Merriam Webster’s defines ego as: Self-esteem: will. The Oxford dictionary defines ego as: a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. I have been writing about the “will,” of men. I believe this good part of our ego interconnects with, and compenetrates with the “will.” Compenetrate as defined by Merriam Websters, means; to penetrate throughout : pervade. Ego has much to do with our emotions. Emotions like fear and anger fuel our “will.” Fear of failure. Fear of letting our brothers in arms down. Fear of letting our family down. Fear of letting ourselves down. Ego has much to do with what others will think of you, and what you think of yourself. At it’s root it is a fear of a loss of honor. That interior thought: Oh, I’d never hear the end of this. When it’s for others, a worthy cause, or to save our own life the ego can serve us well. In part I, I will explore the good ways ego can be useful to legitimate defense and the common good. In part II, I will explore the bad ways ego can result in death or prison. Part III, I will look at a seemingly ugly experience.
In antiquity the word meekness meant controlled strength. That is the authentic meaning of meekness – controlled strength. Look it up today and you’ll find words like: mild; dificient in spirit and courage; submissive, tame; not violent or strong; weak. Yet the Greek word for “meek,” was “praus” and it meant controlled strength. Many years ago I had a priest tell me anger is a gift. It took me many years to come to understand how that can be. A quote from Saint Augustine helped me begin to understand:
“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”
Controlled and disciplined anger can be used as a sort of fuel, or a passion to begin doing and saying what needs to be done and said, to set things right.
A healthy kind of ego is a powerful motivator. Healthy being the qualifying term. There is a healthy kind of pride we take in our work, in our family. We have to know where the lines are. Generally pride (meaning hubris or arrogance), is the antithesis of humility. First and foremost we need humility which is the acknowledgment of the truth. When we put the ego to work in the service of others it can shine. For your brothers in arms, your family, your friends, and lastly for yourself. When our lives, or the life of others, are on the line we must decide to do the hard and seemingly dirty things we have to do to win, to stop unjust criminal aggressors.
I say seemingly as they’re not dirty at all. The problem is our weak kneed, spineless generation who love gratuitous violence in their television programming, but cannot stomach the actual hard things that must be done to stop unjust aggressors from threatening and murdering innocents. They are perceived as dirty things by weak minded folks who are blind, confused, and sometimes mad.
Do you accurately perceive things? There’s a sort of filter inside each of us based upon our upbringing, faith, education, world view or ideologies, training, and experiences. Outside influences like music, television, news media and many other things can win the heart strings (emotions) of the people, thereby winning the minds (intellect) of the people. The problem is as we often wander off into lies and errors, our filters get clogged up, and then we stop accurately perceiving things.
Intellect & Emotions
The intellect, will, and emotions are all faculties of a persons soul. The intellect is the highest faculty. The emotions are the lowest faculty. The “will” is the decision making faculty of our soul. The intellect and the emotions are often at war over domination of the “will.” We have to begin to discipline ourselves to rely primarily on our intellects. I’ll give you an analogy:
I have friends who are experienced pilots. They have taught me that inexperienced pilots can literally feel (analogous with emotions), like they’re flying straight and level, though in fact they are in a steep dive towards the ground. When conditions are poor ie; low visibility or fog, pilots have to rely upon their instrumentation (analogous with intellect). Pilots have cross checks with other instruments, to ensure a particular instrument is functioning properly. If they want to live – they have to trust their instruments. It is easy to erroneously feel like they are in a steep dive when they are in fact flying straight and level. Trusting their instruments (analogous with intellect) is a matter of life, and death for aviators.
In the world of legitimate self defense we need to do the work of building those instruments, as it were. We build the knowledge base of where the lines are on the moral, physical, legal, civil, and social battlefields. We learn the principles. Those principles act as a pilots instrumentation to ensure we’re flying straight and level, as it were. These things are need to know. Our emotions or feelings must be checked, and cross checked, with our intellects. We must question our emotions as it relates to doing the right things, at the right time, for the right reason, and in the right way. If we fail to do that we may panic, or we may hesitate. Both panic and hesitation may bring forth terrible consequences. Panic and the consequences may be prison. Hesitate and the consequences may be death. Ensure you’re informing your intellect with good and right things. If you will do that and then use that intellect to direct the “will,” the decision making faculty of the soul – then the probability of making right decisions increases.
