President F.D. Roosevelt spoke those two powerful words within his legendary “Day of Infamy” speech to Congress December 8, 1941, one day after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Empire of Japan. America rallied to arm itself, safeguard its families, and take action against the hostilities that threatened it.
What do you do when you encounter a hostile world? President Roosevelt’s words are as true today as they were 70 years ago. Hostilities exist. They just exist in different forms.
Today, your job might be threatened by a toileted economy.
Or you’ve got little kids, and there’s no way you’d allow them to play at the park alone, like you did as a kid.
Or a driver on your commute home swerves all over the freeway like a crack-addled madman.
Or 105-mph winds menace your home in a late-summer horror-storm.
What’s a leader to do?
Early this morning before I stepped out the door for a run, I stopped by the hall closet and palmed a device that helps answer this reality: bear spray—a powerful type of mace. The area I run in is a heavily-wooded nature preserve where wild animals roam. Just two weeks ago, a jogger spotted a cougar crouched on the trail.
Nature can be savage. A cougar will lie in wait for a victim, spring down from a tree, and rip out his jugular before he knows it. Usually a cougar is hungry for deer or rabbit. But cougar attacks on humans do occur. I don’t know if mace would save a life in a cougar attack. But at least when I carry it, I feel some reassurance. At least I’ve got a fighting chance.
Here’s what I think. When faced with hostilities, the wise leader takes two actions:
1) He safeguards his life and family. This means he chooses best practices up front. He evaluates situations and circumstances for prudent living. Some situations he avoids. He changes plans, inconveniences himself, delays gratification, or says no for the sake of protecting what he holds most important. He asks, “Maybe I shouldn’t be running on this trail in the first place. Maybe I should be running somewhere else.”
2) He keeps living anyway. Even though hostilities exist, there is no reason to shrink back from life. Potential for danger lurks around every turn, yet the wise leader lives courageously. He doesn’t succumb to unnecessary risks, but he presses forward in a good and sensible direction, understanding that challenges will inevitably arise. Sometimes he chooses to run in nature preserves, knowing full well that cougars might be on the same trail.
President Roosevelt was right. Hostilities exist, and those are two words a wise leader never forgets. It’s not that we need to view life as a continual problem to be solved. Life is an adventure to be experienced. Still, we need to remember it’s not always a safe world out there.
Your turn to talk. How have you experienced the existence of hostility, and what have you done to safeguard your life, and to press forward with courage, or both?