Moral Compass – from Chaplain (Colonel-Retired) Steven L. Berry

Need a Spot?

from Chaplain (Colonel-Retired) Steven L. Berry
Advisory Board, Hardrock Charlie Foundation

There he was in the Ranger Gym at Hunter Army Airfield, struggling to lift a weight that clearly exceeded his current ability. (Alumni of the 1st Ranger Battalion from the early 1990s will remember our Ranger Gym, located across the street from the “Leg” gym. It was small, cramped, and ill-ventilated – a “sweatbox” – but, it was our gym.) This fellow was doing his best, but he was outmatched by the iron. He was twisting and gyrating his body to gain momentum that would allow him to complete a given repetition. But, throwing the weights in this manner was not helping him in the long run. In truth, not only was he not getting stronger, but he was surely opening himself up to possible long-term injury.

A fellow Ranger, also witnessing this Brother’s struggle, stepped up to help. “Need a ‘spot’?”, he asked. Ranger Number One gladly accepted Ranger Number Two’s offer for a “spot”, and with just a little assistance, Ranger Number One was able to lift the heavy weight, bearing the bulk of the burden, but completing each repetition, and, therefore, his workout, in good form, truly investing in his ability to lift heavier weights in the future.

Whether in the gym or in life writ-large, there is almost always room for offering and accepting a “spot”; just a little assistance to make things better. Accepting a “spot” comes with benefits that are broad and far-reaching. Obviously, the first profit is simply gaining strength; getting stronger to lift even heavier weights. To that benefit, we can add injury prevention and increased self-confidence. In the broader view, accepting a “spot” can make us more able to do the same for others; that is, to assist others to be able to lift heavier weights, to bear heavier burdens.

From time-to-time, in both lifting and in life, we may face sudden, unexpected demands that seem to exceed our current abilities. We grapple with the burden, but we cannot seem to master it. At other times, we are so deeply fatigued and broken down from having lifted and carried the same heavy load over many miles for a very long time; perhaps, for many months or even years. Even in our lowest moments, we may find that we are reluctant to ask for a “spot” from those around us, who would gladly lend a hand. Why is this?

Often the simple answer to this question lies very near our pride and our egos. That inner voice asks, “If I ask for a “spot”, how will it appear to others?” “What will others think of me?” “Does this mean I am weak; that I can’t handle it myself?” Instead of reaching out for that much-needed “spot”, we continue to mishandle the burden, using methods that open us up to harm and long-term injury. In short, we become like Ranger Number One, who was throwing weights in the gym, expending much energy through gyrations that were both ineffective and, possibly, harmful, but gaining no ground.

My maternal Grandfather was a “country” man, but he was a wise man; a man who took every opportunity to pass along to his grandson (me) timeless truth and life lessons. I recall the day he said to me, “Son, there ain’t no shame in finding that you have bed bugs. But, it sure is a shame to keep ‘em.” By extension, there is no shame in realizing that you are struggling with a weight that you are not able to manage. No shame in asking for, and accepting, a “spot”.

It is worthwhile to restate this: There is no shame in realizing, and acknowledging, that you need a “spot” to break through your current plateau – your present sticking point – to achieve a better state. But, it would be a shame to realize the need for help and to do nothing. Honestly, I am unable to recall ever seeing anyone in a gym setting, who was struggling to lift a weight beyond their ability, say, “No”, when someone offered a “spot”. I can’t recall a single such incident. “Yes,” was always the answer; a good answer, at that.

Lastly, asking for a “spot” lies solidly within the parameters of the Ranger Creed. Our pledge to “always keep [myself] mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight compels us to seek fruitful and legitimate means to gain and maintain strength and overall wellness. In like fashion, the pledge to “never leave a fallen comrade” constitutes a moral obligation – a duty – to respond, without judgment or derision, to our Brothers who need a “spot” to get through a tough time.

We can still lift, and carry, the weights; the weights of loss, of grief, of anger, of guilt, of despair. We can do it, but to do so in a way that is helpful for ourselves and profitable for those around us — Family and Friends – may require us to seek and accept a “spot”; some assistance to break through the sticking point. Don’t spend another day trying to manhandle that persistent burden. Ask for that “spot.”
Those who are willing to assist you are ready to do so, and they are legion … RLTW!