In the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey uses this illustration of what he calls principles or the natural laws of life. Our decisions should be aligned with our core values and principles. In the reality of life, a map maybe useful but having a moral compass showing the right direction is more beneficial. Here’s an incredible story excerpted from the book as told by an ex-navy officer while on duty on the bridge of a battleship one dark and stormy night.
Battleship vs Lighthouse
“Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell.
The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.
Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported,
“Light, bearing on the starboard bow.”
“Is it steady or moving astern?” The captain called out.
Lookout replied, “Steady, captain,” which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.
The captain called to the signalman. “Signal that ship. We are on a collision course, advise you to change course 20 degrees.”
Back came a signal, “Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees.”
The captain said, “Send, I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.”
“I’m a seaman second class,” came the reply. “You had better change course 20 degrees.”
By that time, the captain was furious. He spat out, “Send; I’m a battleship. Change course 20 degrees.”
Back came the flashing light, “I’m a lighthouse.” We changed course.
Lighthouse as basic truths
The lighthouse in the story represents basic truths about the world. Unchangeable truths. Truths represent solid values and principles. They hold firm. They are based on truth, and we ignore and challenge them at our own risk. Our decisions should align with our core values and principles. Navigating life into this changing times a map maybe helpful but limited. What we need is a moral compass— a guide that will always point to the true north. Maybe like the star of Bethlehem guiding the Wise Men to the Messiah.
The compass represents the eternal verities of life. We must develop our value system based on the “true north” principles. Universal belief in fairness, kindness, dignity, charity, integrity, honesty, quality, service, and patience exists. Think of the absurdity of trying to live a life or run a business based on the opposites of those beliefs. Deception, lies, theft, uselessness, mediocrity, or degradation, etc for sure doesn’t constitute a solid foundation for lasting happiness and success. No way. For the Christian believer, the compass represents the Holy Spirit who will teach us, guide us in all truth. The Bible says the Truth is a person. “ I am the way, the truth and the life…” John 14:6