Flying Blind

But flying all the same

Tag: leadership

Surprisingly Jealous of a Pharmacist

I wrote this almost 6 months ago and sat on it.  I wanted to make sure that I was not just letting emotional lightning scorch the keys and then publish a vain and wayward post.  As I have had my coffee with Jesus over the last several months, I still feel the same way… even though some things have changed.  So…

 

Jealous may not be the word I am looking for, or even the best word to describe what I am feeling, but what I feel seems to feel a lot like jealousy.

And why wouldn’t I be jealous?

Meet Dan.

I have seen Dan struggle, think, sacrifice, and work like a mule in order to become a pharmacist.  (I still don’t see how it is all that hard though, I mean, you’re just counting pills and calling people’s names right?  Just Kidding!) I have seen Dan persevere through some mentally and emotionally grueling days and I rejoiced with him and his family when he landed a job.  Albeit a LONG commute each day from home and not quite the environment that he had hoped for, but a job none the less.

When we made our detour trip through Washington en route to Japan, Dan picked us up from SeaTac.  He told me about this great opportunity that, more or less, just fell in his lap.  As Dan was telling me the ins and outs of what was going on, I was getting super excited for him.  I felt as though he was scared of committing to this new opportunity.  Did I mention that Dan is a calm, quiet, gentle man?  Though I was busting at the seams with excitement for him, I tried to temper that and merely encourage him to take the offer, or at least meet with whoever he needed to meet with to see if things really were going to be as good as they sounded.  Were it my decision, I would have jumped at it in a heartbeat.

My family stayed with Dan and his family while in town and used his home and backyard as a defacto base of operations.  We had many MANY late LATE nights with some of the people we were involved with before we left the Great State of Washington.  12108974_10153654713010682_7792035204522113729_n

 

Dan sat with me every night that I was there.  His house became a revolving door of men, one at a time, or married couples, coming in and going out almost constantly in order to spend time with me or my wife and I (and sometimes just my wife) and Dan was by my side for almost every bit of it.  These people would share with us the joys and sorrows, the victories and struggles of their lives over the last year or so and would look to Jessica and I for advice, counsel, and encouragement… which we were STOKED to give.  (Something in me just comes magnificently alive when I get to function in this role)  I would listen and would engage, all the while noticing that Dan would have his fingers running at mach 3 through the pages of his Bible.  At one point it seemed like he had 13 fingers holding 15 different passages of scripture in queue.  Dan would say nothing… or almost nothing… most of the time.  When he would speak up, I would be blown away by the depth of his wisdom and insight.  Every.  Single.  Time.

When Dan and I would talk after all of the visitors had left, I would be amazed at how concerned Dan would seem.  These meetings were adventurous bouts of spiritual and emotional grappling which fuel my fire and leave me refreshed and encouraged at the end of the night.  Did y’all catch that?  These long hours and stressful, delicate conversations  leave me refreshed and encouraged.  These meetings are things that I pursue and run after, engaging every chance I get with little hesitation.  Like jumping out of the car and running down a wilderness trail with reckless abandon.  Dan seemed to view these meetings with… um…  well… with what seemed like a bit more maturity.  He seemed to be, at the same time, intimidated and confident, simultaneously academic and studious while being deeply burdened and frankly concerned.

This seems to have rabbit trailed from why I am jealous of a pharmacist to simply being a tribute to my Bro-mantic feelings for Dan.  I digress.

Why am I jealous of this man?  He has been deeply blessed in a very real, tangible, public way.  That is what fuels my jealousy.  This is such a problem for me.  I see Dan’s life and I see the principles and themes present therein and I immediately think that if I apply these to my life, then I too will be blessed in a truly deep, tangible, and public way.  If I make the right sacrifices, if I work hard enough, if I study long enough, if I persevere and endure the hardships, then one day I too will be as blessed a man as Dan.

How ridiculous is that?!?!

