I serve in the military that have molded me into the person I am today. All these relationships take a great deal of effort to establish and maintain.
Building relationships can be quite challenging at times. Sometimes, we do not get along with someone, and tensions can rise; however, we can control how we respond and treat one another.
Author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer wrote,
“… as you think so shall you be! Your relationships are all in how you think about the other people of your life. Your experience of all those people is only in your mind. Your feelings about your lovers come from your thoughts. For example, they may in fact behave in ways that you find offensive. However, your relationship to them when they behave offensively is not determined by their behavior, it is determined only by how you choose to relate to that behavior. Their actions are theirs. You cannot own them. You cannot be them. You can only process them in your mind.”
Think about your relationships and ask yourself the following questions:
• Are you aware of how you influence others and how they influence you?
• When it comes to establishing a closer bond with those near you, what do you value?
• How can your choices positively improve the lives of those around you?
We are the United States Air Force. Although we are all individuals, we are one organization. When we work together, we’re uniting for one purpose. What happens to one, happens to all.