Make Your Bed

Michael Metzger

Almost 90 percent of workers are “not engaged” with, or “actively disengaged” with their jobs. Labor Day is their escape. But it’s not a solution. Navy SEALS have one. Interestingly enough, it’s in scripture as well.

If you want to observe engaged leaders, check out Navy SEALs. U.S. Navy admiral William H. McRaven, a former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, is one of them. He gave the 2014 commencement address at his alma mater, the University of Texas. McRaven shared the Top Ten lessons he learned at SEAL school, a talk widely considered to be the best graduation speech of the year.

Basic SEAL training is “a lifetime of challenges crammed into six months,” he recalled. “Long torturous runs in the soft sand, midnight swims in the cold water off San Diego, obstacles courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep and always being cold, wet and miserable.” But McRaven said the entire torturous program starts with “the first lesson learned”—the importance of making your bed every morning.

Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Viet Nam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed.

Trainees are required to make their bed to perfection—sheets with square corners, covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack (Navy talk for bed). “It was a simple task—mundane at best,” McRaven noted, “but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.” What wisdom is he referring to?

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will encourage you to do another task and another and another. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

That’s what the scriptures say. The first task given to human beings is the Cultural Mandate—to cultivate the earth, improve it (Gen. 2:15). This mandate was reissued after the fall (Gen. 9), but cultivating a fallen world now requires reordering what has become disordered. That includes such mundane things as disheveled bed sheets.

This is why Peter, after healing Aeneas—a paralytic bedridden for eight years—says, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed” (Acts 9:33). This is also why Jesus noted, “if you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones” (Luke 16:10). If you’re trustworthy in doing the little things, you’ll be trustworthy with big things. Making your bed is a little thing. It indicates whether you can grow into big things.

This is worth recalling on Labor Day, an unfortunate word choice. After the fall, work became labor. In Genesis 3:16, the Hebrew word for labor pains—childbirth—is used in 3:17 to describe work as toil. Work became labor. Small wonder almost 90 percent of workers are not engaged with, or actively disengaged with their jobs. Making your bed every day might be the first step toward meaningful work. As William McRaven reminded UT grads, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

Follow me on Twitter: @Metzger_Mike


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  1. Mike,

    I see the value of the metaphor. Start your day by doing right, the first task presented. Another way to look at it is to get into the right habits , and do them at the start of every day.

    If you rise before your spouse, you can’t make your bed as the first order of business. But this lesson is well put as it applies to starting your day right. And it’s the little things you do right or wrong that will tell how you are likely to respond when confronted with bigger issues.

  2. Mike,
    I want to endorse the metaphor you’ve used and embellish it.
    ADM McRaven was my CO at ST 3. I loved his speech. The principle he asserts is helping us, one to initiate our gifts each day, and two instigating change, which developed hope. It also reinforces positive habit, namely ‘get up and redeem’. Now, as a therapist I understand how habits are important to us who are fearfully and wonderfully made’. Habits run our lives(Duhigg) and it is a manifestation of our design to take on more and more and do better and better. (eg I have a habit of ducking when I hear gunfire and 1 plus 1 is 2 , so I can get on to bigger issues.) We must be intentional to develop habits… ‘ they become our character, they become our destiny’. Some SEALs have a daily habit of reading Gods Word…so when the time comes redemption is a reflex.
    Be well. Do good

  3. Dunno…

    But unlikely, since there don’t seem to be any beds in heaven (the Lord never sleeps not slumbers). We will probably never sleep. This however indicates there will be no slumber parties as well. So sad.

  4. When I was an AFA cadet, we also had to make our beds to perfection – so we never slept in them – just on top of them. But AFA had us strip the beds once a week, so we enjoyed sleeping in them at least the night before. But I strongly endorse Adm McRaven’s metaphor, and — at least in my case — not making the bed had serious consequences other than an untidy appearance.

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