From Crisis to Calling: Finding Your Moral Center in the Toughest Decisions

BIZBOOKS AND BEYONDAs I sat down to write this book review today, an online article in the Huff Post grabbed my attention proclaiming Afghan Refugee Crisis Worsens. It seems the news is dominated by more and more crises related to refugees who are suffering greatly in violence–torn regions. This book would have been much more uncomfortable to read had it not been for the authors’ presentation of the storyline through the moral compass of each person involved in the refugee evacuation. In the second half of the book, the five principles of moral decision-making are conveyed through stories about corporate heroes of today.

Sasha Chanoff and Sheikha Ali were field officers for the International Organization for Migration sent into the Congo of Africa on a life-and-death rescue mission. Sasha and Sheikha were in the territory to evacuate 112 Tutsi men, women, and children. This was to CSLews - Book Cover - From Crisis to Callingbe the final evacuation and without exception only these people were allowed to be removed from the country. If there was any deviation from plan the mission would be aborted and all 112 individuals would be left in the compound to die.

One hundred twelve people were waiting to be identified, interviewed, photographed, and transported first on buses, then on an airplane from Africa, but hundreds more gathered to be taken to safety. How could Sasha and Sheikha ignore the desperate pleas of these five hundred others? Then the unthinkable happened. While arranging for the 112 evacuees to be processed, the Red Cross brought in 32 women and children who had been rescued just the day before from a camp where they had been brutalized and starved for sixteen months. How could Sasha and Sheikha leave them to their fate? Remember that if any attempts were made to alter the plan and take more that the approved 112, the entire mission was at risk?

It doesn’t end there. Sasha had been warned that he and Sheikha would be pressured to take more people. They were repeatedly told only the 112 on the list could be evacuated. “No one else or the whole thing will implode.” I read on with every muscle tensed as Sasha describes the condition of the 32 women and orphans wondering how they had survived up to now as they watched loved ones massacred and who themselves had been raped, tortured, starved and hunted until they were at death’s door. The officials who allowed that treatment were not unlike the incorrigible officials grudgingly granting the evacuation. The Congo was overrun with immoral, unethical arms traffickers, smugglers, and every type of shady person. People in authority, in politics, and in positions that should be offering protection were, instead, fraught with evil and illicit character.

“My whole professional life I had wanted to understand what refugees went through and do what I could to help save lives. And here I was, right in the middle of it. Inside their experience, in the very center of their crisis, and at the center of my own crisis too.”

–Sasha Chanoff

Sasha and Sheikha achieved their mission through amazing strategies, but not without many heart-pumping, white knuckle moments. In more than one situation, they had to stop and daringly ask, “Are we humanitarians, or are we not?” I hope you read the book to fully grasp the gravity of the dilemma they faced head on through treacherous circumstances and sleepless nights. The authors though are telling this story, not because we will be called upon to save the lives of a few while hundreds are left to their fate. The authors use that event to propel readers into deeper thoughts of how they respond to issues that demand decisions based on highly ethical values and truth north on the moral compass.

This is not a book to be read at the beach. This book is to be read with eyes and mind wide open to knowing yourself, being courageous, and having a strong sense of justice so decisions can be made with clear motives and solid values. At the beginning of the book, David Gergen talks about the crucibles of life and how they are experiences that prove who you are and are life-changing. Sasha Chanoff survived his crucible.

Let’s get into the 5-step pathway to moral decision-making right now, in the summation of the book, From Crisis to Calling: Finding your Moral Center in the Toughest Decisions. While the authors invite readers to learn the principles through real life stories of individuals whose lives took a different path through their crucible experiences, I’ve chosen to share my takeaways from the five principles. Yours will likely be different from mine, when you read the book for yourself. As the authors point out,

“In our book, we address the potential of altruistic or empathetic decision making to spark personal transformations that can, at times, lead to lifetime callings.”

