As the parents of six outstanding children, it became immediately apparent that as each child arrived, although they shared many similar traits, they were all wired a little differently. Their personalities and gifts began to manifest very early in their lives. From the moment each child was born, my wife Shelly and I always believed that raising our children was our responsibility, not any school, not teachers, not the church nor any civic organization. Certainly, those institutions are good, but we would not divest our responsibility or our authority to them. I often couched our responsibility as warriors who enter the arena in order to fight for the hearts and minds of our children. We believe that a parent who defines his or her role as a true warrior is a man or woman of purpose, of integrity, one who is engaged aggressively or energetically in a battle, cause or conflict. The arena for Shelly and I was our ability to daily make time to pour lessons and greatness into each of our children. Our focus on this training was to intentionally help each child develop an armor of confidence as they went off to school which would prepare them to deal with the social, physical and intellectual challenges that lay ahead.
Our battle strategy started early in their lives, jumping into the arena and talking to our kids at a very early age about everything…I mean everything. There was no topic that couldn’t be fought in the arena! You see we learned early on that being in the arena prepared us to lead, to love, to train, to discipline to be the example of excellence, not perfection. In my law enforcement profession, there is a tactical truth that states, Train the Way You Fight and you will Fight the Way You Train…it is really akin to “reaping what you sow.” We believed it was not only our job as parents, but our moral responsibility to train our children up and prepare them to face the battles that would be ahead of them.
It was during our time in California where we began to instill habits and routines with the kids as they grew. First and foremost was taking time to pray at night before they went to sleep. Shelly and I taught them early the Lord’s Prayer which at times became a comedy routine when they would recite it back to us. We taught them early that should always talk to God confidently and that He listens, especially to young children. Prayers at night were deliberate as well, not just memory words. We would pray for our family, brothers and sisters as well as the baby in mommy’s belly. We would pray for the safety and success of all the police and special agents as well as our extended family and then thank the Lord for blessing us with the things we had; a house, a car, toys and a good family.
Raising our children to be respectful and truthful was a daily lesson as they grew. At the same time we recognized that it was critical to help them develop an armor of confidence even before they went off to school. As far back as I can remember we made a habit out of encouraging our children, telling them how proud we were of every accomplishment no matter how trivial. Even things like learning the alphabet, tying their shoes or learning how to write letters were always met with positive encouragement. At the same time, if they failed at a task or a lesson, they would hear from both Shelly and I that failure was never final and our response was to teach them and support them and their ability to learn and achieve success. We did not want them to develop a fear of learning or trying out new things. So, our encouragement to them was more than “hey kiddo, you can do it!” It was purposeful instruction as they developed their competencies even at a very young age. Not only did we encourage their achievements and learn from failures, but we also encouraged each one by telling them that they were destined for greatness and that they were born for a moral purpose. We would often talk about their identity not only as Christians but as Capra’s. There were moral and character expectations that I would constantly discuss with them that always dove-tailed into their identity and purpose in life. Unfortunately, in my career, I witnessed so many young men and women who have no identity and they have no idea why they are here, what they were born to pursue. They have no one pouring into their lives, no one fighting for them in the arena; and without an identity, a child grows up confused and has no idea of what his or her true purpose is and they never develop a healthy ego or sense of pride. Instead, children who lack an identity are susceptible to being attracted to harmful activity such as gangs, drug use and other unhealthy relationships where they learn to accept a twisted sense of purpose.
Often, I would tell my kids that when other people saw them or heard about them that they should expect to hear them say, I want him on my team, I want to be in her class, I want to be connected to them because they recognized that they were young men and women who were honorable, who could be counted on when things got rough, who daily lived a life of purpose and direction. We discovered that as each child’s armor of confidence developed, they also developed a positive attitude and demonstrated courage in their ability to fend for themselves.
As the years went by Shelly and I realized as parents, that it wasn’t good enough for us to simply want to protect our children from any harm. We had to learn to empower them to act when necessary. In other words, we had to train and teach them that they had permission from us as their parents to aggressively act in the face of a conflict, in the face of evil, to protect themselves, to protect each other or to protect others in need of assistance. Both the girls and the boys were always instructed to never to put their hands on someone in anger, however, if they were being accosted, bullied or otherwise physically attacked by another student that they were permitted and should aggressively fight back until the attack was over. Regardless, they were told to never let the fear of detention or suspensions keep them from fighting back because we would support their decision to defend themselves. I also routinely encouraged the children to be willing to defend those other students who were defenseless. To be willing to step in and assist another student who was being accosted or bullied, who was not able to fight back against an attack and to act courageously when they witnessed an injustice. Developing their armor of confidence was never just about their ability to do well in school, it has always been about their ability to be courageous and fight and survive in a fallen and corrupt world.
