Tag Archives: success

Success & Happiness


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

W.P. Kinsella, who wrote the novel Shoeless Joe which became the classic film, Field of Dreams wrote, “Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get.” 

Yesterday was  an interesting day, a day about winning, losing and finding happiness even when the system says that you should be disappointed. I found out today on Facebook of all places that I was not selected for promotion to Captain in the Navy Chaplain Corps. I think about five years ago I would have been disappointed, maybe even crushed; but today I’m not. I’m actually thankful. I was afraid that promotion might mean more separation from Judy, as the last time I was promoted I was yanked out of my assignment and given what were basically no-notice, take them or leave them orders that entailed a family separation. That was difficult on both of us, the tour was good, but career progression wise it did nothing for me as a back-to-back tour in Navy Medicine. Followed by my current tour teaching at the Joint Forces Staff College, I knew that having no operational assignments in the past seven years that I would most likely not make Captain. So I began to re-prioritize my life. Family, friends, and stability matter more than another promotion. 

I have been successful and I am happy. I have served over thirty-five years in the military evenly split between the Army and Navy. I left the Army Reserve as a Major in 1999 and went back on active duty in the Navy, taking a reduction in rank to do so. I have been blessed to serve all over the world, including tours in Europe, the Far East and combat the Middle East. When I retire at the end of my last tour I will have spent nearly thirty-nine years serving this country, and to me, finishing well matters and helping young men and women succeed is more important than getting promoted. 

Judy is relieved, as this means stability for my last years in the Navy, and for that I am happy. Right now I get to teach, research and write. My last assignment will be managing a chapel program and hopefully being able to continue teaching. No matter what I will continue writing and doing research.

I can live with that as the rest of my life is not defined by making Captain. Sadly I have known quite a few people who end up bitter because they didn’t get promoted, some with good reason, and likewise I have known some people that when they reach high rank or high office are consumed by a lust for power and control. When it happens to ministers, as it does all too often, and not just in the military; it is tragic. They often not only destroy themselves, but those around them; their families, their subordinates, and those that depend on them for spiritual care. 

I called to congratulate a good friend who was selected for promotion on this board after being passed over for promotion before. His attitude was much like mine, he knows that the promotion will also bring added burdens, as his wife is very sick, and has been chronically ill for years. I am happy for him as well as some others that I know who were selected. At the same time, as much as it would have been something to be proud of, I am glad that I was not promoted, it was a relief. Judy has gone through too much in supporting my career. 

I received so many wonderful thoughts from friends last night, and that was a blessing. I have no cause for bitterness or to think that I was cheated, the fact it that not everyone gets promoted, and my career has been amazing and I still get to serve for a while longer. Not everybody gets that. As Lou Gerhig said; “today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” 

I was going to write about the results of yesterday’s primararies, but what can I really say that a thousand other pundits haven’t all ready said, except maybe; know when to drop out. 

Have a great day. 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Military, philosophy, US Navy

Epiphanies: PTSD, Life, Leadership, Lawrence of Arabia and the Gospel

I have been going through a process lately in preparation for some treatment of my chronic insomnia, nightmares and other PTSD symptoms which has caused me to have to be very deliberate and reflective in examining the various parts of the often tattered tapestry of my life.

Part of this has involved my experiences in military, religious and civilian institutional settings and how those experiences have helped shaped me as a Priest as well as a Naval Officer. Today was one of those days where a convergence of thoughts came together in a number of encounters juxtaposed with some reading of B.H. Liddell Hart’s book about T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia.

While I was waiting for my doctor late this afternoon I was reading the book on my Kindle and as he came into the waiting room I had just finished marking this passage.

“The rare man who attains wisdom is, by the very clearness of his sight, a better guide in solving practical problems than those, more commonly the leaders of men, whose eyes are misted and minds warped by ambition for success….”

Somehow this little passage in a book that I am about halfway through reading and which I have already made numerous other annotations really struck me as profound. It encapsulated close to 20 years of experience as a military chaplain and over 30 years in the military as well as civilian professional work, and it struck me especially in regard to my experiences both in Iraq and after my return. Before, during and after my time in Iraq I had come to see Lawrence as a kindred spirit, someone that thought outside the box and went to places that no one else wanted to go. My job in Iraq to me to those places that few Americans and almost no other chaplains went or had the chance to experience with Iraqi Arabs and the Bedouin.

Those that read my posts regularly know that the impetus for my writing came about during my time in Iraq around Christmas of 2007 in the western Iraqi Al Anbar Province while on the Syrian border. At that time I wrote a short article for my former denomination’s website and a little more than a year after my return to the United States  I began this site I modified that article and published it here under the title of God in the Empty Places. It was a catharsis for me because I going though a tremendously ark period of my life where I had for all practical purposes become an Agnostic struggling to believe in God again. It was published a couple of months after I walked out of a church on Christmas Eve 2008 and walked an hour home in the dark and cold of that night.

During the interregnum of returning from Iraq and now I experienced a number of additional traumatic life events, both personal and professional. Following my assignment to my current post where I supervise a number of chaplains, pastoral counselors and support personnel I made it my goal in life not to let things that happened to me at the hands of some senior chaplains happen to others, especially those struggling with life, health, spiritual or emotional issues.

I have been asked by a number of people in the past couple of weeks, how in light of things that could leave me embittered and cynical could I embody grace to others. I admit that I still hurt and have issues of anger and some bitterness towards some people who I thought used me and betrayed me both in my old denomination as well as some senior chaplains. That is a given, though I try to live in a state of forgiveness toward them there are times that I do get upset the things that happened during that time. It is something that I deal with and I don’t always do well. I have my bad moments in which that grace doesn’t come out well,  but my path to healing has involved a conscious effort to see the good in people and to embody something different than I experienced.

A couple of people made the comment as we discussed these experiences as well as their own that “you do the Gospel it by living it.” I think that is what Jesus did, he taught yes and he did miracles, but the biggest miracles were those that he did when he rocked the religious-political establishment of his day by hanging out and caring for the people it despised. In fact Jesus surmised the entire law in two commandments, love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. The prophet Malachi noted what God required “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Those two passages have been tremendously important as faith returned after what I refer to as Padre Steve’s Christmas Miracle faith began to return in a way that I never expected.

So the past few weeks have served as an epiphany to me about wisdom can evade leaders whose “eyes are misted and minds warped by ambition for success…” My eyes are opening in more ways to the bigness of God, the grace of God, the love of God and the mercy of God. My ambition is simply to care for the people that God allows me to care for and show that grace, love and mercy to those who some would attempt to destroy because they themselves have become prisoners of the institutions and their offices and ambitions.  I have resolved in daily life to do all I can to avoid becoming a prisoner of my office or ambitions and simply to be real. One of the senior leaders of the hospital that I work noted that he saw me as not just as the senior chaplain but a “real person.” I can live with that.

Well that is enough for tonight.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, History, iraq,afghanistan, Tour in Iraq