Law enforcement can be a drain on you. An officer’s body, psyche, emotions and relationships can undergo tremendous strain over the course of a career. The physical battles we face are almost easier than the relentless emotional and mental battles of the job. Crazy hours and poor diets can highlight these challenges. Attacks against officers can come from suspects, friends or family, community groups, the media or those from own department, who oftentimes deliver the most damning criticism. All of this adversity can end in officers suffering from poor health, depression, addiction and, at times, suicidal behavior.
In the Bible, there is the popular story of David and Goliath. This is not meant to be a religious article per se, but the story simply provides a template that you may find useful when dealing with the challenges that this career and life throws at you.
In David and Goliath, Goliath was a huge warrior who was seen as an unbeatable adversary. He was matched up against a boy, David, who was not seen as his equal. David rejected traditional battle (e.g., armor, shield, sword, etc.) and instead chose five smooth stones as his weapon system. According to the story, David had used these stones on prior occasions to kill a lion and a bear, so he was proficient in their use and confident in his abilities. David had faith in his ability to prevail and had prepared prior to the event; he chose to attack the problem directly by using his strength. By selecting five smooth stones and playing to his strength, David ended up bringing the equivalent of a gun to a knife fight and dominated Goliath.
Whether you believe any biblical account or not, I know that I have had many Goliath-type obstacles arise over my lifetime and throughout my career. While these challenges come to all, no matter their profession, the added stress that comes with being in law enforcement can make these personal Goliaths seem unbeatable. If you reach a point of addiction or need mental health assistance, this article is not a suggestion that you should not seek help. This article is not intended to be a cure-all, and nothing is wrong with you if you seek help or feel truly overwhelmed. What I hope this article is used for, however, is as a day-to-day guide, one that shows how you may use some principles from the biblical allegory of David and Goliath to develop a fundamental formula to approach each day and win life’s battles.
Just like David, my formula uses five smooth stones as well. These “stones” are five key areas that I attempt to engage in on a daily basis. I still have bad days or events like anyone else; however, l have found that if I focus on these key areas, it helps me overcome challenges, and I am far less likely to be depressed or dwell on issues that may arise. My goal is to deploy my “stones” daily, regardless of what the day brings. If I use three or more stones throughout any given day, I find that I generally feel happy and am able to appreciate the things in my life. The stones are as follows, listed one through five, but in truth, there is no one true order.
Stone One: Faith, Hope and Gratitude
I choose to use a personal religious framework to utilize this stone. If you have questions about my faith or how it applies to my life, I am open to having those discussions. However, it is not a requirement to think, feel or worship like me in order to have faith or gratitude in your life. Once again, if that is missing for you and you want to talk, I am here, but any source of faith (believing you can be successful), hope (believing things will work out) or gratitude (for your children, parents, job, health, personal faith, etc.) can be useful. The blessings of being born to my family, my wonderful wife, my kids, my extended family, the great men and women with whom I have served and my faith have all been amazing blessings for me. I take time to reflect on these aspects of my life daily, and this allows me to deploy this stone each day.
Stone Two: Agency and Your Family Name
Use your ability to choose and to make choices that are solid and will not embarrass your family name. As a police officer, some FTOs have taught over the years to never do anything that would make your family embarrassed if it were on the news. I have also heard fathers tell their sons to be the same person they are in the dark as they are in the light. When I make choices that I can stand behind, it helps solidify how I handle problems that may arise. When I make good choices consistently over time, it strengthens me and gives me the confidence to be a worthy adversary against the Goliaths that arise in my life. Goliaths will come my way regardless of my choices; I just don’t want to be the reason the Goliath appears in my life. I certainly have made mistakes in the past, but if I focus on using my ability to choose wisely and work hard to fix and not repeat poor choices, this stone will strengthen me.
