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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

No Excuse Sir

In the fall of 1971, Bob McDonald joined the US military Academy at West Point, New York.  Bob learned quickly there are only four acceptable responses when addressed by a superior officer: yes sir, no sir, I don't understand sir, and no excuse sir.  

As Bob explains, imagine I shined my shoes, my trousers pressed, and I go out to formation.  While in line, one of my classmates rushes past and steps in a puddle, splashing mud all over my shoes and trousers.  Then an upperclassman walks by and notices. "McDonald, why are you in formation with mud all over your shoes and trousers?

As a West Point Cadet, I can go through all for possible answers in my head, "yes sir" would restate the obvious, "no sir" would not fit, and "I don't understand sir" would make me look senseless. The only answer I had left was the fourth one, and it's the most powerful one of all, "No excuse Sir."
Even though something happened to me that was outside my control, I wasn't supposed to make any excuses. I was supposed to say, "No excuse, Sir." "It won't happen again." That's how the West Point Cadet takes responsibility and forms character.

Speaking of government agencies, there was a great King in the Old Testament named David. David had his ups and downs as a leader, from slaying the giant Goliath to committing adultery with Bathsheba. However, something peculiar in his narrative connects to the story above. We pick up the story at the end of 2 Samuel after David takes a census (which he was directly told not to do). 
Here is the account recorded, "So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time, and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!” And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking down the people, and said, Behold, it is I who have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let Your hand be against me and against my father’s house.”

And there it is folks.
David was tired of looking out the window of his palace to find someone else to blame; instead he peered into the mirror and took personal responsibility. "No excuses, sir" was the great King's reply. This, I believe represented a real shift in David's life. No longer was he the man that was trying to squirm out of his wrongs, somewhere along the line he had developed broad shoulders of character and quit the blame game. Troubled actor Tom Sizemore had a similar realization too when he said, "I used to blame my problems on other people. But my moment of clarity, if you want to call it that, came when I was looking in the mirror one day and just burst into tears. It wasn't just that I looked bad, it was that I knew my problem was me."

Blame shifting will only get you so far, so quit shifting the monkey and take responsibility for your life. 

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