Thursday, January 31, 2008

Seeing the Imperfect as Perfect

"What ails ya?" a distant relative used to ask us years ago? We were surprised that our frustrations could so easily be observed. Unwelcome events can have their way with us, and unfortunately it usually shows. Items on our daily agenda seem to fall into two columns: those we think profitable, and those we consider a waste of time. The reality is that all of it happens, and remains unchangeable. The only variable is our perspective. We can attempt to resist unwanted pressures and situations, or we can learn to take another view.

Why are there "pricklies", my grandboys ask? They also have it in their genes to struggle mightily with sweet potatos and zucchini. Their grandparents then instinctively rush to the challenge of persuasion. Today it's unsweet potatos. Tomorrow it will be much more unpalatable situations, people and responsibilites. Maturity requires an appreciation for all of the events of our day as intended and useful for our improvement.

It isn't just the courses we must take that prepare us for our future, but our responses to them. Joseph in the Egyptian prison qualified himself for future leadership. It wasn't where he was, but how he accepted it that became his ticket out. Daniel's faith and character sustained him in overwhelming circumstances and carried him to a trusted leadership position. David was a shepherd outcast before he was the king. Contentment regardless of externals is the key. And that is a God-given ability.

The most aggravating classrooms may be providing the exact experience we will need tomorrow. That is not for us to say. Life is what it is. Our role is to accept and to learn from them. Today's classrooms should produce tomorrow's leaders. Character is as important as cirriculum. Contentment comes when we see the daily challenges before us as valuable and perfectly designed for our best.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

You can't change the Army!

Looking ahead as '08 begins, I was reminded of the advice about choosing our battles wisely. Don't waste your energy fighting where you can't win, but focus on where you can affect the most change. That begins with an evaluation of ourselves. Unfortunately, we usually stress over situations completely out of our control. Why is that? Perhaps it is more convenient to blame anything and anybody except ourselves. A friend remarked, "you can't change the Army, but you can change yourself." This was an observation about the frustrations of not being able to change bureaucracies. Our all-too-finite supply of adrenaline should therefore be spent where positive results can be expected, on ourselves.

Looking back, it is easy to see where I spent way too much anxiety over mountains that weren't going to move, people that weren't going to behave the way I expected, and conditions that were never going to be perfect. To continue to expect another result without altering my input would be insanity. If I would spend as much energy improving self, as on being critical and frustrated over situations beyond my control, I would do well.

Could it be that nothing will change until I first learn how to confront the obstacles set before me? The key is not in changing them, but in first changing me. The Army is not my problem. The problem and its solution is me.