Let me tell you about two Navy men.
Mike Boorda was a scrapper. He joined the Navy in 1956 at age 16, at the bottom of the ranks. Over the next forty years, he advanced to become a decorated admiral and Chief of Naval Operations; about like an auto plant janitor winding up as president of General Motors.
But an intrepid reporter heard there might be a question about Mike Boordas medals. Newsweek decided to investigate. Within hours, Jeremy Michael Boorda lay dead in his yard, with a .38 caliber hole in his chest. Apparently, he couldnt face the prospect of his honorand the Navysbeing impugned.
Three weeks before his death, discussing what he called one-on-one leadership, Boorda said, every single person in the Navy should have one leader they can look to and say that person is accountable and responsible for me Can the sailor commit suicide and not have the leader know he or she was in distress? No.
Who was accountable and responsible for the anguish in Mike Boordas soul? Why was it preferable to die rather than bring shame to his career and his beloved Navy?
Then theres Jeff Gantar. You've probably never heard of him. Jeff never commanded a ship; never served in a war, never received his commission. Jeff was a midshipman at the Naval Academy who got involved in the infamous cheating scandal of 1992. Two years later, because Jeff decided to face his demons and tell the truth, he was expelled from Annapolis, crushing his lifelong dream of a Navy career.
But Jeffs story ends differently than Admiral Boordas. Instead of snuffing his life in despair, Jeff Gantar is today a published author, a professional engineer, and a shining example of the redemptive power of truth-telling.
Someone, it turns out, was accountable and responsible for Jeff Gantar. Dr. Tom Patten, Abilene Christian University psychology professor, then Director of the Academys Midshipmen's Counseling Center, helped Jeff deal with the ghosts of his past. He spoke a word of grace to a young man who had made a serious mistake and helped Jeff overcome his guilt, rather than be annihilated by it.
We all need grace. You have failed yourself and others before and you will do it againguaranteed. How will you respond? You could ignore your mistakes, assume youre a pretty good sort, and be stuck forever in mediocrity. You could punish yourself, driving mercilessly toward a perfection you can never achievedestroying yourself in the process. Or you could live by grace; recognizing your failure for the tragedy it is, but remembering youll have another chance to do the right thing. You could learn to accept love you dont deserve, draw strength from it, and go try again.
Admiral Boorda would be alive today if he had been able to grant grace to himself. Jeff Gantars life was saved because a wise mentor extended it to him. Will you speak a word of grace to someone today?
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HEARTLIGHT(sm) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
Article copyright © 1996, Thom Lemmons. Used by permission.
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