Are you afraid to rock the boat?

While serving as a United States Marine (1997-2001), I read the following article “Are you afraid to rock the boat?” by Major General Stanley. In the article, the Major General addresses the importance of self-respect and courage to face those problems and injustice. His message had a powerful effect on me as an NCO and person, since I strongly felt it was my duty to look out for the welfare of the junior Marines in my unit. Stanley’s words strengthened my conviction! I learned early on that respect is something that is earned, and should never be demanded. And when I took care of my Marines, they in-turn looked out for my best interests: in other words loyalty.

I kept the article and recently reread it when I was confronted with situation where my employer was circumventing the law to avoid granting employee benefits. Actually the situation has yet to be resolved, but the important thing is that I learned a great deal about how people react to breach of contract and the effect on ones psychological contract. We spent over a year trying to resolve the problems informally through our supervisor. Unfortunately he was unable to fix the problem, so along with my colleagues, we drafted an 11 page grievance which outlined our employers infractions and who we held responsible and possible remedies.

Our team has been very angry towards our organization. What it comes down to is the management’s clear lack of respect towards its employees. What I witnessed was our teams negativity spilling over into their personal lives.

I have seen many people in similar situations as the one we found ourselves in. Usually people just leave; its the easiest solution. But I believe that when one walks away from an unjust situation, it is the same as surrendering to a hostile enemy. There is a lot to be gained from confronting those who violate the rules to your detriment: your own pride and dignity. No one can take that away from you, but yourself!

Semper Fi!

Are you afraid to rock the boat?

By Major General C. L. Stanley

The irony of all ironies: you have a problem, but you’re afraid to talk about it because:

(a) you’re afraid of being labeled a trouble-maker,
(b) you think you might not be as popular as you are now if you step forward,
(c) you don’t think talking about it will solve the problem, or
(d) you don’t want to rock the boat.

Any one of the above excuses pretty much captures the paralyzing effects of a fear that unfortunately runs rampant in too many work and home environments. Regrettably, I’ve seen this malaise in our beloved Corps. Marines who wouldn’t hesitate to put their lives on the line to accomplish the mission, but who compromise themselves, and others, because they are afraid to do something as simple as request mast or report another Marine who has grievously violated our Core Values.

Some of us hesitate to face life’s daily challenges while others take them in stride. A book written for children, but with lessons for adult’s, illustrates my point with poignant clarity. In “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss, the author starts out by writing, “Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to great places! You’re off and away!” He tells us that we have choices and all the brainpower we’ll ever need to face life’s challenges head-on. He offers advice in rhyme for weathering fear, adversity and confusion, while emphasizing that despite hardships, you can be in charge of your own life.

Sooner or later, every one of us will get into trouble or make a mistake. Sometimes things just won’t go our way. We can be soaring high one minute, but find ourselves in a mess the next. But we still have a choice. We can choose to do nothing about our misfortunes, or we can face up to our problems, whatever they are. Will we succeed?

Well, according to Dr. Seuss, we’re “98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed!”

Please forgive my paraphrasing of Dr. Seuss’ book, but its message is simple and important for us all: there are no “100 percent” guarantees in life. So if we make mistakes, take the wrong road in life, or things just don’t go our way, it’s important to remember that we choose how we will react to the situation.

Whether we admit it or not, all of us need to be loved. We may not use such terminology in our daily vernacular, but this “need to be loved” seems to motivate us to do some really significant things in life. Our need to be accepted and liked is important. It’s critical to our survival. This might be a blinding flash of the obvious, but if you understand this truism about human nature, you will understand and cope better with others and thus the challenges that face us everyday in this less than perfect world we live in. More importantly, we’ll be less inclined to fear what some might “try” to do to us when exercising our God-given right to speak out. We can challenge the system and demand its perfection. We can, and should, demand that our democracy work. Will things always come out our way? No! While the Constitution guarantees the pursuit of happiness, it’s not a guarantee to happiness.

I must confess to having some of the same fears other people have. However, I refuse to let those fears consume me. I have a choice. A choice not based on rank, but based on how I choose to live my life. I choose to work on my own personal challenges and seek self-improvement. But I also ‘look outside’ and choose to speak out against injustice and intolerance. I choose not to ignore wrong doings, no matter how minor. I choose to use my eyes and the rest of the senses I have been given in order to perceive the world I live in.

My perception is tempered not from a perspective that is self-serving, but one deeply rooted in my faith in God. Thus, what is right is not based on what is right in my own eyes, but what is right in God’s eyes (Judges 21:25). The words “So Help Me God” are spoken with conviction by me everyday, despite my own admitted personal imperfections.

My point is that I strongly encourage you to have the strength of your convictions to rock the boat in your own lives. There’s nothing to fear. Don’t give anybody the opportunity to control your destiny… the kind of control that no person should have over another. Remember, the pecking order that positions military leaders, bosses, and supervisors over us is actually organized to promote teamwork and efficiency.

They’re in those positions to help us become more productive. They’re not supposed to be omnipotent powers that dictate our thinking, spirit and free will.

Keep in mind that others are dealing with their own faults. Be tolerant. Seek to understand them. But when you need to, don’t be afraid to rock the boat! I’m not. Why should I be? I put my trust in
God, not man. No man, no matter what earthly rank, will take God’s place when it comes to doing what is right. So, if I want to request mast, I will. If I want to file a grievance, I will. If I want to fix
what is broken, I will. Not only am I not afraid to rock the boat, I’ll turn the boat over in order for truth and justice to prevail.

Posted 10/04/2000 11:29:30 AM
29 Palms – Marine Corps News


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