Navy SEALS and Guerilla Decision-Making

Verla--head onI received a phone call this morning from a person who wanted to talk about a really bad decision she made (her words, not mine, although I totally agreed). She knew better, she said. She had been at this crossroads before, saw it coming and still made a poor choice.

She was unprepared for what I call guerilla decision- making.

Guerilla warfare typically involves an unconventional battle with someone or something that poses an imminent personal threat. The enemy catches you by surprise, knows your vulnerabilities, capitalizes on them, rushes in to do the damage and then beats a hasty retreat.

Guerilla decisions bear some similarities. These are not the hundreds of decisions we make every day that are relatively uncomplicated and made on the basis of things like personal preference or how much time or money you want to spend.

Rather, these qualify as Ground Zero choices–a situation that catches you totally off-guard and, in an instant, capitalizes on a vulnerability. Maybe you’re angry or lonely or tired or scared when it happens. That’s the moment when guerilla decisions are made.

What you do in that split second changes everything. There’s no time to develop a conscience or choose a value system. Yet what you decide could affect your peace, your focus, your commitments…everything…from that moment forward.

What is your Ground Zero? Food? Sex? Ambition? Jealousy? Slander? Lying? What current personal behavior or activity or relationship poses the greatest threat to your emotional and spiritual health?

I read a fascinating article recently about Navy SEALS  and how they train for guerilla warfare. Some of the principles that guide them seem analogous to principles useful to us as Christ-followers in making better guerilla decisions.

1) They prepare. SEALS go through 30 months of brutal training, because they know if they aren’t disciplined enough to train when lives aren’t on the line, they probably won’t make good choices when lives are at stake.

2) They stick together. Their focus is on unity and teamwork. One of their most important credos is, “No man left behind.” They don’t attack each other. They are not the enemy.

3) They know who they are and what they stand for. Navy SEALS embrace the fact that their lives may be tough and will involve guerilla warfare. They stay focused and on-mission, minimizing the prospect of surprises and vulnerabilities. They never coast. 

As Christians, we, too, can  prepare for those Ground Zero moments by saturating our hearts with scripture and time in prayer, addressing our vulnerabilities, asking God to build character in us, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

We can stick together and support one another, instead of judging each other or creating divisions or acting like spiritual lone rangers. Even the Lone Ranger had his sidekick, Tonto.

We can accept that, as Christ-followers, our lives will and should be different. Some of our choices may be out of step with cultural norms, so there will be push-back. Why is that a surprise? Our values differ. But God still expects us to engage with our world, to bring light and life and hope where hope, in some places, is barely a flicker.

Being a Navy SEAL is voluntary with a limited term of service. There’s where the analogy breaks down. Becoming a Christian is also voluntary. But once you’re in God’s family, he promises to stand with you in every guerilla decision you ever make from now until you see him face to face. That will be a moment worth preparing for.

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2 Responses to Navy SEALS and Guerilla Decision-Making

  1. David Schuman says:

    Hi Verla,
    David Schuman here…long time, no see! Great article, thanks! I hope you are well. My wife, Jennifer and our two daughters, Clara (7) and Amelia (almost 5), and I are doing great. Blessings to you and keep up the good work.

  2. Dave, great to hear from you and know how you are doing. Thanks for finding your way to my blog!

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