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Decide in Your Own Mind

5 Feb 2021 | Lt. Matthew Marshall Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune

General A. A. Vandegrift, Medal of Honor recipient at the Battle of Guadalcanal and 18th commandant of the Marine Corps, said, “Positions are seldom lost because they have been destroyed, but almost invariably because the leader has determined in his own mind that the position cannot be held.” While I have yet to find a junior Marine that can successfully identify the author of this line from Warfighting, I have found that most Marines intuitively grasp the tactical ramifications of the statement – the determination of the leader to hold at all costs is usually the key to victory. While this may be a truism on the battlefield, it isn’t as obvious how this principle applies to our daily lives as a foundation for mental resiliency.

Regardless of where we find ourselves in life, we each are the “leader” of our respective “positions.” As 2020 unfolded, many people lamented the series of unfortunate events, chief among them being a global pandemic. While our lives have been deeply affected by these events, we each maintain the power of our response to trials and tragedy. Bad things do happen to good people. Evil exists. The Marine Corps stands ready to do violence on behalf of those who will sleep peacefully in their beds tonight – always ready because evil waits, lurking for an opportunity to prey upon the innocent.

Into such a world we must go on a daily basis. The most important question is not “why” bad things happen, but “How will I respond, when bad things happen?” Once we accept that our response is the final freedom we possess when confronted by adversity, it naturally follows that we should invest our lives in things that will fortify our position. If we have something unchanging to build upon, our resolve to hold out in the face of adversity is strengthened. The Christian tradition gives us an eternal bulwark upon which we can stand, unmoved, even in uncertain times. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8, ESV) When we determine in our own minds that we will hold against the onslaught of uncertainty and potential tragedy, and we do this while trusting in Jesus, the “Captain of our salvation” (Heb. 2:10), we can have great confidence that He will ultimately lead us to persevering victory.