How are you doing? Holistically—mind, body, emotions, spirit — are you well? As a Chaplain, one of the most challenging things I deal with is overworked Marines and Sailors. There are men and women all around us who are one bad day away from falling apart. Today, we understand burnout better than we ever have. We continue to embrace unhealthy work habits, propping them up with the misguided idea that the mission will fail unless we put our nose to the grindstone just one more hour. If your mission, your command, your office, or the task you have been given falls apart because you clock in or out at a decent hour, then you have already failed at your job.
I was once witness to the retirement of an individual who, with more than 30 years of service had, by all rights and purposes, a stunningly successful career. Over the course of the ceremony his accomplishments were recognized and his praises sung. Then, his family spoke. His oldest child wrote him a letter and through tears read about how she didn’t know her father, but she was looking forward to finally having him around. Similar thoughts were echoed by the rest of his family. At the conclusion, all applauded. He is, in fact, a failure.
I can hear the crack in the wind as many of you recoil like a bowstring snapping back into place.
“Chaplain! My family is why I work the way I do.”
“My Marines come first!”
“I am ensuring that I have a successful career in the Corps/Navy.”
Consider this — even Jesus knew he needed down time. Luke 5:16 tells us that, “…Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (emphasis mine). We also often find Jesus visiting and feasting with friends. His first recorded miracle took place not at synagogue or one of his impromptu services, but at a wedding party of all places (John 2: 1-11). Jesus knew that in his humanity he needed to factor in some down time. He knew that to push on without making time for recovery would leave him empty and spent, thus putting his mission on this earth into jeopardy. In the Chaplain Corps, we call this self-care and it is the life’s blood to career longevity and a successful life.
So, I ask you again, how are you doing? If things seem…off, if your marriage is struggling, or if you can’t seem to get your mind right, then I encourage you to start practicing self-care. Leave work a little early to play with your kids or to romance your spouse. If you are single, go have fun with your friends or significant other. Or, simply retreat to a solitary place and rest. Afford the same opportunity to your troops. Many of them need it, but are dependent on others to receive it.
Take care of yourself, take care of others and success and victory will be ours.