The power of your convictions

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HE lay down on the floor hardly believing the contrast of where he had found himself. From the tiny window in his cell, he could hear children playing, birds singing, dogs barking. He had no idea where he was in Mogadishu. He was comforted every morning with the ray of sunlight that peeped into his cell room, reminding him that he had not yet translated to another realm beyond the world. The repugnant smell that filled his room was a combination of his own blood and hours and hours of sweat. Earlier on he had broken his femur and had a badly injured back which made movements very difficult. The dread of the night was a combination of anguish and anticipation of the inevitable.

Mike Durant was an American pilot. He had flown to Somalia previously but on this particular mission, something went awfully wrong. His flight was hit by a rocket propelled grenade on its tail which had led to his crash. The Somalis were more than excited to capture an enemy soldier- who better than an American. The snipers that were providing superior firepower from above tried to ward off the militants who were now converging where he had crashed. They were said to have killed 25 of them before running out of firepower. They were eventually killed and later awarded posthumously for their bravery.

On a particular occasion, Mike was brought out of his cell for a ‘recording’. They wanted him to send a message back to his people with a rehearsed response. They put him in front of a camera and dished out simple instructions. State your name in front of the camera, indicate you are an American soldier and say that your mission is to kill people. A lot of thoughts must have raised through his mind. He was in enemy territory and not sure if the hostiles were going to keep him for another day. After receiving the instructions from his captors, he thought hard then began to respond as the camera started rolling. He said, my name is ‘Mike Durant, I am an American soldier, killing people is bad’. This more than just upset his captors, it infuriated them. The camera stopped rolling and he was warmed with a fresh round of torture to remind him of where he was. At this point with no hope of returning home, he still refused to budge. He stated his name, his designation as an American soldier but refused to agree that he was killer as they instructed. He decided to hold on to his beliefs, even at the point of death he held on to his values.

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Values are inherent tenets that one has come to accept as the truth. They are principles or standards of behaviour, ones judgement of what is important in life. They are important or lasting beliefs or ideals shared by members of a culture about what is good or bad and whether such should be desired or not. Usually they reflect ones ideals and influence the person’s behaviour and attitude and will serve as a roadmap for direction in ones endeavours. Mike Durant had accepted to go on that mission because he believed in the cause so even at the point of death, he held on to that which he believed.

In the world today as the times before now, it takes character and integrity to stand for your beliefs. From simple relationships between friends to situations of gigantic proportion where your loyalty will be tested. When push comes to shove, do you buckle under pressure and swing the other way or do you hold on to what you have accepted as truth. At some point in time, you will be tested either in the group you belong to or your place of work. Will you sell your soul for a morsel of pottage like the biblical Esau or will you rather starve and damn the consequences.

Every day in business, there is always the temptation to throw away your ideals or to get ahead or to not stand for what you know is truth. Interestingly, some people will deliberately try to test the power of convictions. If you fall in the day of adversity, how small your strength is. We are in times where values are almost non-existent and people worry just about food for their bellies. Perhaps you should start thinking of those coming after us and how we can preserve the next generation.