Believe it or not, the job I do isn’t actually all that pleasant. I’ve run into a lot of people who tell me they’d “love” to have my job; they tell me that “it must be fun”. They see the travel, or focus on the guns and shooting, without thought to what those things represent.
Trust me, it’s not all sunshine.
Facing reality isn’t always pleasant
The reality is that I spend most of my working hours considering things that most people (the sane ones, anyhow) do their very best to avoid. I research indiscriminate destruction, man’s inhumanity to man, grievous accidents, prolonged suffering, and very often death in order to help other people face and overcome those events.
Just a few days ago, in fact, I was talking with my friend Julie Loeffler about the growing horror of human trafficking in this country. It’s a topic that I personally have a lot of trouble facing, but I force myself to because it’s important to my readers, viewers, and students.
No, my job isn’t as pretty as it looks. I know that if I’m not very careful, it would be very easy to get so caught up in that side of existence that I’d forget the world isn’t really all bad.
When all you face is ugliness, after a while you see ugliness even where there’s mostly beauty. I see this tendency in my colleagues, I see it in my students, and I see it in myself. We all have to work hard to avoid it, but it creeps up in surprising ways.
From the streets of Chicago, clarity
I’m not a police officer and never have been one. My work, however, throws me into contact with them on a very regular basis, and we often trade notes. I’ve had more than one veteran cop tell me about the tendency to retreat inward, to associate only with other cops, to put up a wall between themselves and the rest of the world.
I vividly remember a discussion I had more than twenty years ago with a retired Chicago police officer. He told me that, when he was promoted to sergeant and put in charge of a watch, he forbade his officers from fraternizing off-duty. He wanted his guys (they were all guys back then) to have a home life, to be part of their neighborhood and community, and as much as possible to have a normal existence outside of their job.
As he put it (and you have to read this with a thick Chicago accent for the full effect) “that job is ugly. If all they did was hang around and talk about how ugly their job was, they were gonna end up ugly too. We don’t need no more ugly people in this world.”
At the time it struck me how odd it was that this tough, grizzled guy would be both introspective enough to perceive a problem and caring enough to help others to avoid it. It’s not the image anyone would ever get of him unless they took the time to know who he was.
There is a lesson we can all learn from him.
Broaden your horizons
If you’re a training hobbyist, a person who “loves” guns and defensive shooting, or a hardcore “prepper”, understand that always keeping your focus on violence and disruption can warp your psyche. After a while you see danger and disease everywhere you look; you’ll start to avoid enjoyable places and activities because you can’t be totally safe, totally in control.
If you find yourself saying things like “I won’t go anywhere I can’t carry my gun”, that’s a sign you’re on the slippery slope. Step back and open your eyes to the beauty you avoid out of a fear borne from over-exposure. Take some time off; instead of studying ballistics and draw strokes and martial arts techniques, take a pottery class or a course in art appreciation. Plant some flowers.
If you’re a defensive training instructor, I believe it’s your responsibility to give your students a realistic perspective about the world of self defense. Yes, bad things happen to good people, and they need to be ready to face evil if it visits them. At the same time, though, those incidents aren’t the norm; mortal danger doesn’t in fact lurk behind every blade of grass. Our students are not running patrols in Kosovo.
If you find yourself using phrases like “live in condition yellow” or “watch your six” in your classes, you might be contributing to the problem. If you’re telling your students that they should never go anywhere they can’t take their gun, you’re both encouraging their myopia and perpetuating the dangerous notion that every defensive situation requires shooting.
Take time off on a regular basis. Get away from “the business” and the topics you’re immersed in. Go to the beach or the mountains and just enjoy the quiet. Read books that don’t mention guns or dystopian futures.
Maybe plant some flowers yourself.
In the end, we’re all human beings — and humans should be multifaceted creatures who can deal with sadness and rebound to appreciate beauty. Don’t be a caricature or a stereotype.
Spend at least as much time developing your appreciation for the world around you as you do your self defense and preparedness skills. Remember the wise words of that great sage, Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
P.S.: One of the reasons I wrote Prepping for Life: The balanced approach to personal security and family safety was to give everyone a way of doing what they need to do to protect themselves, but not go overboard. Through its structured methodology you’ll know what you need to do, without getting caught up in what’s not really necessary. Available in Kindle, iBooks, and paperback formats.
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