The Power of Positive Thinking
The adversity facing police officers has never been greater than it is today. Many of our political leaders and current supervisors have turned their back on officers and are quick to deflect any personal liability by tossing the officer squarely under the bus. To make matter worse, public demonstrations by anti-police groups have become so common that many of the members have become local celebrities and see themselves as champions to their community. The apparent divide between the public and its police force has never seemed greater; however it is critical that officers remind themselves that there still exists a silent majority who respects and appreciates the efforts of these heroes who continue to do their jobs in the face of adversity. It is imperative, now more than ever, that police officers maintain a positive attitude. The alternative is defeat for the officers and their families and victory for the detractors.
There have been countless studies devoted to the powerful impact of maintaining a positive attitude. Perhaps most notable is the health benefits associated with people who practice positive thinking. What is more, the power associated with positive thinking is infectious and can have a positive impact on people whom you choose to surround yourself with in your daily lives.
I write this article as a man with many flaws. For all practical purposes, I am definitely a work in progress. However, I pride myself on maintaining a positive attitude. I admit it is not always easy and requires work like any other skill. Yet, it is worth it. You owe it to yourselves, your family and your friends.
I worked as a police officer for just shy of 10 years and I can say with all honesty that I loved the job. I left police work in 2001 and during my career there existed an anti-police climate; however, admittedly nothing like there is today. I was fortunate enough to have wonderful partners who shared my enthusiasm of being the police. I believe that we gravitate towards others who share with us similar core beliefs and that is why I partnered with these people. This is not to say that I never had a bad day or at no time was I frustrated with certain aspects of the job; however, the good far outweighed the bad. This could easily have been reversed if I chose to be negative and skeptical; however, that would mean that “they” won and I would be of little help to myself or my family.
Albert Einstein said, “Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.” We can never allow anyone the ability to determine a fundamental trait such as our character. My late father , who spent 36 years in CPD, had an expression that he used often, “Adversity does not build character, rather it reveals it.” It is easy to be positive when things are going well. The challenge is to remain positive when the sea becomes angry. There is no question that navigation in the current climate would overwhelm any weak or unprepared helmsman. Although the scales will ultimately tip more favorably toward law enforcement in due time; that change seems a distant future. We have no control over other people’s attitudes and judgments; nonetheless we have full ownership of how we perceive and react to events. Former Notre Dame Football coach Lou Holtz could control a locker room like few of his peers. Players were ready to run through the wall after one of his motivational speeches. One thing he stressed to his players was that, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” Attitude is everything.
I recently watched the film “Darkest Hour” and saw some parallels to the anti-police climate today. In 1940, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his fellow Brits found themselves in an extremely dire situation. The fate of Western Europe hung on Churchill who was forced to decide whether to negotiate with Adolf Hitler, or fight on knowing that it could mean the collapse of Britain. Despite grave opposition from his political leaders, Churchill refused to acknowledge defeat and focused instead on the positive. When he met his Cabinet he told them that “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” It was hard enough for Churchill to convince his Cabinet to maintain a positive attitude; he also had to convince the public. In an address to the people he said in part, “Our task is not only to win the battle – but to win the war…we shall not hesitate to take every step, even the most drastic, to call forth from our people the last ounce and the last inch of effort of which they are capable. The interests of property, the hours of labor, are nothing compared with the struggle of life and honor, for right and freedom, to which we have vowed ourselves.”
Shortly after that speech, the news from the front was uniformly bad. The Germans had broken through the French defenses at Sedan, and everywhere the French forces were reeling under a devastating barrage from land and air. Churchill refused to give in. His belief in victory grew stronger. He implored his people: “Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar. As the Will of God is in Heaven, even so let it be.”
After a failed British attempt earlier that spring to prevent a German advance and a surprise blitzkrieg bombarding Holland and the French-Belgian border, Belgium and Holland surrendered and British troops in France were driven to the beach at the port of Dunkirk. This was the darkest hour. Defeat seemed almost inevitable; however Churchill refused to surrender his belief or his positive attitude. In his famous Jun. 4 speech to Parliament he proclaimed: “You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”
Churchill willed his people to succeed. He transformed their thinking and inspired them to help save the lives of more than 300,000 British troops at the port of Dunkirk.
I admit, I may have become a bit too inspired by the assertiveness and positive thinking exemplified by Churchill and drawing the comparison to present day police may be an unfair comparison. However, it is a powerful example of positive attitude, which can spread like wild fire if accepted.