Chapter Seven: Power; 31 July
If we claim to be without sin,
we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:8
|A Successful Mis-fire: Failing Upward With Second Chances|
Nobody got hurt. This is only because Your Business Professor was very, very lucky. Almost as lucky as the soldier(s) who didn’t die.
Yes, I had screwed up again. I was the firing range officer-in-charge in a live fire exercise. After millions of tax-payer dollars in munitions were squeezed-off down range, the troops were breaking the weapons down and packing them up.
Tens of thousands of rounds were loaded into weapons and expended. All of them except one.
One 50 caliper round was left chambered, loaded, ready to fire. The machine-gun was transported back to the armory then disassembled for storage. There, That One Round was found.
I got a career-ending letter of reprimand signed by my battalion commander. But the letter was never made public. Until now.
Bill Bennett, the former secretary of Education under president Ronald Reagan, wrote in The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals,
James Madison famously wrote that men are not angels, and this insight must provide context for this discussion: saintly perfection is not a prerequisite for political leadership.
Human nature is fallen. And individuals ought to be judged on the totality of their acts. In most instances, normal human frailties and personal failure should main a genuinely private matter. Nor should they necessarily cost a person his political career.
Dr. Bennett, the teacher, reminds us to grade a man on the totality of his life and actions. We should not condemn a person for a mistake or for being all too human. Martin Luther King cheated on his wife; Ulysses Grant drank; Abraham Lincoln did not go to his father’s funeral. Bill Bennett gambled.
We all were sinners; we all are sinners. We do not stop sinning because we are Christians with the assurance of eternal salvation. Anticipating perfection on the other side of eternity does not mean that we will be without sin or error on this side. As Oscar Wilde said, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”
My letter of reprimand was not filed in my permanent record. As was the custom in my unit, a career ending citation was placed in a holding bin for a year. If the officer committed no additional show-stopping errors, then the letter was destroyed. I committed no major offenses –for the next year.
My offense was forgiven. The letter disappeared. My performance was weighted on a balance and found satisfactory (barely, I would guess).
I would go on to make other mistakes later–but I learned the life-threatening dangers on the lack of judgment and managerial control. Yes, not every screw-up is a sin (but it is sometimes hard to tell the difference).
I would, as technology guru Esther Dyson says, “always make new mistakes.” Because no one stops sinning.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8