Ego The Ugly – Part III

Perception can be tricky. To obey God as it relates to turning the other cheek over an insult, slight, or minor offense, to a generation whose often tempted to value vengeance can seem ugly. It’s not ugly. It’s good, true, and it’s beautiful to obey God. That’s what it is objectively speaking. Subjectively, it may not feel good, true, or beautiful. Do – it – anyway. Love is in the “will.” Love isn’t merely a sentiment or an emotion. I might not feel like loving those I’m supposed to, on a given day. What must I do? Do it anyway. Love is a decision, not a feeling. The Good, True, and Beautiful are convertible terms for God. What He has revealed to us – the Truth is good, true, and beautiful. If there is a problem with that, the problem is not with the Truth. The problem is with us. Our filters get dirty and clogged up, and grace don’t flow. Our filter being our upbringing, education, world view, training, and experiences. So being raised on a steady diet of action and revenge films, messes up our filters. We fail to accurately perceive things. In this last post, I’ll share a humbling experience where I had to make a decision. If you can picture your ego like a puppy, mine was chewing on the couch, as it were.

Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of West Germany 1949-1963, made sometime after World War II. I like it. It definitely applies to my life innumerable times:

“God has placed obvious limitations on our intelligence but none what-so-ever on our stupidity.”

I was blessed at my old house to have competent instructors at our Academy. The training cadre at any house are critical seats to fill. If you lack competency among the chiefs but still have competency in your Academy, all is not lost. They can still train the officers to act rightly and they can be called upon to render opinions on seemingly questionable uses of force, internal disciplinary hearings, arbitration, wrongful termination suits, and in court for both criminal and civil. They are underutilized much of the time. Somewhere around the halfway point in my career I recall an Academy instructor who cared, and put out, in effort to properly train his people talking to us at in-service training. The instructor explained the potential legal and civil issues we might experience if we acted under color of law, off duty, especially outside our jurisdiction. What I took away was to be a good witness unless an active shooter is murdering innocents.

When I retired an acquaintance asked me my thoughts on concealed carry insurance. Thinking I knew what I didn’t actually know, I told him I wouldn’t be buying it as if I ever have to use my firearm I’ll be receiving some kind of an award, for defending against an active shooter. Time passed and I started looking more seriously at the prospect of starting a business. I had learned in law enforcement how critical it was to understand case law (United State Supreme Court & lower courts). If I was going to be involved in any kind of legitimate firearms defense training I knew I needed to do the same kind of study I did in law enforcement. That meant studying case law, statutes, and earning credentials with the USCCA, and NRA, as a concealed carry & home defense firearms instructor. I needed to understand exactly what was being taught to concealed carry license carriers, and equally important what they were not being taught. I methodically read, highlighted, and annotated about three dozen Illinois court cases involving a legal claim of self defense. I read Andrew Branca’s The Law of Self-defense, which confirmed the lessons learned during the case law study. After all of that my opinion changed, and I now have concealed carry insurance. Pride blinds us. The old saying; You don’t know what you don’t know. Pride stunts our growth. If you want to get better, then humble yourself and put forth the effort, doing the work, striving to become a craftsman. That could be a whole separate post.

As I was attending courses and accumulating credentials I had an opportunity to be tested. By God’s grace my intellect won out in the end.

I was staying at a hotel in Jacksonville, Illinois, May 17th, 2019. In the room next to mine, there were two men and a woman, talking very loudly and laughing. It was around 9 PM. I watched tv, and I figured eventually they’d settle down. I had school in the morning. Sometime before 11 PM, it was still going strong. So I called the front desk inquiring about the possibility of changing rooms. The clerk advised he’d take care of my problem by asking the men to quiet down. One of the guys was so loud I could actually follow his conversation. I hung up and within 30 seconds, I hear the loudest male scream, “F-you!” Then someone slams their fists or body into the wall between our two rooms, to emphasize his point.

Now you have to understand, in law enforcement we confronted the worst human beings on their worst days, and we did this every tour of duty. Sometimes multiple times a day. Picture the worst human beings in any community and guess who’s going to get to go deal with them? The police. Confrontation was like breathing. So part of me was desiring to get out into that hallway first. Part of me wanted face time with this guy. My curiosity wanted to know; Just how big a boy was he?

As you sort of grow up in law enforcement you start out desiring to prove yourself to your brothers in arms, to the criminals, and to yourself. As you mature you’ve been there and done that, so many times eventually you begin angling more towards calculated risks which are a lot smarter. Early on you’re okay with getting nose to nose with a bad guy. As you mature you realize that’s simply an opportunity to get sucker punched and knocked out. So you learn to have no problem growing in humility and taking a step back as you remove your can of pepper spray from it’s holder, and shake it in preparation for what’s next. So at some point your intellect begins influencing your will more than your emotions.

When you retire you have to acknowledge the truth that things are now radically different. You’re no longer sworn law enforcement.  As a police officer it was your job to go after the bad guys. To pursue them. That is not the case for regular citizens. Now the winning strategy is avoid. To let their illicit desire lead them to pursue you. To be able to show they pursued you which makes clear you were in jeopardy. As a citizen there is no corporate counsel to defend you free of charge, or to negotiate a settlement. You’re just like everyone else high up in the tree out on the thin limbs, as it were.