James L. Capra is an author, professional speaker and the CEO of The Front Line Leadership Group. He has served nearly four decades in government service both in military service and as a federal law enforcement officer. He recently published a children’s series titled Pop-Pops Amazing Bedtime Stories. The excerpt above comes from his highly acclaimed book “Raising Courageous Children in a Cowardly Culture” which details the challenges of raising their six children in a culture filled with frivolity and moral relativism. His books can be purchased on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Mr. Capra can be contacted at http://www.frontlineleadershipgroup.com
I continue to be amazed and concerned regarding the emasculation of men as well as the so-called demonization of masculinity in our culture today. It seems that men are continually depicted as feeble minded dolts, who don’t understand their wives or their children and go about their lives as nothing more than sheep, waiting to be devoured by the wolves that we face in life. So as Father’s day approaches, I would like to remind those Fathers, those men who have an ear to hear, that all men, all fathers have been designed to walk the Warriors Path. I believe that there is a tug on a man’s heart to be a warrior for his family, and that tug, that drive, that calling to pursue this path comes from God the Father, His still quiet voice that calls the warrior to the arena.
All men, whether they realize it or not have been created for a moral purpose and are destined for greatness no matter how long or how short he has on this earth. The warrior that I talk of is not a mindless brut; a true warrior is a man of purpose, a man of integrity, one who is engaged aggressively or energetically in a battle, cause or conflict; for his family, for his destiny and for his faith.
A warrior is dedicated to hunting for the wolf; he prays and trains daily to know what the wolf looks like, how the wolf operates what he sounds like and what he smells like; how he disguises himself among the innocent, among the sheep. A true warrior trains and does battle with the wolf so much that warriors, true warriors, can even sense when the wolf is about…something isn’t right, the air in the room, the attitude of his family, and the warrior instantly goes into alert mode into fight mode, always praying and preparing to raise up a standard against the wolf.
The warrior’s path is a hard one, it takes training and discipline, it takes courage and stamina and patience, hope and perseverance. Yet a true warrior is not a loner; he always seeks the company of other warriors who understands their burden, their duty, their commitment to maintain a moral compass that keeps him on the right path, guides him to the righteous battle and reminds the warrior that he was called by a great and loving God.
A warrior must always be willing to be disciplined to make a correction when he senses he is off course, because a warrior knows that if he is not careful, if he lets his guard down, if he chooses to no longer train, if he chooses to no longer fight, he can go back to being a sheep…a vulnerable sheep, but a true warrior knows that’s not his destiny, not what he was made for.
All men have been destined for greatness, created and exist for a great purpose, designed to be warriors, to be a light in a dark place so that his family and others can see the danger that the wolf represents. The warrior’s path is a calling that not every man will hear, that call to stand tall in the battle-field of life, to push back against the darkness with true faith, courage and commitment; to be an example to his family and raise up another generation of warriors who will answer the call for His purpose, for His glory. To all the fathers who run daily into the arena to do battle on behalf of their families, their destiny and their faith, may God bless you and Happy Father’s Day!
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
James L. Capra is an author, professional speaker and the CEO of The Front Line Leadership Group. He retired after serving over three decades in government service. James and his wife Shelly co-authored their recent highly acclaimed book “Raising Courageous Children in a Cowardly Culture” which details the challenges of raising their six children in a culture filled with frivolity and moral relativism. http://www.frontlineleadershipgroup.com
I routinely ask my audience if they have a vision for their personal and professional lives and I am always surprised by the number of blank stares I receive. Let’s remember that words have meaning and according to the dictionary the word vision is a noun defined as – the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be. In order to live a “pro-active” life, both professionally and personally requires that the individual as well as organizations have a plan; that is, in order to develop and prosper there must be a plan, a vision a purpose to exist. There is a Jewish proverb that states: “Without vision the people perish.” This type of “vision” is best described as a blueprint. Again, I submit that leaders who pursue excellence have the ability to articulate the organization’s blueprint.
Several years ago a very close friend of mine, who I had not seen since our academy days, met me for lunch at my residence during my headquarters tour. As we reminisced about our days in training, I began to discuss how I was doing my best to plan for the future both for my family and my profession. I told him how I had come to sense how temporary my time here at this assignment was and I went on discussing how my wife and I were doing our best to plan out some future goals. In the course of speaking to him, during mid-sentence, I realized that he was staring at me with his mouth somewhat opened. I stopped short of the next sentence to ask what was wrong. He paused for a few seconds and then said quite softly “I have never thought about any of that stuff; I really never planned much of anything, I need to start hanging out with you more!” You see, my friend was going through life quite accidentally, like the song “Que Sera Sera” whatever will be, will be!” If you are on a journey with no map or no direction, how will you know if or when you arrive at your destination? The same is true for organizational leaders; what is your blueprint, your plan and how are you articulating this to your people?
Maybe you are not totally convinced regarding the importance of planning or establishing a blueprint for your personal and professional life; because, as you say, that’s great, but during the course of a lifetime, bad things happen; things don’t always go according to plan; failure happens, so now what; what about the blueprint, what happens to my plan? Well, let’s look at this like building your own home. One of the very first things any builder does is to draw up a blueprint of the home. The blueprint is a detailed instruction, room by room, floor by floor; the locations, design and the sizes of the total area that will make up your home. But even if you have never built your own home, it would not be unusual for you to find that the home you live in right now has actually had several blueprints drawn up prior to its completion. Why? Well, just as you said earlier, “stuff happens!” That is, during the course of building the home, suddenly the builder may have determined that a window or a door or a room can’t go where you want it because the structure or design of the house won’t support it. It may even be that the homeowner determines that he or she can’t come up with the extra money for the increased square footage. Or even better, the homeowner realizes that he has extra money to put a second floor on the house. All of these reasons require an adjustment to the original blueprints; or sometimes the entire blueprint has to be scrapped and resubmitted! The builder doesn’t decide not to build, he never stops building, he quickly adjusts the plans.
As leaders, we need to approach our journey the same way, we don’t plan on failing, rather we consistently demonstrate that our expectations for our people, our organization is to pursue excellence and succeed. However, we need to anticipate the possibility that in the course of our planning and during the course of following our blueprints, we may be required to make adjustments. While I can’t overemphasize the importance of planning, we should not be consumed by it or the process. There are a number of leaders who are so busy planning for tomorrow that they forget about what they need to do today! They miss out on the opportunities to succeed in the present. Let me offer this piece of advice; don’t live in the past, but learn from it; don’t live for the future, but plan for it; live and make a difference today, in the here and now. Ask yourself, as a leader, am I living and walking a pro-active life or am I living my life, my calling by accident?
Once again, I submit that successful leaders have the ability to pursue excellence and mitigate failure by developing and articulating a vision for their organization as well as demonstrating faith, courage and perseverance in pursuit of that vision. I have described vision as a plan or a blueprint to follow but you need to have faith in your plan as well. I am not talking about blind faith rather that you as a leader, acknowledge, agree and trust that your plan, your blueprint is accurate and this type of faith begins to light a fire in your belly that leads to passion and conviction and purpose of action. In order for your people to understand this, as a leader, you have to be willing to communicate and share your passion, your conviction, to articulate not only the organizations purpose but the importance of their purpose to the organization. Once again, this requires a leader to establish a relationship of trust with those we serve. So communication is another essential element to the health and growth of any organization.
Still, a great plan combined with a firm trust and agreement of the same are of no value if you lack the physical, moral or mental courage to execute your plan. In fact, fear of failure is a major impediment for why some leaders never reach their intended potential. Developing and implementing an effective organizational plan may require you and/or the organization to move beyond your “comfort zone.” This requires the willingness to change an organizational mindset which is often difficult because no one really jumps up and cheers for change. It’s like the caveman and fire…“Fire bad, fire burn, Og no like fire!” This of course is true until Og realizes that fire keeps him warm, cooks his food and keeps the saber-tooth tiger at bay. “Ahh, fire good!”
Therefore, it is important for leaders to understand that apprehension, fear or reluctance to move can have detrimental impact on growth both in terms of the leader and the organization as a whole. So courage is the ability to be willing to step out and execute your plan, your blueprint with boldness and in doing so leaders demonstrate to their people that the pursuit of excellence is more important than organizational comfort. Finally, but in no way the least, perseverance is that steady course of action, despite difficulty, despite obstacles that you will succeed, that your organization will succeed, that your people will succeed. Perseverance always, always births hope, and while hope in and of itself is never a strategy, hope is that palpable and confident expectation that success and the pursuit of excellence is achievable.
