The Tet Offensive
This is a follow-up post to my last one: Greater Expectations. It continues to explore the concept of expectations and the role they play in building trust. I just want to be very clear that trust building is the goal of meeting or surpassing expectations – not man pleasing. Man pleasing is a useless exercise. I remember, back in high school, I tried to understand what “cool” actually meant so I started looking for examples of “cool”. What I found was a highly relative and highly subjective mix of very very diverse “cool” people – in other words there really is no objective “cool”. To chase man’s favor is to chase the wind. It’s great when it hits your face but don’t expect it to last.
But trust is something else. Trust is an open door into someone’s mind. It’s a key to the heart. It’s worth building, and what’s worth building is worth protecting.
I cringe when I think about people whose trust I’ve lost. That’s probably gone forever. Maybe there’s forgiveness there but I’ll never again have the chance to truly be a part of their life the same way. I’ve blown my chance. Which makes earning and keeping the trust of those I still can very important to me.
So really, when we talk about standards and expectations, we’r really talking about trust.
My dad has a new book coming out, it’s nearly done, and it’s shaping up to be something I would highly recommend. But in the manuscript is a whole section on trust, its importance, how its defined, and how we can build it. Wait for a copy. I’d like to share a thought connected to trust, and I’ll start by talking about a well-known event in the Vietnam War.
January 31, 1968, before many of us were even born, with 80,000 troops, the Communist launched a massive attack on 36 of 44 provincial capitals, five of the six major cities and 64 district capitals. This attack would become known as the Tet Offensive. The Communists lost about half their men in this attack and the Vietcong were now crippled.
The ironic thing is, while American and South Vietnamese troops won that battle, many experts say that the Tet Offensive was the turning point that lost them the war, not because they lost more men than the Vietcong, but because they lost the trust of the American people. (The start of Tet is the lunar new year.)
To make a long story short, the Americans back home, who had been told that they were winning the war, were so shocked at the televised images of the Tet Offensive, that they were convinced that the government had lied to them about the war, and they lost confidence in the administration. A loss of confidence is a loss of trust. And when there was no more confidence in being able to win the war (in the jungle as well as the political battlefield), the end had come.
I think about that story, and I think about the Pyrrhic victories of my personal life, the battles I may have won but has cost me dearly. I think about achievements that seemed to be so sweet, dates so hot, or businesses so lucrative, or the different things in my life that seemed like must-haves but have turned out to be expensive mistakes.
These are Tet Offensives of our lives. The battles we win that cost us the war.
Most regrettable are the relationships lost, and the open hearts closed, probably forever, because I had to prove myself right in my position, or had to win a basketball game, or a tennis match, or had prioritized achievement, or just couldn’t accept being last.
While I never really said it, for most of my life winning at all cost, getting what I want at all cost, always seemed right. Now that I’m an old 25 year old, there are some wins that aren’t worth it. They’re not worth it because of the pain the cause or the baggage they bring. They’re especially not worth it because of the trust these wins have destroyed.
If we win every theological debate, but close their hearts, we will lose their souls.
If we win the battle to provide for our family, but lose their trust, we will lose those that mean most to us.
If we win the battle to be elected into positions, but abuse our power, we will lose our country.
If we win on all fronts but lose the trust battle, we will ultimately lose the war.