image When I was a little boy, it did not take me long to realize that the way I talked to my mom could not be the way I talked to my grandparents. My mom and I have had a very unique relationship that has been smelted in the furnace of dysfunction and God still managed to bring about vessels for His pleasure. For my mom and me, our hardships have defined us and after decades have become our testimonies. However, the brashness of our speech, the crudeness of our interfacing, and the limited amount of reciprocal encouragement have taken their toll. Growing up, I could basically say anything I wanted to toward my mother. Granted it was usually met with equally leveled accusation but we were communicating at least.

When I interacted with my grandparents, I had to mind my tongue, exhibit some form of manners, be respectful, think before I spoke and many other uncomfortable disciplines. Furthermore, I noticed all my Aunts and Uncles did the same. They minded all the things above until they were out of Granny’s reach. If it was them and my Pawpaw, that was one thing but them and Granny was another. For me especially, such behavior or acting was very confusing. I never knew how to be or act in front of others. Thus, I acted like I did around my mom with my teachers. Bad Idea! It didn’t help that I went to five different schools in three different states and four different cities in a five year period. Much of the movement was a result of behavioral issues on my part. The cool thing was I could become whomever I wanted when changing schools. I could “put on” a different type of character and experiment with who I wanted to be and what I wanted to act like when I grew up.

What I did not realize at the time and how could I being ages 5-11, was that acting out all of these different types of characters while changing my morals, ethics and behavior was and is not healthy. I lacked a father figure, consistency, discipline, healthy examples, safe family and dependable systems. Thankfully, God had other plans for my life or I would not be writing this blog to you today.

Decades later, after accepting Christ as my savior and receiving the call into ministry, I developed a sermon that highlighted these very concerns. It is called “Hats”. All of us wear different hats in life but the question becomes what is our character and behavior like when we wear them? Who are we representing and how? Finally, why do our morals, ethics and behavior change with each hat?

For example: I am a…

  1. Dad
  2. Son
  3. Husband
  4. Brother
  5. Uncle
  6. Nephew
  7. Soldier (Stateside)
  8. Soldier (Deployed)
  9. Chaplain
  10. Ordained Minister
  11. Neighbor
  12. Geographic bachelor when traveling
  13. Friend
  14. Counselor/Adviser/Therapist
  15. Cousin
  16. And many more…

For each of the ones listed above, imagine a “HAT” is associated with each. As I step into each of the roles, it is important to know and ask if my morals, ethics and behaviors change when I wear a different hat from the day or time before. I think if each of us are honest with ourselves and God, we will admit that our morals, ethics and behaviors have changed and in some cases changed into characteristics that are less than honorable and certainly do not represent who we are on a consistent basis.

image For example, when looking at the list above some may get confused by #’s 7 & 8. However, if you have deployed you know that people change in the areas of morals, ethics and behaviors when they deploy. Many of the changes are not present prior to deployment and only manifest during or after deployment. Then, when we return everyone thinks we have changed and become a different person. One reason for this is a lack of consistent moral, ethical, and behavioral examples while deployed. There are a multitude of other possibilities as well but a caring example of how to behave is certainly at the top of the list.

The bottom line is the more we change our morals, ethics, behaviors with each hat, the more we are practicing dysfunction. We are people who live in systems and in structure. Those systems and structures demand that we live by some form of boundary setting, both personally and collectively.

Here is a simple way to test what I am presenting. Look around at the people you interact with and change hats with on a daily basis. Who appears to be the most squared away? Who appears to have it even somewhat together? To take it a step further, who has the least amount of relational, moral, ethical, and behavioral problems? Regardless of their belief system, you will find that it is those who are most consistent when changing hats.

The very fact that we live within systems and structures suggests a maker, a person who transcends all systems and yet can intervene in all systems to effect His will. This person, we Christians call God. Not only that, He ordained and created these systems so you would have an example of what right looks like even when the people around you fail to be what you need.

Let’s face it, there are people out there who simply do not care and look for every method and means to violate the systems, structures and perceptions of how we wear our hats. Clearly, an enemy exists. As people who are blind to most of the created world and the wonders of God, we must decide to do ourselves and those around us a favor and learn to be consistent in our morals, ethics, and behaviors. We are not built, made nor created to be a-moral. We are a vessel that has been created within a larger system that is also within a larger system and so on…as such, we are limited, vulnerable, weak, and susceptible to the destruction of our integrity. This above all else, we must learn to guard, value and protect and in ways that are yet to be fully known.

image God loves us, but as we are to be people of integrity when no one is looking, we are to be people of integrity with the vessel we have been given. This body has its limitations but it also has a divine purpose to serve God wholly.

In order to determine where you are in this analogy, take a few hats of your own. Place labels on them similar to those listed above but that represent you. Think about each hat as you place them on your head and ask yourself: “Do my morals, ethics and values change with this hat? What about this one?” If the answer is yes, then you know like I know that we have a lot of work to do. Obviously, anyone can live inconsistently. However it takes a very determined man or woman of God to live consistently within the vessels God have entrusted to each of us.

Finally, these endeavors take more than individual consistent effort. They take accountability. I encourage you to look for and befriend those who are most consistent around you. Seek wise mentors and people who care for you just because you are you. This is NOT about judging others, this is about practicing holiness with the only thing we truly control, OURSELVES!

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:16-25

Mijikai Mason
Disclaimer: The thoughts and views published on the Veterans to Christ blog are those of Mijikai Mason and in no way are meant to represent the United States Army or the Armed Forces.

Bio: Mijikai Mason is an Ordained Southern Baptist minister and Chaplain in the United States Army. He has been in the Army for 26 years both as an enlisted Soldier and now as an Officer. He has been stationed at various bases in the United States and in United States Army Garrison Schweinfurt, Germany. He holds an undergraduate degree in Religion from the University of Mobile, a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Theology and Evangelism and a Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Webster University. Chaplain (MAJ) Mijikai Mason was selected by the Army in 2013, to become a Family Life Chaplain and began his service in this field starting 15 May 2015. He is the Deputy ESC Chaplain and Family Life Chaplain for the 593 Expeditionary Support Command at Joint Base Lewis McCord. He has deployed four times: Desert Storm (1991), Iraq twice (2005-2006; 2007-2008), and Afghanistan (2012-2013). He has a total of 42 months deployed in combat and logistics operations. Mijikai and his wife, Ashley, have been married for 17 years this May and live near Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington with their four daughters.