Law enforcement experts have increased discussions about the psychological traumas suffered by law enforcement professionals and what trainers should do in response. A host of different programs and treatments are available to combat the stressors caused by daily encounters with victims of violent crime and the suspects who prey upon them. When coupled with an officer’s feelings of being unappreciated, these traumas can turn a noble profession into a daily misery.
If I told you there was a safeguard that can act as an invisible weapon for our wounded warriors, would you be interested? Would you immediately add it to your street survival training?
What if this safeguard for officers served as a weapon that:
■Enables Stress Management
■Governs Intuitive Policing
■Governs Emotional Intelligence
Are you interested in finding out how to obtain the weapon that helps officers fight back against the toxic effects of law enforcement? It doesn’t require medication, counseling, or a stress management team to get started – just faith. The proven weapon that can help us safeguard ourselves against the traumas of our profession is Spirituality. Yes, I said spirituality is a proven safeguard for cops.
First, let me explain what spirituality means as far as this article and the accompanying research is concerned. While spirituality may mean religion for many of us, it does not take on that designation for the study. It includes all faiths and spiritual practices that a person believes is sacred, and not just the Christian faith that I align myself with. Spirituality refers to disciplines undertaken in the care and furtherance of the wholesome or holistic development of the spirit. In one study, the concept of spirituality was explained this way, “Human beings are essentially spiritual creatures because we are driven by a need to ask ‘fundamental’ or ‘ultimate’ questions. Why was I born? What is the meaning of my life? Why should I go on when I am tired, or depressed, or feel beaten? What makes it all worthwhile?” (Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall, Spiritual Intelligence, The Ultimate Intelligence 2000).
In “Spirituality: An Invisible Weapon for Wounded Warriors,” FBI Special Agent Samuel L. Feemster M.Div. J.D., says “The cultivation of spirituality in law enforcement, at both the individual and organizational levels, can operate as an invisible weapon for wounded warriors.” He explains that spirituality positively affects the vitality, longevity, performance, and practice of law enforcement by enabling officers to recharge themselves from within their spiritual belief and personal convictions. A nurtured spirituality improves practice, performance, vitality, and longevity, which all feed back into spirituality to improve emotional intelligence, intuition, ethics, and stress management
Feemster also makes this bold statement about the ground breaking research into spirituality, “Absent intentional spirituality, the coping mechanisms people adopt to manage stress often increases it. Then, they become a stressor to others. Thus, it seems reasonable to conclude that law enforcement training academies should consider stress management and spirituality as complementary disciplines.”
If the research indicates that spirituality helps us in so many ways, why haven’t we seen more of it added to our training curriculum? I fear that some of those who control what goes into law enforcement training programs see spirituality as politically incorrect – even if it has been proven effective. I have found myself wanting to make the excuse, “No one in the policing community knows about this beneficial research.” But, I know there have been at least 7 articles regarding spiritual-wellness published in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. This research has not been kept a secret from anyone, nor have the benefits from adding spirituality to our police training.
Policing is referred to as a “calling” by most of us who have worn a shield. That says a lot about the spirituality shared by those who serve society as law enforcers. Answering a “calling” indicates someone, or something, has called you in the first place. Many of us believe that we serve a cause much larger than ourselves as we protect the innocent by fighting those who choose to do wrong, and at times against evil itself.
The officers I knew, who became self destructive, saw policing as nothing more than a job. No different than any other occupation. Who would want a job where people assault you, spit on you, call you foul names, and even try to kill you for no other reason than that you wear a certain uniform? As a job, I think policing is a lousy choice, but as a calling, I believe there is no more noble profession on earth.
Hans Selye, one of the pioneers of stress management, said, “I cannot and should not be cured of my stress but merely taught to enjoy it.” Selye’s viewpoint follows the 2,000 year old teaching found in the book of Romans, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.”
Personally, my faith provides me with passion when I have no reason to be passionate. It helps me fight the doldrums of life. Doldrums are the calm winds found in certain regions of the oceans that were hazardous to sailing vessels. If a ship wondered into the doldrums, it could no longer harness the wind needed to power the vessel. A captain who finds his ship in the middle of the ocean, without power, is in grave danger of losing his direction and his life. I believe there is a similar term we use in law enforcement – “burnout.” It could be a synonym for doldrums, and burnout for an officer can be just as deadly. Officers find themselves exhausted from the stress of policing and wonder if their sacrifices are doing any good. They are unable to escape from the stress of the job, and there is no one to help them.
As you look through this interesting and innovative research you will discover that:
■Spirituality Enables Stress Management
■Spirituality Accelerates Performance
■Spirituality Enhances Practice
■Spirituality Governs Intuitive Policing
■Spirituality Governs Emotional Intelligence
■Spirituality Nurtures Ethics
■Spirituality Fosters Longevity
Can this research help us prepare the next generation of guardians for the traumas they will face? You can download the FBI articles and other faith based resources for law enforcers at LEOtrainer.com/christcop. (The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin – January, 2009. Spirituality: An Invisible Weapon for Wounded Warriors. By Special Agent Samuel L. Feemster J.D)
Spirituality serves as a weapon that officers can use to safeguard themselves against the traumas of law enforcement. I believe faith acts as the wind that powers our sails and protects us from the doldrums of policing.
"Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world" ~Helen Keller