Stanislav Petrov, an elite officer in the Soviet army, quite possibly singlehandedly prevented a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States. Petrov was assigned to monitor Soviet missile warning systems at the height of the Cold War. In September 1983, early warning systems reported a missile launch from the U.S. with the ‘highest’ confidence levels. Petrov was on duty at the time and had orders to alert his superiors about such a warning.
Despite these orders, he took no action. As he watched the screen change from LAUNCH to MISSILE STRIKE with sirens blaring, Petrov had the instinct that something was wrong. He checked with support systems who reported no activity. He also thought it was strange how quickly the computer system raised its confidence metric to the highest levels.
Petrov sat for twenty-three minutes before realizing that, had the warning been accurate, the missiles would have struck by then. It turned out that the incident was a malfunction of the alert system. Had Petrov taken action, most agree that Soviet leadership would have likely authorized (what they would have believed to be) a retaliatory nuclear strike against the U.S.
Thirty years later, Petrov reported to the BBC, “I had all the data to suggest there was an ongoing missile attack. If I had sent my report up the chain of command, nobody would have said a word against it.” Petrov’s ability to stay calm while carefully assessing the situation allowed him to make a critical choice that likely saved the world from disaster beyond imagination (Dan Jasper, Street Civics).
Keeping your cool when it feels like your world is going up in smoke can make the difference between success and failure in your personal as well as corporate relationships.
Think about times in your life when, in a moment of conflict or stress, you made a hasty decision or spoke without the filter of the Holy Spirit. Now think about a few times when you followed James’ wisdom to ‘be quick to listen, and slow to speak’ (Jas 1:19). Which instances had better outcomes?
There are times when a harsh or hasty reaction may feel justified. But if the end result is not productive, then similar to Petrov’s situation, no matter how justifiable it may seem, you must look for an alternative way to handle the situation. Proverbs 19:2 says; “It is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs.”
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For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life – Rom 8:6.