“Somewhat paradoxically, one of the things passed on was that success is not a matter of genetics. You’re not born a winner; you have to make the effort to become one. Anyone can do something well if he has the sincere desire to do that. There has to be a commitment to getting the task done and a dedication to the fundamentals of one’s position.” Joe Lombardi grandson of Vince Lombardi
The Word of God reveals to us many people perish for lack of knowledge. For lack of truth. I believe that. But what about those who still perish with knowledge? Ultimately the problem comes down to the “will.” On the spiritual battlefield grace and sin are at war. They war over domination of the will. Do we reject grace or ask for it? Do we do our will, or God’s will? Grace is what is needed to achieve and maintain a kind of relative superiority, as it were, in this spiritual battle. That grace comes from God. It is a function of grace. We ask. We beg. We patiently go back to the Lord for forgiveness and we don’t – give – up. We don’t quit.
I’m not a fan of the modern day use of this word. As human beings we are in far greater need of discipline than self-esteem. Self-esteem is often a buzzword for pride, ego, hubris, and arrogance. We need discipline and we need a confidence. Confidence is gained via discipline, via doing the work, to become a craftsman. You have to ask yourself; Do you have self knowledge or do you have a false sense of self-esteem? Socrates said; “Know thyself.” Clint Eastwood in the movie Magnum Force said: “Man’s got to know his limitations.” Do we really know what we need to know about the fundamental principles as they apply to the moral, physical, legal, civil, and social battlefields? If all you have is an introductory level concealed carry course then you do not have all you need to know. I have been putting out doing the work, as it were, for many years. As a patrolman I put out to learn how to keep myself out of trouble. As a Sergeant, and a Field Training Sergeant I put out doing the work, to ensure new recruits and officers were being trained and performing their duties properly. As a Lieutenant co-leading the Professional Standards Division, Internal Affairs, I put out doing the work, to gain the knowledge to help citizens of good will understand precisely why police do the things they have to do. I don’t know everything. I’m still learning. Now to the skills. The internet is filled with skill building tutorials and drills. There’s nothing wrong that – we need skills. It is my opinion as it pertains to skills we should primarily be drilling the fundamentals. How do I understand the fundamentals? Can a citizen safely put the gun to work, and then keep the gun properly working? Beginning levels include many working parts but the fundamentals that count are the four gun safety rules as it relates to putting that firearm to work, in whatever lawful and proportional capacity we need it to work. Intermediate levels involve fundamentals like malfunction or failure drills, speed loading, and tactical loading – keeping the firearm in a working condition.
It is my opinion we ought to spend more time coming to understand and teach the fundamental principles of knowledge as it relates to decision making and problem solving. The old adage; Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. How do we accomplish that? We drill the fundamental first principles. If you know principles you can solve a thousand times a thousand problems. Using actual violent confrontations caught on video is another way we can teach and learn about the fundamental first principles of combat.
The ego must be willing to be vulnerable. One of the questions good leaders should frequently ask themselves is; Where am I leading my people? To good ends or bad? To life or death? To freedom or prison? To retention of wealth or bankruptcy? Sometimes exchanges have to made. Meaning we do sometimes have to incur more risks on the legal and civil battlefields by acknowledging and accepting the realities on the moral and physical battlefields. I believe, as I’ve said in earlier posts the highest and most important battlefield is the moral battlefield. The physical battlefield is second in order of importance. I don’t ignore the legal, civil, and social battlefields, I seek to apply sound strategies for all the battlefields we potentially face.
Leaders embrace calculated risks. Not reckless risks. We have to willing to be vulnerable or we’ll just water everything down to what is convenient, and in season. People with type “A” risk taking personalities, usually have no problem risking in a physical sense. When those folks begin getting promoted then we see the boys being separated from the men. At these higher levels men who sit in leadership seats sometimes forget that in order to lead they must be willing to continue risking, in a moral sense. Risking to support and defend their people when their people act rightly. A moral courage is required. A willingness to risk losing things like power, wealth, pleasures, & honors. A willingness to suffer for their people. There are still many and various “gaps” the leader needs to step into with unjust politicians, media folks, and special interest groups. If these leaders have not done the work necessary to properly defend their people, they won’t. You can’t give what you do not have. Where is the strong man, the man of valor who can and does take calculated risks in these political and social areas of vulnerability? I have been blessed to observe some of these men willingly accepting political and social risks in many and various ways during my law enforcement career. Likewise, there are many more men who have sought to “save themselves,” and their sensitive egos.