This was merely an insult, a slight. He had two biased witnesses. Think trial witnesses. People lie for each other all the time. What’s the probability his two witnesses will remain on his side? I have no one with me. There are two men and we’re isolated on the third floor. If we get to fighting, what stops his brother from joining in against me? Two on one, how far am I willing to take this? How far would I have to take this to win? Perhaps just to survive?

During my career as a police officer, I always knew that if I was taking a severe beating to a point nearing exhaustion, incapacitation, or unconsciousness I had recourse to drawing, shooting, and decisively stopping any unjust aggressors attack. That was ever present in the back of my mind. That is the mentality officers have to have. It’s called – a winning mindset.

Physiologically I had just received a cocktail of adrenaline and science says other chemicals dumped into my brain, increased heart rate and increased respiration, as frequently happens preceding a fight. That cocktail gets the body and mind ready to do physical battle. Only, there was no physical battle. So I experienced it as something ugly and uncomfortable. All that stuff poised and ready, and the right thing to do was to keep it all inside my hotel room. Habitually, when this happens in law enforcement or off duty asleep in your home when you hear a loud noise. Those physiological responses are your cue to move towards the threat. So to go against that habitual reaction is very uncomfortable. To sit or lay idle waiting for war to come to you, is the opposite of what you’ve trained yourself to do. It’s akin to taking a beating against a bigger, faster, and stronger boxer, and not quitting. To this day when some loud noise awakens me my heart rate might instantly kick up to 165 heart beats a minute or so and I’m up and moving direct to the threat. That movement meshes perfectly with the cocktail of adrenaline and other chemicals dumped into my brain. That movement forward meshes perfectly with where and how the blood is moving in my body to prepare me for what comes next. That movement is goal oriented. That movement is focused on things like tactics and urgency and resolve. Purposefully not advancing leaves one with far less focus and distraction. As a child, I always hated the thought of scheduling a fight after school. I very much preferred when the fight would happen spontaneously and all thoughts could focus on winning the fight. Does it take more of a man to dish out a beating or to endure a beating, and not quit?

Juxtapose the intellect with my ego. Juxtapose the intellect with my emotions tempting me to go out there and demonstrate to Mr. “F-you,” what commitment really looks like.  But that’s the ego talking, right? We need some of that to be able to do the things we did as police officers. There is a right use for that and it’s for your brothers in arms, your family, and you if it can’t be avoided. This – could – be – avoided.

To go out there to feed the ego was the wrong thing, wrong time, wrong reason, and wrong way. It was wrong on the moral battlefield, It was wrong on the physical battlefield. It was wrong on the legal battlefield. The civil battlefield has even less of a standard of proof than the legal battlefield.  Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.

I picked up the phone and called the clerk again, wondering how the clerk could be so poor at his job, as to tell this guy what room called. Mental note: if this ever happens again, explicitly tell the clerk not to reveal which room is calling. The clerk says he’ll handle it. I hear these guys out in the hallway.  Then I learn the clerk told this guy if there is one more call, he’s out of the hotel. The quieter of the two guys says: “I know your tempted, but don’t do it.” Tempted to do what exactly? So I put my Glock 19 on the nightstand and lay down to watch some more television. If he’s unjust and resourceful enough to somehow come through a locked hotel room door (doubtful as those doors are solid), war will have come to me.  At that point I’ll be doing the right thing, for the right reason, at the right time, and in the right way. I’ll be right on the moral battlefield, the physical battlefield, the legal battlefield, and probably the civil battlefield but their are no guarantee’s right?  Right.  

I never said a word in response from the beginning of this to the end. I remained quiet, little, and meek. I was kind of surprised how much my ego sort of gnawed at me (chewed on the couch) and it kept it up even into the next day.  I recall an old Sergeant telling me one time:  Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you.  It kind of felt like that.

After some time passed, and the adrenaline dump faded, I remembered to pray.  I prayed for this guy, his brother, the woman and all of their families. I willed it. It doesn’t matter how I felt about it.   Love is a decision.

The ego as it relates to insults, slights, and minor offenses is a trick.  It is a diabolical trick that puts more men in the ground or prison than just about anything else.  If you will suffer this temporary pain – and it can be a sort of emotional pain – you will grow stronger. You will gain ground as it relates to a controlled strength (meekness). That controlled strength will serve you well when things get serious as it pertains to the emotions of fear and anger. As it pertains to panic and ego.  If you will endure that perceived ugliness (it’s not really ugly), you will build up a capacity to operate in the higher realm of the intellect which can then influence and direct your “will.” The intellect and the emotions, are often at war over dominance of the “will.” Stop letting your emotions dominate and direct the “will.”

He didn’t say another word, and within a few moments they all moved on to some other room to continue their late night loud talk. I went to bed.

In conclusion, you must begin controlling your ego or your ego will control you.  Not puffing up in a bold posturing stance makes you feel like a coward. Most men who posture are hoping that’s enough. It’s kind of the whole idea behind lifting weights and rolling up your sleeves. You kind of want people to not actually make you bleed. Most men would rather people just respect, honor, and fear them without having to get bloody to prove it.

There was a saying in Law Enforcement – The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat. The point is to do the thinking in advance. Do the training, and repetitions so that you’re better prepared for the real thing. Do the hard work. This building up of the mental and emotional strength is part of that training.  People who are willing to grind it out over time, have a much better probability of becoming a craftsman at their chosen professions. The more you control your emotions your passions, the more control you’re going to have when you need it. That matters so you don’t panic and so you don’t hesitate. Both extremes are bad.  May God give us the graces we need.