Excerpts taken from “Leadership at the Front Line: Lessons Learned About Loving, Leading, and Legacy from a Warrior and Public Servant” by James L. Capra
Often, when I am asked about the underlying problems in business, in national security issues or in personal endeavors, it seems that the major issue comes down to a failure of trust and the desire to pursue success instead of excellence. You see you can cheat and be successful, you can lie and be successful, and you can implement immoral and/or unsafe business practices and be successful; but for how long? Ultimately, pursuing success at all costs, or pursuing personal success at the cost of others will result in a failed business, a failed organization and a failed personal relationship.
Over the course of my nearly four decades as a public servant both in the uniformed military services and as a federal agent, I have witnessed a number of leaders ranging from the truly incompetent to the truly incredible. While there are a number of characteristics that embody great leaders, I submit that the number one characteristic found in most outstanding leaders is their intrinsic desire to truly care about and learn to love those they serve. These leaders recognize that they need to make an emotional connection with organizational members because they understand that developing positive relationships often results in producing the fruit of trust in the lives of their people and in the organization as a whole.
The reality is that many organizational leaders think of trust as a soft, sort of nice to have virtue and do not believe that trust is directly connected to their organizations bottom line. However, according to research, trust affects two measurable outcomes – speed and cost. Therefore, when trust goes down, speed goes down and costs go up. Conversely, when trust goes up, speed goes up and costs go down. The Watson Wyatt survey showed that high trust companies outperform low trust companies by nearly 300%. Let that sink in for a moment; 300%; as an organizational leader would you be willing to allocate resources, time and energy into something that would increase your organization’s performance, manufacturing and/or profitability by 300%? And here is the kicker, it’s not something you have to go out and physically purchase; an additional widget, building or computer software program; it is however, something that you have at your disposal right now which simply is a willingness to develop and implement a culture of trust.
The ability to engender trust to employees, stakeholders, shareholders and partners is a necessary competency for any leader who strives for excellence in their walk. As a competency, engendering trust is something that leaders can learn and become good at IF…they are willing to lead from the heart. That is, from my tenure as a leader in government service I have witnessed organizational cultures grow, thrive and be successful, when leaders first learn and demonstrate care and love for those they are entrusted to lead, which includes employees, partners and stakeholders. Employees who recognize that they are valued and cared for by those that lead them, often provide superior service and value which generates pride and a sense of purpose that can be tangible. The question for us all is simply, how…how do we develop a trust climate, how do we implement trust across the organization, where do we/I start??
Let me start with 3 principles; People, Purpose and Passion. It has been my experience that you begin to build a foundation of trust by developing a moral position that people, just like the organization, have a purpose. Our people not only have a purpose in the organization, but have a moral purpose in life. The best leaders recognize the importance of developing employees both professionally and personally with a great deal of passion. This is done by a leader’s ability to develop relationships in order to make trust a goal that is communicated and matters to all levels throughout the organization. This kind of leadership is the ability to get results that inspire trust and that trust is modeled through the leader’s character, competence and demonstrated behavior. I am not offering up any kind of soft or “up with people” philosophy. Rather this type of leadership philosophy is bathed in accountability.
If you want to become an effective leader, if you want to make a positive difference in your team, if you want to make a positive difference in your leadership walk and if you want to develop a culture of trust in your organization…you need to first learn how to love and care for the men and women you are entrusted to serve! This is not about everybody gets a hug…this is about a willingness to consistently make a conscious effort to truly care about others who are entrusted to you. The bottom line in organizations isn’t about money, profit, or mission; the bottom line is people and when those people are led by leaders who care about them, who develop covenant relationships of trust, they grow, flourish and outperform other organizations and businesses in their respective markets.
James L. Capra is an author, professional speaker and the CEO and Founder of The Front Line Leadership Group. Mr. Capra retired after nearly three decades in government service and is the former Chief of Global Operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration. http://www.frontlineleadershipgroup.com
I didn’t know the Chief, but I attended his retirement ceremony during August of 2007, in order to thank him for his support and partnership with our field division. The Chief was a career public servant and had served 27 years with a small North Texas Police Department. He was one of the longest-serving Police Chief’s in Texas history. The retirement ceremony took place in the local civic center building and as I mingled I met the usual local dignitaries who attend events such as this. Unfortunately, I expected the typical mundane retirement ceremony that would come with several hollow accolades from guests and the usual good-bye speech. I could not have been more wrong.
