An old cliché is often thrown around the office, “shipmates do not bilge on each other”. As old as it is, as obscure as it is, it is not clear what obligations we have with each other. Are they negotiated on a one by one basis? Is there a norm that we agree to follow if it is a work versus casual friend versus close friend? Where does it begin and end?
The question resurfaced in several recent conversations. How honest am I with a friend? In one situation, I was candid. If I had been angry, I would have added a word to describe the candor. The word would have come from the brutal, blunt, or completely candid family of descriptions. It was a potentially dangerous conversation. His response followed an old wisdom father model.
In another situation, again my candor came to the surface. It was a risky conversation where I felt I could have been attacked, ridiculed, or dismissed.
The wisdom model I am thinking of links well with the maritime cliché. “If we see a Christian believer sinning (clearly I’m not talking about those who make a practice of sin in a way that is “fatal,” leading to eternal death), we ask for God’s help and he gladly gives it, gives life to the sinner whose sin is not fatal.” (1 John 5.16) In short, shipmates do not bilge on each other.
A sailor’s first obligation is to the ship. The model suggests we take care of our community first, then, we worry about the people in it. We act to take care of those around us. In both instances, I needed engaged conversations that met me in reality. I did not need platitudes or clichés. My questions and issues were real. Their responses were grounded in friendship, caring, and compassion.
Life does not always come with easy answers. When we have mates to help, it makes a tangible difference. Today is an opportunity to give back to my community and mates. I/We hold the freedom within me to make a difference.