Monday, February 20, 2017

The Selection – Integrity

I recently watched an episode of the History Channel's newest show, “The Selection” entitled “Humility”.  If you’ve not seen the show, it’s a reality-based TV show where 30 candidates volunteer to enter into a selection process very similar to that of military special operations recruits…(think, Navy Seals, Green Berets, Army Rangers, etc).  I’ve watch each and every episode; sometimes cringing at the difficult tasks that each candidate is put through.  Many of the tasks are physical…many are mental…and all will test the strongest person you could find in body or psyche.  From 30 candidates…they were down to 5 remaining.

Here's a taste of the show; talking with an instructor about "perspective".  Check it out...

The Selection: Bonus - Have Perspective:
In the “Humility” episode, the theme of the exercises they participated in was a focus on ‘integrity’.  They were given a serious of ‘integrity stations’ where they had to perform a variety of physical tasks and do them exactly as expected to perfection, with no mistakes.  Unlike other tasks they had done in the past, this time they were not being watch by the instructors and so in lies the requirement to be honest with themselves and demonstrate integrity when no one is watching.

I like Webster’s definition for kids of the word ‘integrity’: “total honesty and sincerity”.  That’s pretty simple and easy to understand. 

C.S. Lewis put it another way…”Doing the right thing even when no one is watching”. 

Life is fraught with opportunities to put integrity to the test.  The sign at the stoplight might say, “No Right On Red”…and yet people do it anyway.  The boss might have a rule, “Using social media accounts during work time is prohibited”.  And still, people post on Facebook or Snapchat when the door to the office is closed.  And like the picture below, it usually doesn’t take much intelligence to figure out who is doing their part in holding up the log…and who isn’t.

No matter the situation, place or time, human nature proves time and again that a person’s integrity is a really hard thing to maintain.  Social status, wealth or position don’t seem to matter.  We can all cite examples of politicians, celebrities, pastors, teachers, police officers, or just the average ‘Joe’ on the street that can’t seem to maintain their integrity.  Religious affiliation doesn’t seem to matter either…Christian, Jew, Muslim, Bahá’í, Buddist, Hindu, or any other kind of religious order or cult.  They all have those who fail their own integrity station. 

But back to “The Selection” episode I referred to.  What the candidates didn’t know was that there were hidden cameras all along the trail and at each station, watching to see if they did each task correctly to perfection…and didn’t cheat. 
A couple of the instructors put the importance of integrity into perspective in a narrative form for those watching the show…and I really liked how the point was made.  Here’s part of what they said.

“Integrity is a dangerous thing, and I’ll put it in perspective.  Everybody wants to be on top of the mountain, but the problem now days is people want to get dropped off at the top of the hill and look down. You see the way we’re (Special Ops) taught is, you’re gonna claw, you’re gonna scratch, you’re gonna bite, you’re gonna dig, you’re gonna do whatever it takes to get to the top of that mountain.  And if somebody or something says you need to do 50 burpees (type of exercise) that’s just an obstruction in life.  That’s the symbolism.  The exercise means nothing.  You wanna climb up that mountain?   Integrity is key.

You know…imagine what you can get done in this world if nobody cares who gets the credit for it.  If there was any mindset that special operations has, it is selflessness.  It makes you feel liberated.  Anything that you do, as long as it’s for something that you believe in, there’s no effort, there’s no pride, there’s no ego…there’s just straight happiness. 

What’s so important about integrity and why hit it so much?  It’s not just about being in the military, it’s about life.  Why on earth would you want to short change something?  You lead by example.  And the reason why that integrity station is so key and so vital is that myself and every other instructor lead by example. 

Again, integrity can be contagious, and it’s a good thing.  So when we tell people, ‘hey…get from point A to point B and whatever the hell gets in your way, do it’, we want it done.  And what’s the end result by the time we get there?  Perfection.

I wanted to see if the team, even though they had been broken off as individuals would still work as one, right?  Because if everybody does 100 percent then it’s complete. 

People can see through bullshit.  And people can tell when people don’t have integrity.  It’s something that would not, and will not, be tolerated.”

