Stand and Be True

Lane Baldwin - The Dark Tower by Stephen King

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I’ve always done my best to learn from every situation. It’s another lesson I learned from my father. He told me time and again that I could learn from anyone, no matter who they were, how smart, how wealthy, how good or bad. And while it took longer to sink in, he did his best to teach me I could learn from my own actions, both good ones and bad ones. Like many of us, however, I had to make some mistakes an extra time or two before the lesson sank in. Regardless, the main point is that I learned to keep my eyes and ears open, soaking up everything I could like a dry sponge meeting water for the first time.

It’s not just people around us that can teach us, though. I’ve discovered some great ideas in books, TV, movies, even the media offers up something of value from time to time. One excellent example is Larry Spears essay on examples of servant-leadership principles in the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen. [DISCLAIMER: I sit on Larry’s board and have featured essays in two books co-edited by him.]

So… opportunities to learn are everywhere, and since reading is one of my favorite pass-times – thinking fiction here – I’ve picked up a thing or two from books. Still, I never thought I’d learn a fundamental lesson in character from Stephen King. Don’t get me wrong; I love his books, even if I do agree with the author’s own assessment of his not-the-best endings. I just never expected to learn something so profound, and yet so simple, from him. And yet, I did, in his epic, 8-volume story (plus a prequel short story), The Dark Tower.

Actually, I learned more than one thing from this saga. But I think the most important one is also the most simple:

Stand and Be True.

Four simple words, but with so much meaning. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a more concise description of what it takes to be a good person. Think about it for a minute, then read on. It’s OK. I’ll wait.

Stand

Just this one word has several levels. The first one I think of is the need to stand up after life has knocked you down. This is the most important lesson I learned from my father, and I’ve written several songs and poems about it. Getting knocked down is not what defines a person; it’s what they do afterwards that matters. We all suffer setbacks and losses. We all sometimes crumple a bit under the weight of our particular burdens. That’s OK. It’s part of being challenged, being pushed to your limits, and perhaps beyond. Crumple if you must; take a knee on the field of life and breathe for a moment. Then, stand back up!

The second thing I think of is the need to stand for things. It’s easy to be against things, but march harder to stand for one’s convictions, to stand for what’s right. It’s important to stand with your friends, your family, your team mates at work.

Finally (for this post, anyway), it’s important to stand in the face of challenges. Shrinking away from a problem or a challenge doesn’t make it go away. In many instances, it only makes the problem worse, because it grows while you’re busy ignoring it. Complaining about the problem doesn’t help. Worrying about it doesn’t help either. You know what helps? Dealing with it! Standing tall and saying, “OK, I’m going to face this and find my way through it.” That’s what helps.

Be True

Here we go with multiple levels again, beginning with being honest. My forbears lived in a time and place where a person’s word – his/her honesty – mattered. A lot. Dad drilled that into me from (my) cradle to (his) grave. Be truthful at all times, and never give yourself an excuse to do otherwise. When faced with a situation in which being completely honest might cause hurt to someone, find a way to respond without lying or being negative. “That’s a very interesting hair style” is so much better than “you look like a beehive.”

Be true to yourself. Don’t pretend to be something you are not. Don’t pretend to believe in things you don’t.

Be true to yourself, part two – Follow your heart and your passion. Sure, you could focus solely on what will pay you the most money, but if you do so at the cost of what matters most in your life, and in your soul, you will be a very poor person, indeed.

Be true to others. Live your life so that people know they can count on you.

This commentary only scratches the surface, but I think it’s a good start. I’d be very interested in your thoughts about this. What does this phrase mean to you? How do you incorporate it into your life? Things like that. So please feel free to leave me a comment, OK? Until next time,

May God bless and protect you all!

Lane


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