Breaking Point

Dept. of VAAfter months of being in the press and weeks of speculation as to his fate, Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, has stepped down. As this scandal has raged on, it has become apparent that the problems with the system did not emerge overnight, they had been around for a while. It’s just that now, they have come to a head, to a breaking point as the controversy began to fester and boil over.

I personally became aware of issues with the system while living in Asheville, North Carolina. The flaws that I began to see were evident in the VA hospital system. The local VA hospital seemed to have had a reputation for less than adequate care and over the course of my 3 1/2 years in Asheville, I watched as two veterans from my church died under the watch care of the VA hospital. Any time that I heard someone was going to that hospital, I cringed inside because of the reputation that it had, which was confirmed with the loss of these two dear men who had been well-loved husbands, fathers, and grandfathers.

The thing about the VA scandal is that it’s not a new story and, if we’re really honest with ourselves, it’s probably something that we’ve seen in our lives, some of us more than others. There’s a problem that becomes evident and we think that if we cover over it, sweep it under the rug, ignore it long enough, it will actually go away. But the fact is, it never does go away and, in fact, the situation is just exacerbated the longer we ignore it. What once might have been a fixable problem, small and seemingly insignificant, has become a goliath of an issue that takes much longer to fix and impacts a much broader swath of people than originally expected.

I can think back on my own life and certain issues that tugged at my gut, giving me that uneasy feeling deep inside, which I chose to ignore. The issues didn’t resolve themselves, they only worsened, making it that much harder to address. When I finally confronted these issues head on, they seemed to loom far above me, casting their ominous shadow on me and causing me to seek refuge or shelter somewhere else. And in the midst of it, I had to ask myself whether it was really worth it? Did ignoring it and pretending that it wasn’t there really benefit me at all?

The question we might have to honestly ask ourselves in the midst of a difficult situation is, “will it be more painful to address this now or after I’ve ignored it for a while?”

I’ve rarely met people who like conflict. In fact, more often than not, I meet more people who are conflict averse and will do anything to avoid that conflict, even conceding to things that go against their own beliefs or ideology. Conflict isn’t fun and we can always find ways to convince ourselves that this conflict will be different from every other time we’ve faced it in the past. This time, things won’t escalate nearly as much as they did last time. This time, when I sweep it under the rug, it will actually stay there, never to be heard from again.

But to believe those lies is delusional…….

What would happen if we actually hit conflict head on when it first arose? What if we mustered up the courage to face it initially rather than sweeping it under the rug?

Regardless of who is to blame for the disarray within the VA system, what would have happened if someone had confronted the conflict earlier on? What could have been prevented had that been done?

The whole situation is cause to consider how I face conflict and reconsider it the next time that I think I will ignore it. How about you?

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