The Mayor presided over the ceremony and immediately called on the Chief to come up to the podium where he presented the Chief with his badge. During his brief speech, the Mayor often spoke of Chief’s leadership that was responsible for building the Police Department to one of the finest in North Texas. As I looked out towards the guests, I noticed that all eyes were not necessarily on the speaker, but on the Chief. The small crowd looked on with reverence at the Chief and delighted in nodding every time an accolade was given to him. What was more striking to me was the mood of his command staff, officers and professional staff. As each departmental representative stood up to say something, their speech was often broken up with tears and raw emotion. Large hulking Texas law men attempting to read the poetic phrases on inscriptions, stopping to wipe away tears and pausing to compose themselves before going on. It became very apparent that his department not only respected and revered the Chief, but they loved him, not only as their leader, but as a man and a friend.
After every presentation, the Chief would hug each individual the way a loved one hugs a family member. Throughout the ceremony the Chief was very emotional and I could often see him shaking his head no, every time he received recognition regarding his ability and leadership. Following all the presentations, the Chief was asked to speak to the gathering. Wiping tears from his eyes, the Chief began by saying, “I did nothing, it was you all who made this department what it is, I just asked you to do it…and you did.” The Chief went on to say, “I hope I have been a good leader….and I know I leave this department in great hands…” During that ceremony, I witnessed a snapshot of the life and impact of a true servant leader. Even in the last moments of his retirement ceremony, the Chief made sure that it was never about him, but that others were more deserving of the credit for the department’s success.
Too often as we walk our leadership journey, we mistakenly look for examples from the grand icons of leadership. We buy their books in search of some new truths that may enlighten and help us along our way. Sometimes we need only to look in our backyard communities, to men like the Chief, who probably never wrote a book on leadership, but daily practiced his calling and walked his walk such that he leaves an indelible legacy behind. The Chief’s legacy will be one that defines the servant leader, a man of servitude, integrity, empathy, commitment, loyalty, and least not, one of love for the men and women of the small police department and the community he served for 27 years.
Article taken from “Leadership at the Front Line: Lessons Learned about Loving, Leading and Legacy from a Warrior and Public Servant” by James L. Capra, published by Lulu Press 2014.
My wife Shelly and I have now been married for over 34 years; and yes, we are both still very much in love and extremely happy and with our relationship. And while we both vowed to never give up on each other, we had to learn what it takes to develop a healthy and happy marriage that would become a good example for our children as well as stand the test of time. What the years have taught us is that when you choose to enter into marriage, you are entering the arena for battle and you must be willing to be committed to the growth and development of your spouse. That is you must be willing to put aside your wants and selfish desires in order to meet the needs of your wife or husband and that takes time to learn. There is no give and take exchange in the marital arena, rather we have learned that marriage is a give and give exchange; because when one person gives, the other receives, and this attitude is necessary to build a strong covenant relationship. Unfortunately in our culture we no longer pursue covenant relationships nor do we teach the importance of what that means. In fact, I have often said that many couples enter a marriage relationship with a twisted sense of their vows such as… “I take you in sickness and in health or until something better comes along!
If the numbers are correct (and there is great disagreement by researchers) one in two marriages ends in divorce in our country compared to just over twenty five years ago. While we recognize there may be a host of reasons that lead to divorce, my wife and I have witnessed first-hand that many couples enter into marriage with a number of misperceptions and/or never really consider the enormity and sacredness of a marriage covenant. As such we spent a great deal of time talking to our kids about just that, that marriage was a sacred commitment not to be entered into lightly.
The term covenant means “a coming together”; a commitment that binds two parties together and carries with it the concept of cleaving to one another as if to bind our self to that other person for a great purpose. Covenants are the fruit of a faithful relationship of trust and therefore covenant partners take responsibility for their actions and nurture their relationship. Yet the reality is that we live in a “throw away” culture that celebrates selfishness and no longer values working hard in order to build relationships of trust. Over the past several decades or so, the evidence would suggest that many young married couples no longer expect a relationship of trust; rather within the first few years of marriage many begin to expect deception and/or infidelity both real and imagined. This is why some people decide to initiate a pre-nuptial agreement which is nothing more than a contract to protect individual interests in the case of a divorce. However, it is important to understand that most contracts are based on protection, mistrust and deceit. Imagine for a moment, the pain and cost of the emotional, physical and mental stress when a marital relationship is based upon the notion that one party will ultimately be deceived; how then is it possible that such a position will lead to a loving and trusting relationship?