Stone Three: Physical Fitness
Our bodies were made to be active and to move. One of the most effective ways to deal with the stress of the job and life in general is to work out. As a police officer, I am an outspoken advocate of training on a regular basis, and that can be worked into or done in conjunction with the stone regarding physical fitness. I actually do not find time every day to work out. I generally try to elevate my heart rate for at least 30 minutes, or longer if possible, when I train. This can include bodyweight workouts, cardio, weights, combatives, shooting or combination workouts. One P# 8233 of the formulas I utilize to keep my workouts on schedule is the rule of three, which looks at the number three and how it relates to life. If I am without air for more than three minutes, there is a good chance I will die. If I lose more than three pints of blood, I may die. If I am out in the desert for more than three days with no water or shelter in the summer, I will die. When I go three days or longer without working out or training, I am dying. Weeks, months and years of making no personal effort to work out or train is a no-go. Train regularly and train often. In short, train a little, a lot, over and over. This stone truly gets you ready for Goliath and the battles that are sure to come.
Stone Four: Service
As officers, our job is built on the foundation of service. We serve the community and we serve one another in our personal lives. We can find opportunities to serve others daily. Service can be small; it can be a simple hello, a text, jumping a call for a teammate or doing something nice for a family member. In our line of work, the service is often far more significant and may involve the ultimate sacrifice of one’s own life on behalf of others. In our profession, this stone must be a staple. As an aside, when I serve others, it often has the effect of diminishing the size of the Goliaths in my own life. The daily service of others needs to be a fundamental stone we deploy in this battle. As we serve others, we often assist them in dealing with the Goliaths in their lives. As we see the challenges others face, it can help give us perspective on the challenges we’re facing. As we serve others, we often feel grateful, and as others overcome through our service, it may strengthen our own hope or faith. As you can see, if I deploy this one stone, it can strengthen me in other areas. Our job can rob us of many things — don’t allow it to rob you of your hope or faith and service of others, and don’t allow the darkness of the job to consume you.
Stone Five: Knowledge
Professional and personal knowledge is a key stone to fight the of the Goliaths in our lives. Our mind, like our body, is best utilized when we stimulate it regularly. We can also use this stone to strengthen all other areas by gaining knowledge and applying it. We should read and study daily from good sources that will enrich and uplift us. For me, the “stones” I hone are part of a formula that allows me to deal with the negativity and stress of the job and of life. If I am going to have tons of garbage coming in from the job, I want to be putting good stuff in so that I can force the garbage out. Gaining professional knowledge (being a professional, a student of the game) is another way that I can increase my professional satisfaction. The pursuit and application of knowledge should be a lifelong pursuit.
Those are my five stones: faith, personal choice, physical training, service of others and knowledge. My personal goal each day is to deploy at least three of my five stones, whether I am facing a Goliath or not. In other words, I might do something to increase my faith (e.g., I might read something uplifting and pray), work out (e.g., participate in a BJJ/MMA class at a local gym) and serve another (e.g., calling a friend who is struggling to offer support). That might be all I accomplish that day. By the way, my application of faith and my workout may give me some knowledge as well. At the end of each day, I consider my stone “count” for the day. On this day, my count would be four or maybe even five, depending on whether I made any knucklehead decisions. If I finish each day consistently with three or more stones deployed, I find that I am generally happy day to day. If I am regularly deploying stones daily, my proficiency grows, and when the Goliaths appear in my life, I am far more likely to slay them in a one-sided manner, much like the timeless original story.
You could develop your own formula, or even your own categories. I have been a police officer for years, and I planned from early on to actively work on myself to prevent the job from destroying me personally. If you have experienced huge personal challenges or have lost some good things in your life, it is never too late to start working on yourself. I have for sure changed over time, but I am blessed to still have my marriage and family, my faith, my love and appreciation for my fellow man and my health. This is how I have dealt with all that the job does to us and how I have been able to maintain the most important parts of myself throughout this journey. You may do something similar or use your own formula. No matter what you do, remember that you are more likely to dominate the Goliaths in your life if you have prepared for the battle beforehand, consistently and over time.