While Dan did work and sacrifice, he was not blessed because of these things, he was blessed because he was a man of integrity who spent time in the word and on his knees before God.  Every conversation that Dan sat in on while I was there was, for him, an exercise in blowing through the scriptures finding dozens of references that applied to EVERY topic we were discussing.  That cannot be faked.  That cannot be developed in a matter of weeks or even months.  That is the evidence of a man who knows the cannon of Scripture.  Likewise no amount of hard work alone will result in the kind of blessing in my life that Dan is seeing in his… that is a result of falling broken and contrite, scared and alone at the mercy of Jesus.

And one more thing…  why am I chasing His public, tangible blessing with such fervor when what I should be chasing is simply intimacy with Christ?

And if that wasn’t enough, why do I feel so moved and motivated to see such a blessing in my life… as though being healthy, having such great relationships with my wife and kids isn’t enough?

I know.  I can be so shallow sometimes.

Dan, if you are reading this, I am proud of you (and I feel a lot like a little boy saying that to an adult).

Truly I am.

 

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

I sent this to Dan in order to get his perspective and permission to post this.  I sent it to him almost 6 months ago and the following paragraphs are an excerpt from his response.  I hope y’all can hear the depth of this mans heart.  I have a deep yearning to sit again with this man and his bride by a fire.

 

When I was reading what you wrote I was really thinking, “I had no idea he thought that way.”  I honestly did not know you understood why I am who I am and the beatings required to walk this road.

Things that are true:  When I was at [Grocery Store] as a pharmacist, I was taken emotionally and mentally to my very limit.  I would have lines of people who had come to speak to me; a couple that had just lost their first child at the very end of  pregnancy, a man just diagnosed with a brain tumor, a woman who had just been raped, a mother with 3 children who just found out she had 3 months to live, an old man whose wife of over 50 years had just passed.  All of these one after another after another.  It wears on you.  I do struggle, I feel burdened, intimidated, concerned and find it hard to keep up in conversation with quick thinning people.  I do try to be calm and gentle.  I want to be mature, studious, wise, insightful, quick-thinking, and easily able to navigate scripture to the exact reference.  It is very true that I feel very blessed.  God has provided a new pharmacy with an owner who expects me to be in prayer.  My wife is a blessing to me and all those she comes into contact with.  She is a far better pharmacist than I am and yet she has sacrificed a career which she loves to serve our family and God.  My oldest son as a teenager is thinking about others and praying that he and his friends would delight in reading the Bible and loves time together as a family.  My younger 2 children have confessed that they are children of God.  God has richly blessed us beyond what I could have planned out.  Not one of these things is because of me, they are in spite of me.

 

He says “In spite of me.

 

Funny thing is… a few months after he sent me his response, he told me that the new pharmacy job dried up and life again was looking difficult in front of him.  His question to me…

“Still Jealous?”

 

And my answer…

 

Yes, Dan, I am.  Why wouldn’t I be?

 

…  and again, Jealous may not be the best word to describe it anway!

 

 

My Kids Are More Mature Than Me

I am in a position right now between the Navy and my family which is pretty rough.  I am handling it pretty well, but it is awfully hard.  As I have told my story to a couple friends, I have heard the response,

 

“You are a better man than me”

 

I usually dismiss that phrase because I know it just isn’t true.  These guys are men of character, men who would respond very similarly to how I am responding were they in my shoes.

My kids, on the other hand, really are “better” than me.  I hope they stay that way.

 

Because I did not make it through the school I was in, I fall at the bottom of the Navy’s priority scale for selecting orders.  As it turns out, the only set of orders that I am allowed to have right now are to a foreign country.  I’m not upset about that.  Jessica and I have wanted to take the family overseas for years.  Herein lies the problem.  Because the family is so large, we may have to be separated for 2 years.  The orders I am taking will allow me to bring my family with me, but there are other restrictions which can cause my family to be left behind and, at this moment, there is a very real chance that they will not join me.