I remember on occasion discussing with the kids how we can be enamored and excited about meeting, dating and marrying someone who is the complete opposite of us. The reality is that the excitement only lasts a short time as you finally wake up one day to realize that you have nothing in common with the person lying next to you and so begins the struggle of how not being equally yoked impacts the marital relationship. A yoke is a wooden bar that joins two oxen to each other and to the burden they pull. An “unequally yoked” team has one stronger ox and one weaker, or one taller and one shorter. The weaker or shorter ox would walk more slowly than the taller, stronger one, causing the load to go around in circles. When oxen are unequally yoked, they cannot perform the task set before them. Instead of working together, they are actually fighting against each other and that is precisely what happens in unequally yoked marital relationships.
Being equally yoked has nothing to do with a couples similar looks, education, financial status or physical appearance. More importantly, being equally yoked has everything to do with whether you and your future husband or wife is of the same moral positioning, faith and believers in the word of God. Yet being equally yoked is no guarantee that you will have a successful and blessed marriage, especially if one chooses to ignore his or her covenant responsibilities. In the same way we must concede that our definition of being unequally yoked does not mean a marriage will ultimately fail but the evidence suggests that it does present some challenges in the marital arena. The issue then is how couples choose to overcome those challenges in order to save and develop a loving and trusting marital relationship. For us, the answer was in daily prayer and seeking wisdom from a loving God who established marriage covenants from the beginning of time. We believe that in order to slow the onslaught of the destruction of marriages in our culture, we need to reclaim the sanctity and sacredness of marriage and there is no better teaching ground than at the family table.
‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ (Matthew 19:5)
Revised excerpts taken from “Raising Courageous Children in a Cowardly Culture: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of our Children” by James L and Michelle A. Capra published by Lulu.com.
I am taking the liberty of re-posting again!
It was hard growing up in my family not be influenced by duty; it was hard growing up in my family not to be influenced by honor, commitment, by the calling to serve. My father, now long gone, was a Korean combat veteran and a former New York City Police Officer who taught me more about honor, commitment, sacrifice, duty and love…and yet never used any of those words. He was one of the smartest men I ever knew and yet he had only a 10th grade education. He was a very tough guy, his expectations for his children were that they pursue the truth, that everyone deserved to be treated with dignity and respect and that we had a moral obligation to this, the greatest nation on the face of the planet. It is no wonder that our family has served this great nation for over four generations in both military services and/or in public service.
I am, however, reminded that as we enter the Memorial Day weekend, that military service is a special kind of service, a special kind of commitment; and here we are, a nation still at war and yet a nation who’s people daily enjoy the benefits of liberty and freedom. You see those who wear and who have worn the uniform have others who tell them where to serve, where to live and what risk to take…because the needs of the nation always comes first…before family, before self…the needs of the nation always, always comes first. Yet it should be no surprise for any of us who have the good fortune of being born in this great nation about the sacredness of duty and service, for those who love freedom and protect and defend liberty. Even in the midst of a season where many of our own ignorant citizens protest that nationalism is somehow fascist or racist, there remains tens of thousands of American men and women who freely stand up and volunteer, knowing full well of the sacrifice, knowing full well of the risk, knowing full well of the danger that they may have to lay their life down in defense of our nation, in defense of liberty and freedom…men and women in this great nation still stand up and say “I will go” because they fully recognize that Service is a Sacred Duty of a Free People! And to that end, that Service comes at a great sacrifice which is why we humbly and often mournfully celebrate Memorial Day.
So this Memorial Day I again encourage you to consider the real meaning of this holiday; to remember that it is the great sacrifice of those men and women who have given their full measure so that you and I may enjoy the liberties and freedom we sometimes take for granted. I pray the Lord’s peace and comfort to those who remember the pain and sorrow this Memorial Day brings, and I thank the families who willingly gave up their loved ones for the sake of this great nation of ours.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)
Our Nation is at a tipping point. Resolving life and death issues, from North Korea to drug trafficking, requires sound leadership. Sound leadership involves both good judgment and an understanding of objective truth. The crisis within a crisis is this: We are losing our moorings, our fundamental understanding of objective truth. Until we are willing to return to basics, we are headed for the abyss.