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The Five Principles – building blocks to making moral decisions

  1. Be prepared
We have a tendency to gravitate toward what we already know, what our circles of influence tell us. We don’t venture beyond what we learned from our parents or family. Being prepared implores us to seek beyond what we know and desire knowledge outside boundaries of our comfort zone wherein lies great potential.
  1. Open your eyes
Once you are prepared, open your eyes. Think of the potential resident in decisions you might now make instead of looking the other way. Start questioning, begin to dissect decisions with eyes wide open, without closing them to new possibilities.
  1. Confront yourself
Eyes wide open, now what? This is often the fork in the road. If there is clearly a right and wrong, the choice is much easier than when shrouded in complexity. What about Sasha and Sheikha? They had 112 evacuees on the list, the stage was set, the mission sealed – but what about the 32 in desperate need of rescue? Do they take them along and risk the lives of the other 112? Do they leave them back to die in the Congo? When the consequences have two prongs good and bad, what then? This is the time to have someone challenge you, argue with you, and force you to confront yourself so your eyes are opened even more.
  1. Know yourself
Many of us know our values and what our staunch beliefs are. Confronting ourselves moves us closer to better knowing ourselves. There is nothing like a moral crucible to reveal what we’ve hidden so far down into our souls that we are surprised when the gap between who we are, and who we thought we were, springs from a reactionary event. “Moral crucibles have great power to create change.”
Knowing your true self can help tap into underlying empathy, compassion, and feeling for others all to the advantage of living your life more fulfilled. Fulfilled lives make a difference.
  1. Take courage
Here is your opportunity to operate from your moral compass making decisions based on your true north. You will better understand the right course of action for you if you have tapped into your values through being prepared, opening your eyes, confronting yourself and knowing who you are. Many decisions will still be made in the face of fear and potential obstacles, and this is where courage is required.
“Courage is the crucial quality, always magnified by the force of moral conviction.”[/message][su_spacer]

The subject of this book, From Crisis to Calling is about developing authentic leaders who make decisions based on deep personal values that positively affect their lives and the lives of their organizations. Leaders of this deep moral character will build cultures of trust, fairness, equitability, and ethical leadership. One final thought from the authors, “Empathy is the essential need of great leaders who are intentional about building their organizations and communities.” Whether leaders or lay people, life’s tough choices need to be infused with moral sense – empathy, compassion, altruism.

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Jane Anderson
Jane Andersonhttp://refininggrace.com/
JANE’s professional experience is scattered across industries from financial services and insurance to engineering and manufacturing. Jane sees her background in writing and editing website content as the foundation to her current love of social media. Being an avid reader, meticulous note taker and lifelong learner has fostered her natural pursuit of sharing her world through writing. Reading books and summarizing content started as a hobby and has since grown to be a major part of her vocational experience. Jane says, “Authors pour their heart and soul into writing their book. When I write a review, it’s with intent to celebrate the book and promote the author.” Jane claims to be 'the best follower you'll ever want to meet' and has been repeatedly called servant leader, eternal cheerleader, social media evangelist, and inspirational go-to person. Jane is a contributing author to the inspiring book Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational Change.


  1. Hi, Jane, great sharing, thanks!

    Virtue, moral excellence, is developed deliberately every single day. We either develop it or it atrophies. We tend to hide the usual atrophies by blaming it on veneers, thin excuses we make for not developing moral fortitude. Something as innocuous as “Give me five more minutes in bed” and then blaming my tardiness on unexpectedly heavy traffic, is allowing the quality of Punctuality to atrophy. Not to mention attriting Truthfulness.

    Yes, crucibles let undesirables rise to the surface. Best to put ourselves through mini crucibles before that big one comes along.

    • Elijah, thank you for adding value to the conversation. I have been told through my whole life that your character is what you do when nobody is looking. It puts the onus on ourselves to continually examine and quality check our integrity. I love that you bring up the idea of succeeding in little things before the big one comes along. This was a really good book.