“We were supposed to fight for Willie”
The court-martial is adjourned.
“What does that mean?”
The sentence has been delivered.
“What did we do wrong?”
But the accused just doesn’t understand. He looks around, lost and terrified.
“We did nothing wrong!”
According to the tradition he had received, he was exactly right. They hadn’t done anything wrong. Their fellow Marine wasn’t measuring up, and they made sure he understood that there were consequences for failure to perform. That’s what you do.
That’s what we did at West Point. We didn’t call it a “Code Red,” but fear was a prime motivator for achievement during my plebe year. Maybe you’d get a Mack Truck if you were late to formation or double-dropped a firstie’s room. Or a GI Shower for failures of hygiene. The Blanket Party was a popular choice for blowing off PT, failing a Fitness Test.
In a world where performance is what matters, there’s no meaningful difference between laziness, sickness, and misunderstanding. There’s only poor performance, and poor performance reflects… poorly… on your unit. How do you deal with poor performance?
A good leader investigates the situation and, if a problem truly exists, finds a course of action that will effectively train and equip their fellow servant to perform their mission.
Most people (for let’s be fair – good leaders are few and far between) will attack, insult, launch accusations of disloyalty to the team, to the leader, to the family, to the brand. A poor leader will do everything to tear their fellow servant apart, in the hopes that the displeasing behavior will be torn away before their usefulness as a servant is destroyed.
It happens in the church, too. If someone doesn’t measure up according to the three key metrics of modern church life (Attendance, Abstinence, or Altruism), what’s the typical response? Is it compassionate relationship, where we get to know what’s really going on? Do we examine ourselves, to see if the standards we demand actually fit the mission we claim to serve? Or do we fire off dirty looks, harsh letters, vindictive gossip, and overt ostracism – and if it drives them away from the church, well, that’s tough love!
Is it the only thing we know? Nope. Maybe it is in other contexts, but not in the church. Good leadership, while uncommon, is not extinct. That’s just no excuse. At some level, good leadership has been modeled for them – if nowhere else, in the life of Jesus Christ.
So what happens to create such cruel and spiritually devastating situations?
Enough people survive poor leadership that the short-term gains of the easy way are believed to outweigh the long-term strength of the best way. What the poor leader hasn’t internalized, hasn’t even considered, is the mission – the purpose for their very existence – and how that mission must inform every aspect of what they do – including training and interaction with fellow servants. He’ll scream and wail, “We did nothing wrong!” until their battle buddy lays the awful truth (that he himself has only just realized) before them…
“Yeah, we did. We were supposed to fight for the people who couldn’t fight for themselves. We were supposed to fight for Willie.”
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! (Gal 5:14-15, NET)
in HIS love,