Can you understand the sadness, fear, turmoil, and agony which I am swirling in?  It is hard stuff to say the least.

I knew I needed to tell my kids.  It isn’t fair to them to have them going to the appointments and screenings and for them to feel the tension in Jessica and I and to have no idea what is going on.  We have always spoken to our kids as though they are capable of understanding the life which swirls around them, and this is no exception.

I sat with my older 2 and explained to them that I may be going overseas and they will probably have to stay here.  Neither of them cried.  They got quiet, but didn’t even seem to get sad.  I explained it again… That I AM going overseas for 2 years and they ARE NOT going with me… for 2 years… separated… without me.  Again, no great emotion came out of them.  I asked them,

 

“Are you sad at all that your dad will be gone for 2 years?”

Answer:

Daughter – We are sad…

Son –  Yeah… but we don’t know for sure if we will be apart or not

Daughter – … but we can trust God

 

Whose kids are these?

Surely not mine!  Surely not the offspring of a man who walks with such uncertainty and fear upon his shoulders.  Surely not the son and daughter of a man who agonizes every detail of a plan in order to ensure the best possible outcome.  Surely not the kids of a man who can talk about God, Christianity, Faith, and Trust but falls hopelessly short when his back is up against a wall.

My kids are more mature than I am.

This little conversation we had, coupled with a Vacation Bible School song that they love (You Can Trust God) and play on their stereo over and over again, as well as other conversations I have had in the midst of this decision has me really pondering the goodness of God.

The congregation my wife came from regularly participates in a call and response during their Sunday morning worship.  The pastor says, “God is good” and the people say “All the time”.  Then the Pastor says “All the time” and the folks say “God is good”.  I believe this to be true.  God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.

But I am not a blind Christian, I don’t just check off the boxes without thinking (or feeling) about the stuff I am agreeing with and forming as a part of who I am.  This is one of those moments.

I can continue to walk around under this painful cloud feeling like I am under a storm and over a barrel because I don’t know whether or not I will be separated from my family for 2 years.  This is what I am doing right now.  It essentially says that I do NOT believe God is good… or rather, I do NOT believe God is good ALL the time.  Most of the time maybe.. A lot of the time for sure…  But all the time?  Do I really believe that?  My thoughts and feelings right now say no.

Now y’all hold on a minute before you send me encouraging and correctional emails and messages.  I know what the right answer is… and that is the point.  I could swallow what I am feeling and hide it from the world (which I did for SOOO LONG) and I can give the right answer and nobody in the world would know that a Man of God has a hard time grasping the full implications of the God he follows.

Here are the hard questions in my heart.   If I am separated from my family for a period of 2 years, where is God’s goodness in that?  Where is God’s goodness when it comes to my kids growing and struggling with identity/purpose/value troubles and my wife is left alone to encourage them?  Where is His goodness in this?  For that matter, where was His goodness when Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Jim Elliot, Ed McCauley, and Pete Fleming were killed on Palm Beach leaving their wives and kids behind?  Does God’s goodness address my desire for comfort or the feelings of security at all?

I am reminded of a verse in Romans that says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”

Where is God’s goodness in the death of His Son?  In the temporal perspective… I’m not seeing the goodness.  With an eternal perspective, the goodness of God is realized in the redemption of mankind.  In the temporal perspective, there wasn’t much good about the previously mentioned 5 men dying on a beach, but within a generation or 2 the rampant murdering and revenge killing of an entire tribe of people came to an end.

On the one hand I want to reject the idea of God’s enduring, timeless goodness in exchange for my own temporal comfort and pleasure.  But I know the way that seems right in my heart will lead me to my death.  I know the other hand leads down a painful road which, for some, has held certain death, but it ends with redemptive healing in the lives of others for generations to come.

