I get the best advice from old guys in uniform. I don’t know why this is. Maybe because they are old and finally have something to say. Maybe because the fact that they are in uniform makes them sound like they know what they are talking about. Maybe because when I get around them I spill my guts. Can’t help it.
So when I got talking about criticism to Garrison Command Sergeant Major Chester D. Grelock at Ft. Belvoir, I was thinking he wouldn’t have much tolerance for someone like me who took criticism so personally.
“Oh I know I should have a thicker skin, ” I admitted. ”I do know that. I keep trying.”
Then Sgt. Maj. Grelock surprised me with one of our Military Wife Quotes. “It’s OK to be thin-skinned,” he said. ”As long as you are an onion.” He followed that up with one of those sergeant major looks that make your brain work like sixty in order to figure out what the hell he meant.
Maybe he meant that since I wasn’t an onion I should stop being such a baby and expect a little criticism to come my way.
But I really think he was telling me to be an onion. That it was OK to be thin-skinned as long as you had another thin skin under that. And another thin skin under that. And so on ad infinitum. I betcha he learned that the hard way.
The same way the rest of us learn that lesson. In military life we can be thin-skinned because we care so much about what we are doing. It hurts to be criticized because this is the stuff that matters most. But we are meant to be thin-skinned like an onion, not an egg. We aren’t supposed to break with criticism, we are supposed to peel back a new layer. And keep moving forward so the work gets done.