Of course, as you might guess, one candidate failed the integrity test.  I found it humorous that the instructors used the same words I used to say to my girls growing up.  “I want you to tell me what you did wrong…and don’t lie to me, because I already know the answer.”  One candidate almost immediately stood up and admitted that he may have failed to count all the reps for one exercise and thinks he might have missed one or two.  The video proved him right.  Instead of 50…he only did 48. 

There was hell to pay, for sure.  The instructor looked him dead in the eye…read him the riot act…dressed him down…and then paused to stare him in the face.  What he discovered was true remorse for having failed.  The instructor, believing there was no ill intent, allowed the candidate to ‘think about what he’d done’ and stew on it for awhile…fearing he was about to be eliminated from the program. 

After some time the instructor announced the candidate would be allowed to repeat the exercise in its entirety and remain in the program.  But you want to know what was truly inspiring?  After getting chewed out and apologizing to his fellow candidates for failing the team, each of them tried to encourage him…admitting that any one of them might have accidently done the same.  They rallied around him in support.  And then…once it was announced he would have to repeat the exercise, all four of the remaining candidates said, “We’ll do it over with you”.  And they did. 

That, my friend, is comradery, teamwork, friendship, honesty, and integrity.  Those five candidates had been to hell and back…and they did it together.  What started as an individual quest, turned into a group effort.  They no longer did it for selfish reasons.  They did it for someone else.
Jesus Christ put it this way to his disciples: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Integrity – it’s a character trait worth dying for. 

- Papa Chief

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Post-POTUS Election Thoughts

As there has been some confusion concerning my political stance the last few days, I thought it prudent to clarify a few things.  These are MY views and do not necessarily reflect the views of other family members, friends, colleagues, neighbors, pastors, teachers, military members or the ice cream man down the road.  After this...I will shut up and attempt to steer clear of further politics about this election cycle!
First, I have no great love for Donald Trump. I did not vote for him. I think he was a lousy choice for POTUS, and I still think he is/was a pompous narcissist with some nutty ideas. I don't know if he is a Christian as he claims...that's between him and God. But he sure doesn't act like one. He's flipflopped on so many issues over the years that it's hard to keep up. And the outright lies, mockery and mischaracterizations about individuals is appalling. I blame the GOP for not coming together early on to put forward a much better candidate to rally behind. I think we had some decent choices. I pray that he does get some smart people to advise him...and that he listens to them very closely before making a knee jerk decision.

Second, I have no great love for Hillary Clinton. I did not vote for her. I think she would have been a lousy choice for POTUS, and I still think she is/was a politically self-centered and motivated individual who enjoyed the spotlight and position more than the country. I don't know if she is a Christian as she claims...that's between her and God. But she sure doesn't act like it. She's flipflopped on so many issues over the years that I need a hand brake to slow down my spinning head. She's not sorry about the e-mail debacle...she's sorry she got caught. She knew exactly what she was doing and what 'classified' meant. Every person who has ever had a role in government service knows what 'classified' means because it's drilled into your head every year, and you sign paperwork to acknowledge you know. Her role in Benghazi was a travesty of epic proportions. And when it comes to demonizing a womanizer...well, she should know. She lives with one.

Having said that, I understand why people voted for Trump over Hillary. Folks were tired of having liberal progressive ideas being crammed fist-first down their throats by the Obama administration and the DNC. Half the people in this country live in rural areas...not cities. What liberals see as progressive, positive change which brings us up out of the dark ages...much of the rest of the country sees as mind-numbing, negative destruction of the fabric of society as we know it. The majority of 'us' (including myself here) come from places with conservative values and strong patriotic beliefs. We believe in God, Country, Family, working hard for your apple pie and an expectation that charity is for those in need and not designed to be a way of life. We believe there is evil in the world and that putting lipstick on a pig doesn't change the fact that it's still a pig. There are bigots, racists and all other sorts of miscreants among us...but the vast majority of us are not like that and to put us in the same melting pot is just ignorant. For those who live in urban areas I'd recommend getting out of the city and find out more about your fellow Americans elsewhere.