I should be more careful with what I hope for… what I pray for.  Though I have asked many times that God would grant me influence in the lives of men so that His kingdom will advance through my labor to many cultures for generations to come, I do not want to take the road necessary for Him to use me to that end.

I want my family to go with me.  I have tears in my eyes as I finish up this post because of the pain which I feel when thinking of being separated from them.

I fear that my family will not be able to join me.

And I am resolved to bear my true character in the face of adversity with hope, trusting that the temporal pain to be experienced by my family will surely result in the realization of a theme of Scripture and Christianity…

 

God is good

                    All the time

All the time

                  God is Good

The Cost of Discipleship

Continuing what I was writing about regarding discipleship and mentoring

A friend asked me a long time ago what it cost to be mentored by somebody. I said it didn’t cost me anything.

Then you are not being mentored…

That got my attention. I knew I was being influenced by a couple guys, I knew that I was changing and that my life was reflecting the lives of these men the more they influenced me. I was being mentored. Naturally, being told that something was not happening when I clearly thought it was caused me to dig a little bit.

Come to find out, he was right. I was being influenced by these men, but there was no direction in their influence. There was no goal for my development. There wasn’t a reason or a purpose to our time together, other than the surface level stuff we were doing. These guys would correct me when they would hear me saying something wrong or doing something wrong, but that was about it. My life was changing simply from proximity to them. I started using little slogans, slang, and jargon like them, and could tell that I was valuing some things more than I used to, and some things less than I used to. Because these were some good men, the changes in my life were also good…

But that is not the point of discipleship.

I do not want my life to meander directionless to a form of maturity that is good. I would like for my life to push forth deliberately and purposefully toward a form of maturity that is great.

Here lies the crux of the matter. Direction and Purpose. To be a disciple is to be a strict adherent to a certain set of principles. To be a dedicated student to a philosophy, a proponent of a way of life. Taking a step back from the churchiness of the word and thinking about it in the world of martial arts, a disciple of Jui Jitsu patterns his life around the art. I have a friend who is a phenomenal fighter, a beast of a man. This guy eats a diet that is far from “normal.” It takes eating “clean” and “Paleo” to a whole different level. The guy goes out late on weekends with friends, and still gets up at the crack of dawn in order to get his cardio in. He spends HOURS upon HOURS reading books and articles about his art, practicing in a gym, sparring, entering competitions, fighting in tournemants… He is a very weak bicyclist, doesn’t do any paddling (as far as I know), couldn’t care less about what was going on in the land of TV (unless it was fight night). He has focus and direction, and he submits his life to the disciplines of his art and the instruction of his mentors.

The Bible actually teaches that there is a cost to disciplehip. Jesus compares it to a king going out to fight a war. Does the king evaluate his enemy, then go and try to settle his differences without a fight if the enemy is stronger than he is… He compares it to a man building a silo for his grain. Does he start building the tower without first calculating how much the tower will cost in the end? If either of these people do not evaluate the cost of their decisions, they end up defeated.

I talk about the cost of discipleship and the marks of a disciple at the same time. They go hand in hand.

A mentor is somebody who is willing to invest their LIFE into somebody in order to replicate the essence of who they are in the person listening to them.

A disciple is somebody who wants to develop some character traits that they see in somebody else and is willing to make the sacrifices required.

When I have the opportunity to mentor somebody, I look for 3 things at the minimum, 5 things if I can. I evaluate everybody who wants some of my time according to these principles, whether they want me to influence them as a husband, a father, a son, a sailor, a leader, or a medical provider… they all get put on the same matrix.

Are they FAT? Does their life spell FAITH?

Faithful, Available, and Teachable.

Do I see evidence in their lives that they maintain some sense of commitment to something outside of them? Have I seen them make sacrifices, choose to do things that they would rather not do because it was required by their commitment? Do they have the time to meet with me? Are they willing to wake up early or stay up late in order to talk with me? Are they willing to ride along with me while I run errands just so that we can spend some time talking? Will they make our time together a priority? Do they receive instruction or do they argue against anything they don’t like? Are they an “expert” on everything, constantly nodding their head and telling me they already understand, or do they listen, take notes, and attempt to assimilate what they see and hear in me?

