If you’ve ever been around a group of people who challenge you, hold you accountable to something bigger than yourself, and expect you to become better, then you know that’s a special community to be a part of. Athletes feel this way when they’re part of a team. Certain fitness communities create this environment. Some Churches do an incredible job with this. This can also occur in some business cultures where the leadership is strong. I think I already knew this, but after my conversation with my buddy, I know this happens in the military as well. The aforementioned instances (outside of the military) are the experiences in my life where I’ve been part of communities where growth was expected, and if you chose to not participate, then you probably opted out of that circle of people because they made you feel uncomfortable, or more likely, convicted. The discomfort that people experience when they are exposed to an “iron sharpening iron” type of culture is exactly what you’re supposed to feel. It’s supposed to put you in a position to make a choice with the convicting emotions that are battling within you. Do I make the choice to change and go through this tough road of change, or do I let fear influence my decision to stay the same, or get worse?
It would be hard to argue that the types of communities that help us grow and become more are bad in any way, but in today’s world, even really good things are under attack. There appears to be a high priority on feelings rather than ideals and an even higher priority placed on being offended and being loud about those reasons. In fact, just typing that last sentence explains a lot of what is happening in our world today. The outrage and complacency could easily be traced back to a mismanaged conviction. Perhaps no one has ever taught these people that their emotions shouldn’t override all one’s decisions? Perhaps this is a result of helicopter parenting? Perhaps a result of everyone getting a trophy? Or maybe, just maybe, more people need to be exposed to these types of sharpening environments. If you’re reading this and haven’t been exposed to this type of environment, or it’s been years, go out of your way to find them. You’ll probably be ridiculed in the process, but go find them anyways.
As humans, we are all subjected to influence of those around us. We all change and that’s one of the constants in life; however, all change is not good change; in fact, much of it isn’t good change at all. When we surround ourselves with people who are hard-working, positive, and think big, guess what happens to us? We also gravitate towards those attitudes and actions. On the flip side, when we surround ourselves with those who just slide by, have a pessimistic and cynical attitude, and talk trash behind people’s back, guess what happens to us? We tend to follow suit.
What I’ve learned is that while the above is common knowledge to many, it’s also foreign to A LOT OF PEOPLE. I know because I’ve had these conversations with many people over the years. When I talk about surrounding themselves with people who think differently than who they currently hang around, they look at me like I have a 3rd eye. When I hand them a book to read, they laugh and say, “I’m not a reader.” These proposed changes work every single time for the person willing to change. I’ve never not witnessed it help bring about positive change in another person’s life. But, I’ve also witnessed the opposite. Where people put down the books, had a change of scenery with who they were hanging around, and they quickly take several steps back in their leadership journey.
There’s a quote that I’m sure you’ve read before that goes like:
There’s only two defining voices have ever offered to die for you. Jesus Christ and the American soldier. One died for your soul. The other died for your freedom.
As I’ve grown and matured, so has my admiration and appreciation for those in the armed forces that serve and protect our freedoms. I recently had the privilege to meet up for breakfast with a close high school friend of mine. It had been something like 16 years since we’ve last seen each other, drunk at a bar of course, but we hit it off just like old times. Truth is, we didn’t have the time to barely scratch the surface of all the things we have to catch up on in our lives, but what was quite apparent is how we’ve both placed a high priority on personal growth, leadership development, and faith in Christ at the center of our lives.
One of the most interesting things my buddy had to say about reacclimating to civilian life was the lack of hard working, “get it done”, and camaraderic attitudes in civilian life. What he found was an astonishing amount of people who were just sliding by. Those who didn’t want to “rock the boat” and were perfectly fine punching in, punching out, and going home to plop on the couch with a 6er. I say the word “astonishing” because that’s how my buddy described it. He had spent so many years around such a great brotherhood and sisterhood of people that how people could be so lackadaisical was literally astonishing to him at first. Next, he became aware just how prevalent this contagion of complacency was in our country. To quote him as accurately as I can from him sharing his perspective of civilians, he said, “Wow, you people (complacent humans) are everywhere!”
Think about that for a second. Better yet, let that marinate on you all day today. Take inventory of the words that come out of your mouth today. Take inventory of your work habits. Take inventory of your efforts in bettering yourself. Take inventory of those you surround yourself with. How are they talking? How are they acting? Take inventory of what you look at while you’re on your phone or computer. Take inventory of what music you listen to. Take inventory of what you choose to read.
Then, be honest with yourself. Have you been infected by the disease of complacency?