Anytime we consider or execute a plan of action to handle serious issues in our nation or for that matter in our personal lives, demands leadership. Real leadership demands courage and a willingness to anchor the conversation to the truth-in the face of public scorn, ridicule, calls for political correctness and more lately violence. This type of leadership is the resolve to make the right hard decision in light of what we will leave as a legacy to the next generation.
Knowledge often constitutes truth. When a society turns away from knowledge, it turns away from truth, therefore if you no longer pursue knowledge or if you keep knowledge in the dark, how can we know the truth? I find it quite ironic that the 2016 word of the year is “post-truth!” According to the Oxford dictionary, post truth means relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. If this is our new baseline, we are lost.
According to Dr. Sean McDowell, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Over the past few years we have witnessed the exponential growth of this anything goes, how do you feel, “post-truth” culture. It now seems to define much of our political leadership, not just public sentiment. One example is the ongoing pursuit of senseless drug legalization in the United States. This issue plainly illustrates the rise of a “post-truth” ideology, where facts, rising death and overdose rates, pervasive violent and drug related crime, expansive drug trafficking organizations and their ties to known terrorist groups – make no difference.
For the past thirty plus years, the marijuana legalization movement has aggressively promoted and bemoaned the war on drugs is lost and the US is doing nothing but locking up addicts and users. More insidious was their successful decade’s long campaign to promote the idea that smoked marijuana is medicine that has the ability to treat and cure just about anything and everything with little to no scientific evidence. This tactic – emotion and indulgence over knowledge and truth – has been successfully executed over the years as evidenced by legislators in over 30 states that have enacted some type of “medical-marijuana” legislation absent any medical research or credible science. Emotions, opinions and outright false allegations now seem the root of public policy. Can we honestly survive that way?
Regardless of the onslaught of emotional outbursts and opinions, rallies and protests that give license to rule by “untruth” or “post-truth,” here is a spoiler alert: Truth still matters. According to the scientific and medical communities, smoked marijuana is not medicine. The Institute of Medicine, American Society of Addiction Medicine, American Medical Association, American Cancer Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, The American Glaucoma Society and the American Academy of Ophthalmology all agree that smoked marijuana is not medicine.
A major study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence by researchers at Columbia University found that residents of states with medical marijuana had marijuana abuse and dependence rates almost twice as high as states without such laws. More recently marijuana is now the number one reason young kids enter treatment, more than alcohol, cocaine, heroin, meth, ecstasy and or other drugs combined.
To suggest that legalizing any illicit drug will have a positive impact on the safety and security of our society is illogical and mind-numbing. Time and time again, researchers, social scientists as well as law enforcement professionals have witnessed that as the perception of harm for marijuana or any drug decreases, there is a corresponding increase in use and abuse. A recent study of Colorado and Washington states since passage of recreational marijuana legalization showed an alarming increase in rising rates of marijuana use by minors; increasing arrest rates of minors especially black and Hispanic; higher rates of traffic deaths from driving while high; more marijuana related poisonings and hospitalizations and a thriving marijuana black market.
Does the truth still matter? Yes. Now we are witnessing the effects of forgetting that fact – data from schools, treatment clinics, emergency rooms, addiction measures, violent crime, marijuana movement to opiates, drugged driving and deteriorating public health are mounting. The question is, are we ready to return to truth? As a parent, former military officer, lifetime law enforcement officer, and American who loves his country, I hope so.
During my testimony before the Senate Drug Caucus in 2014, I made the statement that drug legalization in our country is reckless and irresponsible. Following my testimony, I received a copy of a letter that was sent to President Obama that declared my statement before the Senate “…served no purpose other than to inflame passions and misinform the public.” I was taken back by how a callous disregard for the truth based on evidence can be dismissed by those who are sworn to uphold the constitution and ensure that the next generation has an opportunity to be successful. The bottom line is this: Truth does matter, regardless of whatever political figures may say.
Sadly, we can no longer expect many of our legislators to have the safety and security of our children as a priority when it comes to making the hard right decision. In order for a civilized society to thrive, grow and survive, it must be willing to seek and utilize knowledge as a bright light that brings truth into focus. Let us do that with the drug crisis by illuminating the truth not lies.
In the Bible we read how the tribes of Israel often fell away from their Godly standards and entertained the voices of false prophets which led to chaos, disorder and conflict. The Lord speaking through the prophet Micah invited the tribes of Israel to be reasonable and seek the truth and “do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). Justice, love and kindness are the intended consequences of living in a society that pursues knowledge that leads to truth in every facet of our daily existence. I am hopeful that there remains a remnant in our American society that will continue to be light-bearers in a dark world willing to shine the light of truth in our daily walk.
