Why? Consider the mindset of a man who actually believes that to die, is to gain. Saint Paul believed this as we read in Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ: and to die is gain. Our actions often prove out what we actually believe. We often lack faith. A friend in Law Enforcement who had served with me on the Neighborhood Team Police unit, and later became one of our Police Academy instructors, on occasion said: A man of Faith makes the best warrior. I reached out to my friend recently and asked him if he remembered his exact quote. He told me he wasn’t sure but he always believed if you knew where you were going, it freed your mind of fear and made it easier to focus on the task at hand.
In the early years I most assuredly to my shame was not a man of Faith. I have reflected on this idea many times since those young years. Here is what I’ve come to know. A major part of this comes down to belief. It’s not a coincidence that Jesus first public words of preaching were in part:
Repent, and believe the gospel. [Mark 1:15]
Recently I watched a cool time lapse video of a tattoo being applied bearing the words; Death Before Dishonor.
This kind of image and adornment plays to our ego. The good ego (in service of others), the bad (needy insecure part that desires to posture for reassurance and face saving), and the ugly, how the ego makes us feel.
The ugly part of our ego tells us a lie. The lie is if we’re unprepared to physically defend against mere insult, offense, or verbal attacks on honor (reputation in this sense) then we – are – a – coward. The lie makes you feel like a coward.
New pilots learning to fly an airplane in low or no visibility have to first become instrument qualified. They learn that when they have no visibility they may feel like the airplane is in a steep dive but actually it is flying straight and level. They might feel like they’re flying straight and level and be in a steep dive. They learn they must have a kind of skepticism for their feelings and instead of trusting these feelings they direct their attention to checking and cross checking these feelings with a reliance upon their instruments. This is a very good analogy for dealing with the lie that we’re a coward if we don’t go to war over insults.
First of all, Jesus taught that we ought to turn the other cheek as it relates to insults or offense. I believe the generation of men when Jesus walked on the earth viewed a slap as an insult. Today we suffer a loss of authentic masculinity. Secondly, if you are a husband and father your actual mission is to provide for, protect, and to lead your wife and children. How are you going to do that if you get yourself killed or end up in prison over someone trash talking you or yours? If you don’t have a wife or children is it worth it to engage in a physical ‘competition’ with a stranger who may in fact be an a-social criminal predator? An a-social criminal predator will not ‘compete‘ with you, but instead will show you what a high level propensity for violence actually is? Are his disrespectful words worth dying for? Are his disrespectful words worth having to deal out lethal blows to stop him? No – they – are – not. Third and lastly, how can a man who has no honor take away your honor? He can’t. I once heard Jocko Willink of Echelon Front answer this type question on a podcast. Willink said:
“How can you be disrespected – you cannot be disrespected by someone that has no respect for themselves.” Jocko Willink
Avoid these situations until such time it’s clear the unjust aggressor is not going to permit you to avoid it, nor to escape it. Then act decisively and win the fight.
More than a few men have found their way to an early grave and into prison because of this lie. Humble yourself and complete your real mission which is to protect, lead, and provide for your family.
In Law Enforcement you had better show up on day one with a healthy dose of ego. The good, the bad, and the ugly parts of our ego can and do help police officers to accomplish their mission. What’s their mission? In part, it is to protect innocent citizens (including innocent brothers and sisters in arms), from the unjust criminal aggressors of this world. Unjust being the qualifying term. Now this is a lower way of accomplishing the mission but even the bad and ugly parts of our egos can and do serve to move us into those gaps between unjust criminals and innocents. Sometimes you just have to work with what you have.
In the Law Enforcement culture peer pressure acts like a kind of force multiplier for our egos. Make a mistake like having a negligent discharge and you will never, and I do mean never, hear the end of it. This is as it ought to be. In a profession where life and death often hang in the balance good nature ribbing, and even ruthless reminders of errors serve to send clear messages to the brothers and sisters in arms: Become a craftsman or go do something else! The culture does not well suffer fools, nor does it suffer cowards. Get your act together, put out, and become a craftsman. I have known many craftsmen in the field of Law Enforcement.
In Law Enforcement you quickly come to believe whatever might happen down the road on the legal, civil, and social battlefields, those are future battles for another day. You end up with a mindset that says after this physical battle I will patiently paint the picture with a very thorough police report, providing a great many details viewed from multiple angles in preparation for those future battlefields.
There are other ways men learn to detach from fear. Good formation and building in a trained response helps. Well scripted role playing stress inoculation via force on force paint marking simunitions helps. Experience certainly helps.
Is there yet a more excellent way?
Archbishop Fulton Sheen was recently considered for Sainthood. Time will tell the tale on that question. Read what the Archbishop had to say about death in his book, Life of Christ. There is a lot of paradox in the spiritual realm.
“…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
You have to be seriously detached from fear to even think about loving goodness to a point where you can drink death like water. The Word of God tells us perfect love casts out all fear. Isn’t that interesting. Some might expect perfect love to cast out all hate. Yet, perfect love casts out all fear.
1 John 4: 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.
So if perfect love casts out all fear, how pray tell do I attain perfect love? Obedience – to – God.
Acts 5: 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
John 14: 15 If you love me, keep my commandments.
John 3: 19 And this is the judgment: because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil.
The Word of God reveals to me why I personally don’t have perfect love. Why at times I still have too much attachment and fear.
We all have a Cross we might occasionally look at laying over there on the ground collecting dust. Some men embrace their Cross, and pick it up. Some try to advance following Jesus up a steep hill. This is the first battle a warrior ought to concern himself with. The battle with our own selfish, illicit, and immoral desires. We first have to do violence to our own immoral desires if we seek to advance towards perfect love. We have to do this if we seek to advance towards a more perfect kind of detachment from fear.
Hebrews 12: For you have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin:
I have to acknowledge in this spiritual battle I have too often made of myself an amateur, outsider, and mere tourist when I look at the lives of the Saints.
However, there is still a more excellent way!
Perhaps another for instance: A Deacon and a Saint of the Catholic Church, St Lawrence was martyred during the persecution of Emperor Valerian in the year 258 by being slow roasted on an iron grill. St. Lawrence showed forth the loving capacity to as Archbishop Fulton Sheen said: drink death like water. At one point while his flesh was being cooked alive he had enough holy detachment to joke with his murderers “Turn me over, I’m done on this side!”
“The best warriors are men of Faith.”
Study violent videos and you’ll begin to notice some trends. When things get serious, and the chips are down those who acquiesce to a life of vice often seek to save themselves. As their bad guy buddy is getting shot they often make for the door. They get out of Dodge, as it were. They save themselves.
Many at the foot of the Cross using a worldly kind of wisdom looked to Him Who was lifted up on a Cross and began mocking Him saying:
Luke 23: 36 And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”
Luke 23: 37 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
Why do you think they’d say something like that? Because that’s what they would do if they were in His position. That’s what makes sense to them.
Indeed, two ways are set before us my brothers and sisters. May God give us the grace to go the right Way.