I’m not looking down on anyone here, as I am guilty of nearly every failed leadership attribute at one point or another in my life. In one way or another at various points, I have been tested and found lacking. That is – a – reality. It seems the only way I can learn, is to fall down flat on my face, repeatedly, until I begin figuring it out.
If I have anything truly good to pass along to you, it is only because of the grace of God. Without God’s grace I wouldn’t have one – good – thing to share.
A healthy kind of ego will only take you so far, and in the end when you’re tired, beat up, injured – or dying then the ego won’t be enough to sustain you.
“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Vince Lombardi
It is precisely then you’re going to need to rely upon the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. There is no – other – answer – my friends. If you’re looking for another answer – stop looking. Stop wasting your time! If you have a desire to authentically “love” to the point that as the Bible says where: Perfect Love casts out all fear, then you’re going to have to become a saint. You’re going to have to begin building up your emotional and spiritual strength by denying yourself.
“We need a Christ who will restore moral indignation, Who will make us hate evil with a passionate intensity, and love goodness to a point where we can drink death like water.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen
Without grace – you and I are not drinking death like water. Why? Most of us have something to lose. Instinctively due to The Fall and the concupiscence of sin we reach out and we cling, rather than risk losing things. Some men have lost hope and having nothing to lose, and they will drink death like water. For good or for ill – very dangerous men. Some unjust criminal aggressor’s fall into that category. They are ready and willing to burn it in. Those who would take up the sword, as it were, in defense of the innocent likewise can be very dangerous (to unjust murderers) men. We must begin building spiritual and emotional strength by denying ourselves. Little by little we grow in grace and strength. Start now so that when the chips down you are measured, and found worthy. Grace – is – the – answer.
“The Best Predictor of Future Behavior Is … Past Behavior.” God has given me many violent experiences, and much knowledge. As it relates to the knowledge, I assure you I have done nothing to merit it. Due to my numerous sins in this life, I have too often merited Hell. I don’t believe God gives us a gift for our own self aggrandizing but to share. So I am trying to faithfully pass on what I’ve learned. God has given me the grace to understand how easily someone with far less knowledge, experience, and skills can fell a better man, with opportunity. That is the bottom line. Opportunity. Many times while at Catholic Mass my gaze has shifted to the doors and I’ve wondered if today is the day? Is today the day an unjust active shooter will walk through those doors bent on the murder of innocents? I look at my wife, and my children, and I begin to pray; Please Lord, do not let it be today. But if it is today, I ask God; strengthen my weak knees, and guide my hands for war. I don’t rely on my own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. I ask. I pray.
In conclusion, police officers, soldiers, or any other first responder needs a healthy dose of ego. Citizens gravely responsible for defending their families need a healthy dose of ego. Healthy being the qualifying term. Why? Emotions like fear are powerful motivators. A desire for honor is a powerful motivator. Fear of a loss of honor – is a – powerful motivator! That is a good thing when it moves us to a passion to set things right! When it moves us to do right things. Let me be clear; In no way does that mean revenge. Vengeance for us, is the wrong way! Revenge and vengeance is God’s alone. He will settle all accounts as they ought to be settled. His business. Not my business! That is where the lines are. Emotions have their place. Fear has it’s place. Anger – has – it’s – place! Our ego’s may be put to good use when working in the service of our brothers in arms. When we would rather die, than fail our brothers and sisters in arms, our ego performs rightly. When we would rather die, than fail our wives and our children, our ego performs rightly. If our own life is on the line fear and a controlled anger fuel the fire (the right passion), needed to stop the unjust criminal aggressor. Begin now disciplining and controlling things like fear and anger. Deny yourselves my brothers and sisters and grow in strength. May God give all of us these graces.