To say that America’s law enforcement officers are being put to the test in our current environment would be an understatement. The months of dealing with COVID-19 have been difficult enough, but the recent protests – peaceful and not so much – are beginning to take their toll. Much of the added stress police officers are experiencing right now is due to society questioning the character and integrity of today’s police officers. I’d just like to share some brief ideas with you and tell you that, indeed, your character matters. It matters to your profession, but it also matters when it comes to making you more resilient in dealing with the many stresses of the job and of life.
These concepts can be broken down into two basic categories: your character – what kind of person you need to be in order to be in harmony with your best self, and then your conduct – how you should conduct yourself in your relationships in order to be in harmony with others. Here they are:
- Relationship Equity. When it comes to character, there is the matter of building relationship equity, which becomes the foundation for good relationships. You build relationship equity by showing kindness and consideration, by keeping your promises and honoring your commitments, and by finding the positive in people and showing some grace for the negative.
- Realizing your Potential. Then there is the matter of realizing your potential, maintaining an appropriate balance in all the important areas of your life, not settling for less than the best you can do, but also not working so hard at those things that you burn yourself out or set yourself up for failure in your relationships.
- Responsibility over our Responses. Then there is the matter of taking responsibility over our responses to the things that happen to us in life. We may like to believe we are in control, but often things are happening around us that we cannot control. We must, therefore, focus on controlling what we can, and then taking responsibility for our moods and actions rather than placing the blame on others or on our negative circumstances.
- Realistic Expectations. What about realistic expectations? We need to have an image in mind of what it is we would like to accomplish in our lives, and then organize our lives in such a way that the daily decisions we make lead us toward that desired end.
- Right Priorities. We could also talk about having right priorities. In his 1994 book called First Things First, Stephen Covey devoted an entire section to explaining this statement: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Be disciplined, don’t be sidetracked by unimportant things, don’t get lost in the “busyness” of the day, but make decisions and engage in actions that are consistent with your core values and principles. When you are experiencing victory in those areas that help you develop your character and integrity, you will also start experiencing victory in the areas that help govern your conduct in relationships with others.
- Reasonable Outcomes. There are ways to obtain reasonable outcomes in those times when we may be experiencing conflict with others. A person of character will be that person who will be concerned about the needs of the other person and will seek solutions that benefit all concerned.
- Respectful Conversations. Seeking a reasonable outcome is dependent on being able to have respectful conversations. This means taking time to listen and understand the perspective of others rather than simply being concerned about getting your own point across.
- Reaching Out to Others. Reaching out to others is something else that is valued by a person of integrity. It means understanding that the best ideas for creative solutions may often come in collaboration with others; therefore, we need to seek out the opinions and insights of others.
- Replenishing Yourself. You have to dedicate plenty of time to replenishing yourself. That process is the ongoing renewal of your vision, your discipline, your passion, and your principles so that you are constantly growing and consistently being driven toward the best version of yourself. It may be the closest any of us ever come to achieving the top level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that he labeled as self-actualization.
And here’s what I think. I think that if you put these concepts into practice, that not only will you be the person you need to be in order to make the greatest contribution to the lives of others, and receive the best of what life offers, but you will also inspire others to do the same.
Your character matters. How you treat other people can affect how well you take of yourself. Your self-confidence can influence your self-control. Your appreciation for the perspective of others can often improve your perspective on life. And taking care of your mental and spiritual health can have a greater impact than you may imagine on your physical health. The success of your life, and success in your career in emergency services is as much about who you are as a person as it is about how well you train to do the work you do.
What’s more, goodness is contagious. Optimism is contagious. Kindness and compassion are contagious. Respect is contagious. Passion is contagious. And success is contagious! Reflect and rejoice in the person that you are capable of being and pass it on to others!
– David R. Edwards