I'm not an urbanite, so I'm not really qualified to describe who 'they' are. But this I do know. There are also liberal minded bigots, racists and all other sorts of miscreants among 'them'...but the vast majority of them are not like that and to put them in the same melting pot is just ignorant. I empathize with your devastation over your loss in the election. I felt the same way when I felt my country going down the tubes 8-years ago when Obama was elected. Much of what he promised to do, he actually did (or tried), and it's my belief our country is worse off for it. I'm sure he's a nice guy with a nice family, but I also believe he has single-handedly done more to destroy unity in our country than we have seen since the 1960's. I look forward to his exit, and wish him well in the next chapter of his life.

In conclusion, I want a sense of unity again in my country. The kind of unity we had right after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, or the radical Islamic terrorist attack of 9/11. I want to see the streets lined again with the red, white and blue. And I want us to revel in our diversity instead of being divided by it. In fact, I long for it. I will pray for our new POTUS just as I did for the one still in office today. I don't have all the answers. I'm sometimes wrong (like who will be the next POTUS), and so are you, my friends. My challenge is for us to quit boasting...and quit crying...and get back to living. Get out there and get on with...
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness!
Papa Chief

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Graduation Dreams - Worry Not

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the high school graduation of my great niece. I was so very proud of her! Graduations are a time of excitement, anticipation and encouragement mixed with a healthy dose of fear. What lies ahead? What will become of my friends? What events will change my life? The unknown is always mysterious.

These are good times, and as I reflected on this class of 2016 my thoughts raced back to my own daughter’s graduations and that of myself and even my siblings and parents. My…how things change from what we thought we would experience.  It’s just a guess, but I suppose most of us do not follow a given path, outlined as we would have imagined at the age of 18.  

My Mom and Dad both graduated high school after World War II.  Dad was from a small town in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas called Witts Springs.  These were country folks…backwoods…poor.  City folks would consider them hillbillies with their simple ways, southern drawls, lack of indoor plumbing, toilets or, in some cases, still washing their clothes on a washboard down at the crick.  As I recall, Dad graduated high school with about 8 or 10 other students, and he was at the top of the class!  

Mom was raised on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River south of St. Louis called Kaskaskia, IL.  It’s a farming community although many residents took odd jobs or worked for Mississippi Lime Company across the bridge in Missouri.  They were also considered mostly poor but, in my estimation, a bit more refined than my Arkansas relatives.  Mom went to school on the island in the early years and then in nearby St. Genevieve, MO where she graduated as valedictorian of her class.  
I graduated high school in Jonesboro, AR…wife Debbie in Farmington, MO.  Due to my 30-year Air Force career, my daughters ended up in various schools far from our roots; my eldest graduating in Niceville, FL and our three youngest from Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal.  

But back to my original thoughts on graduation.  

As I scanned the most recent class of 297 students I couldn’t help but think about their futures.  Some were destined for Ivy League colleges, some for engineering schools, and others for regional or community colleges.  A couple were heading to military academies while others most likely would attend trade schools or never attend college at all. 

There were notable differences in ethnicity….Anglo, African-American, Latino, Pakistani, Indian, Native American, Polynesian, Chinese, etc.  Yet each of them and their families had similar dreams and hopes for their sons and daughters.  

Some will be very successful in business; a few will become wealthy beyond our imagination and perhaps even famous.  There will be doctors, lawyers, politicians, teachers, engineers, business owners and corporate executives.  Some will become full time Mom’s and homemakers, entrepreneurs, or become experts in their chosen fields of automotive or computer trades.  Some may become military leaders (yay!) or politicians (shudder).  The sky is literally the limit!

But there’s the downside to life beyond graduation too.  Some will ultimately become drug addicts and prison inmates.  Others may live a life based on government assistance.  Still others will become homeless. Some will be victims of terrible crime, and a few will likely be dead before reaching the age of 30.  

Life is precious.  Life is unpredictable.  Life is…well…life.  

So, hold on to your dreams…work hard…play hard…but try to be safe.  Find love, laughter, and in all things I pray that you find God along the way.  For when HE is the central core of your goals and dreams, then I’ve discovered most everything else will fall into place, and there is very little to worry about.  