Faithful, Available, Initiative, Teachable, and Hungry.

The F, A, and T, are the same as above. Does this person take the initiative or are they passive? Will I have to poke and prod them to get up off the couch, or are they motivated to make some changes? Are they pursuing life, charging down the river, or are they more or less existing, like a leaf floating on by? Are they hungry? Is there something deep inside them driving them for some kind of change? Are they excited to be mentored because they read a cool business book that mentioned it, or are they fueled by a desire to trim the fat from the flesh and go to war?

When I meet with somebody for the first time after they talk to me about taking an active role in their lives, I lay out a couple things.

1… This costs me, a lot! I spend a lot of time praying for, and thinking about the people I mentor. I reread chapters from books that I think might help them, I write letters and emails, I take notes about conversations I have had with them, I jot down things I observe from them, I prepare for our formal meetings… At 1 point in time, I was investing about 8 hours of my own time for every 1.5 hours I spent face to face with one of these guys… once a week! At 1 point in my life I had 3 guys who were resource heavy on me… that made for 24 hours of my own time, each week, 4.5 hours of time with them, each week… Significant cost! I paid it willingly (except for during hunting season… That was my time of the year to check out and recharge…)

2… It is going to cost them. When we get together for our formal meetings, they were to have a couple pens, a high lighter, a notebook, their Bible (or whatever source document we were using at work). They were to have whatever assignments I gave them completed. I expect that what we talk about is received and acted upon.

3… Before we met the second time, and I scheduled that for the following week, I wanted them to memorize all of Psalm 1, write 5 observations per verse, and be prepared to discuss it with me. If this was a guy I was mentoring at work, I had them memorize some leadership intensive/character development kind of quotes as well as some important piece of our literature.

After looking at the cost of Discipleship that Jesus laid out in the Bible, after showing them what it was going to cost me, what it was going to cost them (at the minimum), and after telling them what I expected them to memorize and have ready in a week, I would ask them…

Are you sure you want to make this investment?

I have had more than 1 fella tell me straight up, NOPE, and we finish our snacks, we talk about other things, we move on with life.

I have had some guys get pumped, like I was trying to nut check them before a big game, they say yes, then show up a week later without their Bible, Notebook, Pens, High Lighter, and with no verses memorized. I have smiled, greeted them, chit chatted while I drink my tea or coffee, and then, politely explain to them that they failed to pay the cost. I was not going to sacrifice my time with my family, or with other men who were hungry, to meet with somebody who is not serious… and then I walk out.

A surprisingly large number of guys have risen to that challenge… they come prepared… mostly… Usually there is a lot of stumbling through the verses, the observations are a bit thin, there may be 1 pen, and a crayon… but I see very quickly that there was effort made, a price was paid.

And then I know that it is costing them…

… I know they want to be there…

And when it costs me to be mentored by somebody…

My heart is all in…

What prices have y’all paid to be mentored/discipled? Have you ever paid the price because the person discipling you was not committed to your time together? Or vice versa, a person you were discipling was not committed?

What would you say is the cost of discipleship?

Mentors and Disciples

I am really not all that good at anything in particular.  Not like my dad at all.  The phrase, “Jack of all, master of none”, has been proven as a false statement for many years by my dad.  He is absolutely a Jack of all and master of most.  My brother seems to have caught that part of the genes, but not me.  Nope, not me at all.

I am mostly a “hazard to all, barely passing at best” for so many things.  This bothered me for a long time.  I wanted to be good at a lot of things, now I just enjoy being merely average or even a bit below average but acceptable in the myriad of things to which I put my  mind and hands.

If there is one thing that I think I do a pretty good job with, it is influencing and coaching people.

