The Freak-Out Gene

11 12 2011

A friend of mine got sick a few weeks ago.  In his 50’s, career Army retired.  1st Sergeant.  Ranger Battalion for 6 years.  A remarkable guy and dear to our family.  I work with one of his sons, who is a chip off the old block and a close friend as well.

When my friend got sick, I was concerned.  It was serious enough that it put a retired Army Ranger in the hospital for a few days.  I asked the son about the father and he said that, though worried, his dad didn’t show it.  The son, one of our managers, is pretty good under pressure.  Just like his dad.  When asked by one of our colleagues if he was a mess because of his dad being in the hospital, the son said, “I guess [like dad] I didn’t inherit the freak-out gene.”

Man, I’ve chewed on that one for a few weeks now. Why? Because I’ve not been great under pressure.  Candidly, I’ve been lousy in the clutch.  But the example of my even-keeled Irish buddies has been inspiring and convicting.

As I’ve thought about this, in the midst of a very busy and pressure-filled December, I realized that when stresses mount, one does not have to freak out.  Cave.  Bolt.  Come apart.  But I’m learning that a good deal of my responses to the tensions of life have to do with what I think about and tell myself.  Right thinking and talk are one of the secrets to poise, grace under pressure.

It’s that simple and that powerful.

To be sure, we all face things much larger than we are.  That overwhelm.  That can sink the boat of the ablest mariner.  But there is in our society entirely too much male drama and meltdown.  It’s an effeminate thing that insults the high call  and dignity of manhood.  Great military leaders in combat are as scared as those under them but they mask it and charge ahead.

What to do when stress comes?  Some hints:

  • Hit the gym rather than the bottle for relief.
  • Remind yourself that you are equal to the task and think positively.
  • Take a walk and reflect.  Often stresses overwhelm simply because we don’t take enough time to think through challenges and find creative solutions to meet them.
  • Pray.  And act.  Do both, not one or the other.
  • Ask yourself, “Will this matter in five days, five months or five years?” Perspective gives proper weight to problems.
  • Lead.  God help you, but whatever you do, stand up like a man and walk on.  You will astound people, because leaders are rare.

Postscript:  My friend is recovering nicely and preparing to walk the Appalachian Trail with his wife for their third time.  Incredible.




4 responses

11 12 2011

Wow Christian, thanks for the kind thoughts. I don’t know how to explain it other than reacting to a situation is right and acceptable, but overreacting is not. Many people overreact in situations out or their control or influence. If it is in your control, there are only to options: you make the right decision, or the wrong one, and know ahead of time that you won’t always make the right one the first time.

12 12 2011
Christian Fahey

Welcome Moon! You guys are quite an inspiration!

12 12 2011

Thanks old friend for the concern. I use my father for an example. They put him on hospice early in the summer and did not expect him to make the next month. Now he is looking at the coming year and still fighting like a cornered cat. Off to see the white coat tomorrow for the release back to work. What do you do when hiking and the rain starts? Keep walking, you will dry out soon enough. Stopping will only make you colder and give you time to be miserable while making no forward progress.

12 12 2011
Christian Fahey

No problem, Top. It’s an inspiration. 3 generations worth!

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