It seems like someone is always trying to steal something, and our own identity is high on that list. Isn’t it amazing how intently we find need to guard ourselves from one another?
Part of basic military training for the Air Force was a lot about losing my identity. At first, they take it from you by all means, including abject humiliation at very high volume. I was sure the blood vessels in our Technical Instructor’s (TI’s) necks were going to rupture, and their heads would just explode all over us. They were so close when they yelled we could tell what they ate for dinner the night before. Once our heads stopped spinning, we looked around and saw each other, instead of just ourselves, and started working together. At first to stop the yelling and degradation. Then, out of an honest desire to please, and love for our fellows.
When I first arrived at basic in TX, I was assigned the job of Chow Runner. Every meal was scheduled, and it was first come, first served for the whole dorm, which contained several training units. In order to get out quickly, I had to have help. More than I counted on! When reveille sounded, people sleeping nearby hit the deck running toward me. They helped get my shirt buttoned, tucked, and lined up straight for inspection. Someone shoved on my shoes, wiped at scuff marks, and tied them. Someone else made my bed, so it could pass inspection while I got everyone a time to eat. We worked hard, food was important. It was common to lose 15 pounds in 6 weeks or so, whether needed or not. When I was ready, they’d push others aside to get me out. (there were 50 of us in that cell) We weren’t allowed to run, so long legs gave me an edge over other Chow Runners to get us a better place in line. Then I’d huff it back to help the team get ready for the day. When I walked in the door they wanted to know what time they got breakfast. I didn’t want to let them down.
Being part of a team takes on new meaning in a harsh environment. Unwillingness to put your interests last behind the group will actually get you killed. In that sense, standing out in a crowd makes you a needless target, and every person is valuable. Others could die trying to save your arrogant self. Listening to the TIs, (who want you to LIVE) following lawful orders, and working for the team became easier, and more rewarding.
Sure, it hurt sometimes. Many times people dropped to the side of the track to throw up. Some fainted. Some got really mad. A few quit. We grabbed people who fell behind and drug them along, or helped with their lockers, or shined shoes under our blankets instead of sleeping. Humbling ourselves for the good of others got to be habit. We learned to take directions and knock it out of the park. It also made us hard to beat, and we were praised by the TI’s who had earlier given us a really hard time. That felt good. It actually felt like we knew more about who we were at that point than we ever had. And it started with volunteering to be humbled, and embracing fellow Airmen, regardless of who they were.
Peter 5:5-7: Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” NKJV