Not so much coaching T-Ballers.  Coaching people in their day to day lives.

The Navy has made it clear that it desires a vibrant, functioning mentorship program within its ranks.  The trouble is that the program seems to be a management burden placed on already heavily burdened leaders.  The program does not seem to be so active.  This is really sad to me.

Businesses use the terms Mentor and Mentorship.  The Church uses the terms Disciple and Discipleship.  I hear folks in the Church getting their panties in a wad when they hear the words Mentor or Mentorship being used in the context of Christianity.  This really saddens me also.

I will write a handful of posts about Mentoring and Discipling.  I am no expert at it and I do not make any claims to that.  I have been doing this for a little while now and have seen some really great things from it, both in the Navy and in the Church.  I have also made some mistakes that have been absolutely devastating to me and those around me… I will write about those too.

A lot of the concepts and ideas that I will talk about apply to more than one facet of our lives.  Most of these things can be used in our workplaces as well as in our homes and in our places of ministry or service.  If you do not share the spiritual beliefs that I hold, please do not dismiss my opinions regarding mentorship and influential leadership.  That said…

 

What is Mentorship?

To best grasp this concept, lets look at where we get the word “Mentor.”  I will tell this story in a super boiled down version…

In Homer’s Odyssey, King Odysseus is leaving for war.  He has a son who will one day replace him as king, but his son is still young and needs to be taught, trained, honed into being kingship material.  Odysseus goes to a trusted friend of his and asks him to raise his son as though his son belonged to him.  As far as I can tell, Odysseus trusted that his son would be a wise king, with the knowledge and the character to reign well, because he would have been raised by his friend who possessed these desired leadership traits and characteristics.  Odysseus must have hoped that, when he returned from his war, that his son would sound and act like his friend, value what his friend valued, be passionate about the things his friend was passionate for, essentially being a “chip off the old block” with his friend being the block off of which the son would be “chipped.”  This friend’s name was Mentor.

Let that sink in for a minute if you have never heard the story before.  Mentor…  a character in a story in which his primary role was to raise another man’s son so that the son could one day lead well.  Mentor… a trusted man who was tasked with replicating his character, his ethos, his very essence in a boy so that the boy would one day be able to lead his people.  Mentor… a man who was chosen to model the values of a kingdom and led his life in a deliberate manor to ensure these values were understood and received.

I really do not understand why some church folk get upset when they hear the word Mentor when talking about one more seasoned and mature Christian helping to develop a less mature Christian… seems like a pretty fitting title to me.

The role of the Mentor is to replicate his life, or an aspect of his life, in somebody else.

In the posts to follow I hope to answer questions like, What is a disciple… What is Discipleship?  Why is mentoring/discipling important?  How to pick a mentor… What does a discipling relationship look like?

Have you ever been mentored or discipled?  How did that relationship start?  Did you know you were being developed for a purpose in the beginning?  Have you ever discipled anybody else?

If you have questions about this topic or simply want my perspective on some of the things that go along with Mentorship and Discipleship, feel free to ask them in the comments.  I will either answer them in the comments or incorporate those things in the posts to follow.

Thanks!

 

 

Saturday Morning Adventure Club

Like the little bubbles on the bottom of a pot of water getting bigger and bigger until a full, rolling boil is present, so was the excitement washing over me.  I could hardly sleep the night before and I was finally setting out.

I know that the hands of the clock are ever moving and that there is nothing I can do to push back against them.  One of my favorite admonishments from the Bible is found in Ephesians 5.  When I spend some alone time meditating on this passage, I can almost hear Paul saying, “Mike, the days are evil, the clock ticks life away so make every moment count.”

I also know that there is a great demand upon my time (a major reason why this blog has fallen a bit to the wayside… I’m sorry y’all).  I recognize that my kids are spending a lot less time with me than they were in Washington and that, if I plan on finishing well at this school, I must put in some long hours.