Papa Chief

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Bullies on the Playground of Life

It’s 2016, the year of our Presidential politics and all that goes with it.  We’ve seen it before, but not usually when running for the most powerful position in the free world.  But there, played out on the TV news reports every day…a bully. Remember this guy?  Biff was a bully.  Click on the video clip for a reminder.

Like many people, I was bullied in life.  It was particularly dramatic for me from grades 7-9.  I rode a bus to school most days and used to get taunted, called cruel names, threatened with pain and death, punched, spit on, laughed at, kicked, and on one occasion beaten on the back of the head until it started to bleed and swell…while standing at the front of the bus next to the driver who did absolutely nothing to stop it.  And I did nothing to defend myself either.  It’s not that I was “chicken” or “yellow”, but rather the product of my upbringing.  

I was always taught to “turn the other cheek” and not to fight.  At one point, I even remember being taken to the home of one particular nemesis of mine after a nasty altercation on the bus, and being forced to “apologize” for any wrong I had caused.  It didn’t stop the bullying.  In the bully’s mind, it made me weak.
Eventually, we moved away to another town and, in my way of thinking, a new start.  These kids didn’t know me, so it was a fresh beginning.  I quickly made a few friends at Southland High School in Arbyrd, Missouri, and things seemed to be good…for about a week.  Then it happened.

As I was walking back to the main building on campus between classes, this kid came up behind me and started calling me names, pushing me in the back, laughing at me…the new kid syndrome I suppose.  I glanced back and noticed that not only was he trying to goad me into a confrontation, he was also a head shorter than me.  What!!!!????  Are you kidding me?

I walked up the front steps and entered the building with this knucklehead on my tail.  Unbeknownst to him, years of anger, belittling and head beatings began to boil out of my stomach and into my brain.  I had no intentions of enduring this again…ever!  

Just as he punched me in the back one last time I swung around and, like Billy Jack on the courthouse lawn, grabbed numb-nuts by the wrist, twisted it behind his back, and slammed his face up against the nearest wall.  Then without missing a beat got up next to his ear and in a quiet voice said, “If you ever touch me again…I will kill you.  Do you understand me?”  

“Yes”, came the meek reply.

I never had a problem with bullies in school after that day.  And neither did George McFly.

It was a watershed moment for me.  A small victory in the world of mean people.  And I came to the realization that there is such a thing as “righteous anger”.  Ever since that day, I have never cowered to a bully or failed to intervene when others were being bullied.  Now that doesn’t mean the episodes from bullies stopped, but it does mean I didn’t take it lying down.  And I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way.  Here are just a few:

Bullies Have Low Self-Esteem
By bullying others, they are over compensating for not feeling good about themselves.  Perhaps they were bullied in the past, or perhaps belittled and pushed around at home.  Bullies tend to have bullies for role models, whether it’s a parent, sibling or other authority figure in their life.  They often don’t like themselves…who they are…who they have become.  And they take it out on others to make themselves feel superior.  Bullies are afraid of appearing weak.

Bullies Need Love Too
That may seem like a polar opposite, because we know that a person who bullies does not generally receive love in return (unless it’s fake).  But the fact remains that they have a desire to be loved just like anyone else.  The difference is they’ve not developed the cognitive coping mechanisms or social skills to give or receive the love they so desire.  They tend to not know how to reciprocate well when someone truly shows love to them.  Proverbs 25:21-22 tells us, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” [NIV]

Bullies Always Look for the Weakest Link
Unless they are inebriated, most bullies don’t take on the Hulk Hogan’s of the world.  They look for the vulnerable…someone smaller, weaker, or who may appear to not be a part of the crowd they are associated.  They may verbally or physically abuse women, the elderly or children.  They make fun of anything and everything not associated with strength or mental fortitude.  They thrive on psychological and physical superiority and find it in those below their own peak of greatness.

