Serving in the Coast Guard inherently means embracing the core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty. A spiritually fit person can draw upon all of their core values and enter into any mission ready for action and strengthened by purpose.
Spiritual fitness - or spiritual readiness - addresses the element inside all of us as we seek meaning for our lives and is the place where our core values meet our daily behaviors and actions.
Retired Cmdr. Maurice Kaprow, who served as a Rabbi in U.S. Navy Chaplain Cops and is currently serving with the Auxiliary Chaplain Support program reminds folks that spiritual fitness should not be confused with religious practice. While for some people, investing time into religious traditions may be a part of becoming spiritually fit, it does not have to be.
“Many people express spirituality while asserting themselves as nonreligious people, [instead] spirituality is the driver that makes us continue to want to function as a trusted and meaningful member of the human race,” Kaprow said. “For those of us in the Coast Guard, it also addresses the character of our military service.”
As members of the Coast Guard, remaining physically fit is a top priority. Do you ever sometimes feel, though, like something is preventing you from being fully prepared to answer the call of duty? It could be that, in investing in your physical fitness, you have deemphasized focusing on your spiritual fitness.
Taking time to nurture your spiritual needs can help put you at ease, lessen worries and doubts, bolster your decision-making, and help you focus more on the mission at hand when called into action.
Getting underway for an extended counter-drug patrol, participating in a search and rescue mission, performing law enforcement duties, or spending extended time away from loved ones can be made easier when drawing on a source of inner strength.
Becoming spiritually fit is a process. Below are some examples given of activities and practices Kaprow recommends you can incorporate into to your life, as you train spiritual fitness muscles the same way we train our physical muscles.
- Practice gratitude. Each day, either on paper, in a digital note, or simply in your head, list the things you are grateful for. They can be big accomplishments or the little things you have every day—food, shelter, water, love, acceptance, etc. Take a moment to be thankful for all the good that you have in your life and appreciate how it impacts you.
- Serve others. Take a moment to do a small (or big) thing for others each day. Pay someone a compliment or call someone to tell them you love them. Buy the person behind you in line their coffee or write an email thanking a coworker for their job well done. In doing so, you will make yourself feel better and help make this world a better place.
- View your problems through a new lens. Try looking at your problems as opportunities rather than difficulties. While this is often easier said than done, by doing this, you can instill new confidence in yourself by focusing on obstacles as challenges you can overcome, rather than them being insurmountable. If you are struggling to find a solution—ask someone for help. Remember, you are a part of a team, not alone, in your struggles.
- Let go of negativity. Do not hold on to hatred or ill feelings. Forgive yourself for your mistakes and shortcomings. Anger and hatred, whether directed outward or inward, will only keep your shackled to your pain. When you choose to forgive, you are putting down the heavy weight of anger and refusing to let it dictate your decisions any longer. You may not forget what happened, but by forgiving you are choosing to let joy be the center of your life—not anger.
- Live out your values. Let your values paint the picture of who you are each and every day, by striving to live out your values. When faced with a decision, use your values as a touchpoint for making the choice that best reflects and exemplifies your character.
As Kaprow puts it, “we are all proud when others look up to us. The more we demonstrate our values, the better our name becomes, and the better we feel about ourselves.”
If you are interested in learning more about spiritual fitness, please contact your Coast Guard chaplain or a Coast Guard auxiliary support chaplain.
As a reminder, chaplains are a 100% confidential resource available to all members of the Coast Guard workforce, and their families. You do not have to be religious to talk with your chaplain. They are called into ministry to counsel and advise individuals of all faiths —even those with no faith background—and can serve as helpful connectors to other Coast Guard support services and outside ones.
A note on Chaplains Corner – A New MyCG Column
As part of a new initiative, all chaplains across the service will be trained in a special topic each month related to spiritual well-being. This topic will be addressed in the new MyCG column—Chaplain’s Corner. Those looking to understand more about the month’s topic can discuss this with their local chaplain, or auxiliary support chaplain, no matter where they are stationed.