I decided to guard my weekends in order to nourish the fragile relationships I have with my kids.  Most notably with my older two.  I want my kids to feel like they are a part of something that I am a part of, not just tagging along.  I want them to feel like they are wanted, chosen, sought after… like they belong.

I have belonged to some really amazing groups during my life and, though they are drastically different, they did have some things in common.  They were exclusive (some more than others), I had to do something to be a part of it (some more than others), I had to want to be there, there was a designated purpose, and it usually cost me something.  When I did the things required to be a part of these groups and demonstrated a desire to commit to their mission, helping to fulfill their purpose, I felt as though I mattered and that I belonged to the team.  This is what I want my kids to feel like when they are with me and each other on an adventure.

So I started a club.  I called it the Saturday Morning Adventure Club.  Before I went to work on Friday morning, I wrote out 8 questions on the board for the kids to answer.  I had them write down their name and birthday.  They had to list their skills.  They had to tell me what made a good adventure good and a bad adventure bad.  They had to answer the question “How awesome is your dad?”  They had to look up in a dictionary (or use other resources, like their mama) to find out what the words Koinonia and Outdoors mean, then they had to draw a picture of what they think when they hear these words.

When I got home, I called each of them into my “office” one at a time for an interview.  We went over their applications in detail.  One applicant does not care about adventure, but put on the application that they wanted to join the club because they liked the leader and wanted to be a part of whatever club he was leading.  This one’s artwork was creative and well proportioned.

You’re in.

Applicant 2 decided to answer the questions in whatever random order he so desired.  I could not follow his answers to save my life.  I gave him double points during the interview for demonstrating his ability to “draw outside of the lines.”  I admired the “I’ll answer your silly questions in my own silly way” spirit.  Though his ability to follow directions was on the low side, he listed his skills in the following order… I can run fast.   I’ll take it.

You’re in.

I made a simple little emblem for our team and am in the process of getting hats made for us.  Team emblem on the front, nickname on the back.  These kids do not come with me on Saturday mornings because they have to, or because it is just what we do, but because the team is going, and they are a part of the team.  They have to get the gear together before the trips and they carry more than their fair share of the cleanup after the trip.

And I have started building another team!

Every Saturday morning we depart from our Team Headquarters (the garage) No Later Than 0800 (though the target departure time is 0645) and we go paddling.

That first trip was like walking on lightning for me.  I love getting up early, in the calm stillness of the morning, drinking my coffee and restoring my soul before breakfast.  I woke the kids up an they got the requisite gear together for the day as I double checked the straps on the canoe (loaded the night before) and made final checks of the weather.  Breakfast was done, gear was inspected, packed, and loaded, and the kids were strapped in.  We were off.

1 hour later I had unloaded the canoe onto the beach, put the gear bags in the bottom of the boat, and left my teammates on the shore watching the gear as I drove back to a suitable parking area.  As I walked back to the rally point my mind raced.  Are we ready?  Is this actually going to be a good thing?  What if we flip the boat or get rained on?  Will my teammates, my kids, want to abandon the cause?

With great apprehension and a touch of icy fear, I pushed the canoe out into the channel…

TH SMAC

And for the next 4 hours, Team Hitefield’s Saturday Morning Adventure Club chased horse shoe crabs and herons, watched striped bass and egrets, paddled like mad and drifted inconsolably in the wind.

I have not been in a long time as proud as I am now to be a member of a team.

So if y’all are ever up in the stillness of the morning on a Saturday before the world starts humming, go for a walk, take a kid with you (if there is one available), and post comments about your adventure!

 

Define Integrity

I think the standard definition I get for integrity when I ask folks what it means is, “Doing the right thing when nobody is looking.”

While I agree that doing the right thing when nobody is looking is a very good thing, a noble thing, an appropriate thing, a thing that needs to be done more often, I have a hard time standing on that definition.

This may sound bad, but I actually have a hard time with integrity.