Bullies Are Everywhere
It doesn’t matter whether you’re old, young, rich, poor, employed, unemployed, religious, or not.  Bullies can be found in every walk of life…even (and especially) in politics.  I retired from the U.S. Air Force at the highest enlisted rank of Chief Master Sergeant (E-9).  And yet, even as a Chief I encountered some of the worst bullies you could imagine among my peers.  In fact, I think the rank itself may have given them some kind of green light to act like total jerks.  After all….almost EVERYone was beneath them in rank and power.  And many of the junior officers above them were intimidated as well.  What a glorious place for a bully to find themselves!  

Bullies Respect Being Pushed Back
As bad as this may sound to my pacifist Christian friends, bullies who get pushback tend to respect that person more.  This works no matter the playing field.  If you don’t hold your ground they see you as weak and vulnerable.  Whether it’s the playground, or politics…bullies respect those who give as well as they take.  But there’s a difference between standing your ground and dishing out revenge.  They are not the same, and revenge is not Christ-like.  Jesus Himself was face to face with the Roman procurator, Pilate, who questioned him at the eleventh hour prior to death.  When he didn’t get a response, his frustration was evident when he said to Jesus, “Do you refuse to speak to me?  Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”  Jesus stood his ground in His response saying, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”  [John 19:9-11, NIV]  Although Pilate finally relented and gave him over for crucifixion instead of risking a riot, Jesus had gained his respect…tried to find a reason to release Him, and finally had a placard placed above His head on the cross that named him “King of the Jews”.  

Some might say, “You violate your Christian principles when you stand up to a bully”.  I beg to differ.  Whether it’s in the workplace, at school, in church or on the playground…by standing up to the bully you gain respect and quite possibly a friend in the long run.  By doing so, and then offering a hand in friendship and demeanor of kindness, you are demonstrating that there is a better way as well as a better outcome for you both.  You may not always win the fight, but you will certainly win the war.  There really can be ‘Peace through Strength’.  I only wish our politicians would heed the call as well.

Papa Chief

Monday, December 21, 2015

Time Marches On...

To say this has been an interesting year would be an understatement.  2015 started off with a bang and ended…well…much different than anticipated.  

I won’t bore you with the details, but after nearly a year of business travel, trying to balance work and home life…my company decided to downsize and eliminate my position.  So here I sit just a few days from Christmas and find myself unemployed for the first time since I joined the US Air Force in 1979.  

Being cognizant of my familial responsibilities, one of the first things I did was file for unemployment insurance.  That’s what you do when you’re unemployed, right?  That’s what BHO and the liberal left encourages us ALL to do, right?  I’ve paid into this program since the age of 16 when I took my first “real” job working the grill at Dairy Queen back in Paragould, Arkansas in 1975.  All told, I’ve contributed to this program for 40-years; a program designed as a bridge to help those in need during difficult times.

After filling out all the required on-line paperwork, and receiving a loadable debit card in the mail, I received notice that my income was “excessive” and I qualified for $0.00 in unemployment insurance.  To say I was disappointed in “the system” is an understatement.  I guess if I’d stuck with Dairy Queen for 40-years flipping hamburgers at minimum wage I would have qualified for assistance. The sad reality is that I would have been better off to put that money into a bank account for 40-years, collecting interest, and then have something to help with the financial crunch now.  Alas…all is not lost.  Perhaps I can turn the debit card they sent me into a Christmas craft project of some sort; maybe an ornament for the tree to remember 2015!

Before I sound all gloom and doom, however, there is some good news to go along with my unexpected situation.  In an attempt to bring our expenses down in line with our expenditures, we made the decision to pay off a large chunk of debt. Thankfully the Lord has blessed us over the years (as always) and we've made a few sound financial decisions along the way. So…no need to send me your left-overs from Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  And unlike some less fortunate folks, I’ve still got my military pension (for now) and we’re going to be OK.  God has blessed us immensely and the future is bright for 2016! And guess what...He is STILL getting His cut right from the top!

Which brings me to the headliners for the New Year…politics, war, and the continued ignorance of our government leadership.  You can read between the lines if you like; but this blog is supposed to be fun…not drudgery.  So the best thing I can recommend in order to keep your sanity is…watch the comedians.  They produce their best fodder during this season of political stupidity.  I have high hopes for SNL this year!

Merry Christmas!  

Papa Chief