First, I again want to say thank you to all the Chiefs, Sheriffs, Officers, Administrators and fellow Chaplains who have made it possible for me to distribute this message.
I have noticed that sometimes in life, the lessons we are best able to teach can be those we have learned ourselves. So since we are coming up to Thanksgiving, I’m going to briefly talk about cynicism.
How do we reconcile when recent studies show that cynicism releases chemicals in your blood that is bad for your heart with what we are told in training? We’ve all been told “Always plan for the worst in any traffic stop”. “Prepare for the worst in every house fire.” But is there a difference in preparing and training for the worst, and being cynical? I think there is a fine line, and we can prepare for it, but not fall victim to it’s danger. When we get in the car, we put our seat belts on. When we initiate a traffic stop, we can keep our hands on our gun. We never turn our backs on anyone or anything. We pause before going through a light when we are running code. We do this because we are trained to and it’s good practice.
I think the line is where and when cynicism occurs. We have to be “on guard” to not let this affect other areas of our lives. Does our work-mindset carry over into our personal lives? From time to time, all of us are “over the top” at some point with friends, co-workers or our families, and I’m no exception. I felt the need to send the following email to my co-workers.
“Sometimes we all get to a place in life when we find it easier to surrender to cynicism than to resist it. Sometimes we surrender for various reasons. Money issues may be wearing on us. Sickness (or extended sickness) in our families. Family issues may be wearing on us. And, as much as we like to think we can (or at least try) , we can not flip a switch to isolate parts of our lives from the other.
We allow ourselves to be grumpy, short with others, and sometimes hateful. We justify our thoughts to ourselves, then when it becomes actions we justify it to others. And we allow ourselves to continue down that slope. We allow others to feed into it, and even worse we feed into others. It’s easy to float downstream, and hey, everyone is doing it. We make judgments based on what we think we know, and it turns out we might not have had all the facts.
I’ve been in a couple of conversations in the last few days that have pointed this out. Jaded and cynical does not match my Hawaiian shirts very well. A friend once asked me a question that I taped to my monitor (because I knew I’d forget it). When we were having a “gripe session” Todd said , “Well you should ask yourselves a question…’How can I make this better’ and then prepare to live by it.”
I said all that to say this… in the better or bitter battle that we all fight in our own souls, I have allowed myself to become a little more bitter. And that has affected some of you. And for that I am sorry.”
It’s been said that “revenge is a dish best served cold”, but I’ve found that crow is not good regardless of how it’s prepared. But even the best of us have to “eat crow” and admit we are wrong from time to time. I’m passing this along to you, my readers, in hopes that you will learn from my mistakes, and not your own.
So, stand up and make a difference. Do what it takes to be safe on the job. Train, study, take classes, stay alert. But I also ask that you talk to someone if you find yourself struggling. If you find you can never relax, or trust people, find someone to talk to. As I generally note during the holidays, the holidays can be a time of sadness, frustration or depression. If you find yourself struggling in this holiday season, don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance. Your departments may have Employee Assistance Care, Chaplains, Chiefs, other supervisors, clergy and/or even friends for guidance and assistance should you need it. I’ll make myself available to help you in any way that I can. Call us, grab us after roll call, or send an email. Reach out if you need to.
I’ve said it in every email, and every chance I get. I’ve said it to the chiefs and administrators when I contact them. I’ve said it to you on the parks and restaurants. You all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough.