In June of 2013, Australia's Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison A.O. gave a 3 minute and 6 second speech directed at the personnel of the Australian Army. The speech was published to Youtube and to date has been viewed over 1.7M times.
In his speech, Morrison spoke honestly, directly & passionately. His main theme was one of Values & Behaviours - at one point telling those amongst his ranks that if they didn't like the expectations of being a part of the Australian Army then they should "get out".
Perhaps the most thoughtful and enduring sentence from Morrison's speech was the line:
"The standard you walk past is the standard you accept."
It's a simple, common sense sentence in many respects - and, yet, it's a sentence of complexity and immense depth.
Over the last three years I've held this quote close. I've thought about these words most days. Slowly I've tried, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, to take up these ten words as a personal mantra of sorts - as a guiding light upon which to live my life each day. I've tried to apply the mantra to myself & my behaviours & my actions. It's not easy. And I am certainly no where near where I want to be in this journey.
Being your own 'watcher', ensuring that your own behaviours align to your stated values can be challenging at times. It's easy to say you believe in something or justify your behaviour by telling yourself (and others) that your actions are carried out with 'good intent' ... but it is IN THE ACTION (in the doing or in the not doing) where the truth resides.
And often this "doing" is challenging. For it is here that the real work of integrity & leadership exists. Because in the "doing" we create disequilibrium: in ourselves, our teams, our families, our friendships, our churches, our companies - and in Morrison's case - in the Australian Army. It is in the doing that we change the status quo, where we reject the 'accepted practice' as being unacceptable. We no longer 'walk past' - instead we pause, and we question and we reconsider and we do what is right, not what is easy. And that takes courage.
This is how change & progress comes about: through the courage of people to no longer 'walk past' but to pause, to stop and say 'hang on - that's not right!' This is how, as a nation, we gave women and then our indigenous brothers & sisters the right to vote. It's why Fraser welcomed thousands of Vietnamese refugees to our shores. Why Keating gave his Redfern speech, why Rudd said "Sorry" and why Gillard established the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It's why Hawke established Medicare and Keating fought for universal superannuation. It's why Howard banned semi-automatic guns & Costello created the Future Fund.
I wonder, in our current political and social environment, if we are perhaps too willing to 'walk past' and accept the 'easy'. Have we lost our collective courage? Are we really okay with turning a cheek and wandering past our homeless brothers & sisters as they sleep in our streets? Are we really comfortable with denying tens of thousands of gay & lesbian Australians the right to become legally married? Are we satisfied that we've done enough in Syria, in Iraq, in Afghanistan?
We are where we are because we've accepted the standards we've passed by.
Perhaps this Christmas it's time to take some time to stop and pause. Perhaps it's time to examine our own hearts, our own values and ask ourselves "is what I am actually doing truly aligned to what I believe in?"
Perhaps it's time to rethink? And re-Act? Courage.