James L. Capra is an author, motivational speaker and the CEO and Founder of The Front Line Leadership Group. Mr. Capra retired after nearly three decades in government service and is the former Chief of Global Operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration. His third book, “Raising Courageous Children in a Cowardly Culture” co-authored with his wife Michelle can be purchased at Amazon.com and/or Lulu.com.
During a recent discussion with other Christian entrepreneurs I made the statement that being a man of integrity is very easy when things are going well, however, it is when we enter challenging seasons that subject us to trials and adversity that ultimately test our true character and integrity as men and women of faith. Every day we read about CEO’s who “cook their books” in order to save themselves from being fired. They intentionally cover up mistakes in order not to lose clients or overstate earnings so as not to lose quarterly market shares or bonuses. It is precisely in difficult seasons where we are called to rely on our moral and ethical courage in order not to fall prey to fear; fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of being found out.
We throw the term integrity around in our businesses and in our personal lives sometimes without fully appreciating what it means to us not only as entrepreneurs but as people of faith. Having served for over twenty five years as a law enforcement professional, I can tell you that if you walk into any prison and ask any inmate if he or she is a person of integrity you will get an emphatic “yes” as their respective reply. They have a twisted sense and definition of the term as evidenced by asking them simply, “then how did you get here?”
Integrity is really the state of being whole, sound, not fractured or undiminished; and when we use it to describe us either in our professional or in our personal lives it has to do with our sound moral principles that are consistent in our daily walk. This means in everything we do, regardless of the circumstances or outcomes, we will always be truthful at all times. It often takes years to build our personal and professional reputations as people and businesses of integrity and yet it takes only a moment to damage and/or to lose it all together. I offer up three great scriptures to embrace when we enter into difficult seasons where we may be tested to stray:
- Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. (Proverbs 10:9 ESV)
- The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. (Proverbs 11:3 ESV)
- Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways. (Proverbs 28:6 ESV)
You see integrity is the very foundation for success in life. A person who walks in integrity is always whole and never two different people. Integrity is the very glue to sound moral principles and the drive to embrace integrity will push you to seek excellence in all that you pursue. Integrity will thrust you to become a courageous person of purpose. A person of integrity relies on wisdom to discern how and who to trust; at the same time a person of true integrity always seeks the shade of humility in their walk because they live to serve others, which is what love, unconditional love is all about. A person of integrity recognizes that they only have a moment to make a positive difference in the lives of others. The drive to be a person of integrity will ultimately birth wisdom, kindness, goodness, joy and self-control as well as other traits. Finally, men and women who choose to walk in integrity always draw others to them because they are trustworthy and dependable; they can be counted on to behave honorably in the light of day and in the dark of night when no one else is looking.
James L. Capra
CEO Front Line Leadership Group
I am re-posting this message again as I believe we continue to be in a season where friends and family are consumed with the question; “Is there hope for us?”
The Christmas season has always been my most favorite time of the year. A joyful time to share with family and friends and a time to re-affirm our faith, identity and purpose in this world. However, as I reflect on the past few years I find myself troubled, questioning where we are as neighbors, as people and as a nation. Everywhere we turn there seems to be strife, division and darkness and I find myself asking once again if there really is hope for us, as a people and as a nation? And then I am reminded of our great hope when I hear the beautiful words of the famed Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
The carol was based on a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1863. At the time he wrote the poem, Longfellow had recently lost his wife in a tragic fire, the nation was being torn apart by civil war and his oldest son was critically wounded while fighting for the Union. Longfellow, for a time, must have burdened an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and darkness that is clearly depicted in the early stanzas of his poem; “…hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men“. Yet Longfellow knew there was a very real hope for him, for the future, for the nation, as he leaned on his faith and the knowledge that a great light was given to mankind on Christmas Day. “And peeled the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor does he sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth, good will to men!”
It is important to understand that this hope many of us share, is not wishful thinking; rather our hope is a “confident expectation” that the God that I serve is still very active in the lives of His creation. So yes my friends, there is great hope for us all, “For unto us a child is born, a son is given to us; the government will rest on his shoulders and he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) Merry Christmas my friends, to you and your families; may the New Year bring a renewed season of hope, prosperity and restoration. God bless you all this season and may God bless this great country of ours!