Gratitude decreases toxicity and the law enforcement profession is in dire need of a healthy dose.
The world of a cop can be structured chaos on a good day and disorganized pandemonium on a bad one. Add to that all the negative headlines related to police work, thousands of LEO social media platforms that inform us about every bad thing happening in the business, along with our natural propensity toward cynicism, and suddenly our personal levels of toxicity are on overload.
Police officers could certainly use more gratitude from the public. However, that is not the focal point of this piece.
Rather, I’d like to zero in on the “martyr complex” that prevails among many LEO social media sites. Yet before you begin your assault on that statement, you need to know that I understand why it is happening. After all, there are many cowardly police leaders and politicians steering their ships (organizations) into a lighthouse. Nevertheless, all the public lamenting by cops and their families is hitting a crescendo, and that is what I’d like to discuss.
I shared a common bond with most of the officers that I worked with. We expected to get tangled up with crooks and messy crime scenes—homicides and other fatalities. While the circumstances are unbearable to victims and their families, I never lost sleep due to exposure during those events. Actually, I thrived in that environment. And that includes the worst events witnessed during my career.
Murder investigation? … I’ll go!
Traffic fatality? … En-route!
Honestly, I didn’t particularly care to work with people who didn’t want to be in the center of activity. I found them to be lazy slugs looking for a way out. This type of officer made for a lousy partner.
The exception to the mayhem that I could tolerate would be crimes of violence against children. Even then God somehow protected my heart and mind from getting too callous as I pursued those perpetrators with endless energy.
Avoid Getting Wadded Up
Call me morbid or whatever, but that is why I got into the business. Even though I wear emotions on my sleeve, I typically didn’t get wadded up in negative attributes since I made sure to surround myself with quality people outside of law enforcement. For me it was mandatory and I’d strongly encourage other officers to do the same.
“The true warrior fights not because he hates what’s in front of him but because he loves what’s behind him,” said G.K. Chesterton. That pretty much sums up how I feel. Love is the primary motivating factor in my life, while I do my best to evict hatred when it begins to establish residency.
Gratitude Decreases Toxicity
Indeed, gratitude decreases the levels of toxicity in a person’s system; and behavioral sciences back this up. Being a person of gratitude releases serotonin from the brain. This is a naturally produced chemical and neurotransmitter that makes a person feel better. The department psychologist that I visited following an OIS I was involved in told me that a lack of serotonin could lead to depression. Hello? Are there any depressed cops out there?
So, you need to feel better? (Don’t we all?) This is my random gratitude list for today as I sit on the patio at Chipotle eating a chicken bowl and sipping a blueberry delight from Smoothie King (endorsements unintended). I’m making notes to feel gratitude and activate serotonin to go with my meal. You’ll need to make a list of your own, which I’d recommend.
- The ability to exercise (even after 19 surgeries to various joints and limbs).
- A delicious blueberry smoothie and chicken for protein.
- A wife that said yes 36 years ago and continues to love me through all my foibles.
- Three adult children who call me Pops and three grandchildren who refer to me as Papa.
- Two German shepherds that keep me company and want to follow my every move.
- The written Word so I can learn and share my experiences with others.
- Water sports.
- Harley Davidson motorcycles.
- Music that soothes my soul.
- A universe that features creative design leaving me overwhelmingly confident in its Designer.
After creating my quick list, the serotonin is flowing throughout my body and I’m able to carry on with the rest of my day. I plan to hop on my Harley, ride home, relax to some inspirational tunes, and tell my wife that I love her.
What is on your gratitude list?
– Jim McNeff
Author’s note: This piece is dedicated to a friend who recently passed away after 30 years of public service.
Jim worked in military and civilian law enforcement for thirty-one years. While in the USAF he flew as a crewmember aboard the National Emergency Airborne Command Post—a presidential support detail. Following his military service, he served for twenty-eight years with the Fountain Valley Police Department in Orange County, California where he retired as a lieutenant. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Southwest University and graduated from the prestigious Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute as well as the IACP course, Leadership in Police Organizations.