I hear the phrase, “Man of integrity” often and I am left wondering what, precisely, is being said of this man.

For all the side conversations and implications that come with my different ideas about integrity, I think it is fair to say that integrity is primarily a qualification of a person and their character based upon their actions.  But even this thought troubles me a little bit.  It means that the label of integrity is granted by an observer to the actions of a particular person.  Who defines what is “right” in a particular moment?  How do we know that the “right” action was “right” enough?  Could there have been a better action?  If the action was just good enough and not the best decision for the given moment, then does that mean that the person’s integrity is weak?

I got to thinking about a phrase I hear often in the Navy… Hull Integrity…

Hull…   Integrity…

What does that mean?

It means that the hull, the skin of the ship, is completely intact, there are no holes or cracks that were not planned in the hull, and that the hull is still strong enough and sound enough to fulfil the specific role for which it was designed.

What if that is the definition of integrity?

What if integrity means to act in manner that is completely congruent with who we are?

Integrity would no longer be a subjective judgement based on the actions of an individual, but an objective affirmation that an individual is in fact what/who they say they are.  A lack of integrity would no longer mean that somebody did something that was not right, but that somebody has acted in a manner that is not in accordance with their identity.

I understand that there are troubles with this definition too.  It means that the observers to the situation must understand the identity and the purpose of the person they are observing.  It means that the person being observed has to understand their identity.

I think that integrity and identity go hand in hand.

If a thief steals, have they violated their integrity?  I say no.  They have not violated their integrity at all, they have merely acted in accordance with the designated purpose which was determined by their identity.  I am not saying that it is okay to steal.

I think if this is the crux of integrity then the solution for “integrity violators” is not behavior reform, but identity and purpose development.

When a person has done something that is out of line with what is expected then we need to evaluate the expectations placed upon them, their identity, and then the action.  If a person has been put into a position which is not appropriate for them, then the organization that put them there has set this person, as well as themselves, up for failure.  If the person is in an appropriate position for them, but acts out of line with what is expected, then they need to be counselled regarding their understanding of who they are and how they fit in then grand scheme of things.  There must still be some kind of repercussion for the wrong which has been done, but the repercussion is not the solution or the correction.

I had a Senior Chief one time who had a leadership style that seemed to drift between psychotic and brutal depending on which way the wind was blowing.  One of his favorite phrases was, “Hold a man accountable for his actions, then get that man the help that he needs.”

I am now very careful about the labels I place on somebody.  If I have a junior sailor who shows up to work late several times in a week, has a uniform that looks like a bag of doorknobs, seems to be trying to shave with a polished rock, I am careful to not call him a dirt-bag.  I might call him lazy, or nasty, or weak, but I don’t call him a dirt-bag, a worthless sailor, a cancer to the team.  I used to, I don’t any more.  If I give him one of these labels and he feels as though he will not ever please me or the Navy at large, then what stops him from developing a defeated, “it is what it is,” kind of attitude about it and then internally resigning to be a dirt-bag?  Nothing stops him from doing that.  If I punish his lateness, his nasty uniform, and his hairy face, then spend my time later talking about what it means to be a servant of the American people, about personal sacrifice and honor, and about who he is as a man and a sailor, then I can hopefully set him on a course to root out the weakness that he brought to the table.

If I punish a thief for being a thief, I should not be surprised when he steals later that week.  I told him he was a thief and he agreed with me.  If instead of punishing a thief for being a thief, I punish a man for stealing and then connect with him as a man, then there is a chance I have helped him build a bridge to move past his current behavior.

Integrity…  Easy for me to understand on the surface.  Difficult for me to understand the full reaches of the topic.

If it is doing the right thing when nobody is looking, then it is a description of compliance to rules which have been placed upon the individual.  If it is acting in line with identity, then it is a purposeful act of affirming the maturity and stature of the individual in their identity.

Thoughts?

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