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The Man Who Saved the World by Doing Nothing

The defining moment of Stanislav Petrov's life was the moment he decided to do nothing.

The Russian military duty officer was just a few hours into his shift when alarms blared, warning of intercontinental missiles that had been launched from an American base. The alarms turned out to be in error.

Many military duty officers might jump to take defensive measures, and this was indeed an assumption Petrov felt looming over him. During one of most tense periods of the Cold War, a series of events had led to Russia living in constant fear and anticipation of a US attack.

Before taking immediate defensive action, Petrov first sought clarity on the reality of the situation: "After five nerve-racking minutes — electronic maps and screens were flashing as he held a phone in one hand and an intercom in the other, trying to absorb streams of incoming information — Colonel Petrov decided that the launch reports were probably a false alarm."

Though Petrov was later reprimanded for not immediately reacting to the situation that confronted him, Petrov defended his inaction, pointing out that the alert system had been rushed to use and was likely inaccurate.

"We are wiser than the computers," he said.

Potential Preaching Angles: Rather than assuming the worst about our neighbors, true love "hopes all things." Patient love often takes going against our "reasonable" assumptions, and looking for reasons why our defensive posture might actually be misguided. Does lack of trust in God sometimes lead us to misguided action, taking matters into our own hands? Can we be still and trust God?

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