The phrase, “Man-up” is familiar in law enforcement and often used for the wrong things. I’ve seen it used as a device to repress feelings of sadness or horror that ought to be revealed, but are squelched by peers because revelation is scary and uncomfortable. Death and cruelty of human behavior seen routinely by cops are subjects seldom breeched. Lest someone be accused of weakness by those who fear confronting the same feelings over these horrors. This issue is being given more attention over the last few years because the problems that result are growing too big to ignore.
I am speaking to the men of law enforcement, specifically. I am more familiar with the way men think and feel. I recognize men and women are wired differently and do not pretend to know or understand what the fairer sex feels in these matters, though I suspect there are more parallels than not.
Okay guys, the first thing we ought to man-up to is getting our priorities straight. Too many cops are enamored by the excitement of the job and strive to be a super hero. The job becomes their reason for existence, even though they have a family that needs them more than their agency or the citizens. One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is, “I am working all this overtime for my family.”
I call BS; it is a disordered dedication.
Working is more fun and exciting than being at home tending to family. It has more immediate rewards, like the adrenaline rushes from the legal authority to use power over others, accolades from peers and supervisors and sometimes-public recognition and awards. That’s mighty heady stuff and without daily attention and self-reminders about priorities of a real man, the job trumps changing diapers, house cleaning, lawn tending and the mundane things that build strong personal relationships and families. These priorities may take years of faithful tending to feel the deep satisfaction they offer and that is difficult in a culture that conditions people to seek immediate pleasure and discourages patience.
Most people agree that the American culture is one of excess. Excess is contrary to every major philosophy; balance is the key for a fulfilling life. Think yin and yang or Aristotle’s Cardinal Virtue, temperance. Getting priorities straight leads to healthy life-balance that requires appropriate attention be given to spirituality, health, relationships with family/friends, finances, career/job, and social/fun.
One of the unspeakable truths that few confront and the culture rejects is that life is suffering. Suffering is unavoidable because we all age and have tragedy in our lives: illness, accidents, deaths, etc. The good news is that we get to choose much of what we suffer. We can suffer the pain of discipline that comes in small daily doses that encompass much of what manning-up means, or we can defer the small doses till they mature and become so heavy they crush us in the form of the agonyof regret. Discipline weighs ounces. Regret weighs tons.
Many do not understand this until retirement; on our deathbeds we never say, “I should have made more gun or narcotics pinches.” Regrets take the form of failing to tend to family relationships. So, fellas, man-up and start paying attention to your family and growth more than “the job.” Today, make a prioritized list of the really important things that ensure your long-term satisfaction, sanity and also that of your loved ones.
In a conversation I had with an officer about this topic, he asked for specifics. Here are some suggestions. Court your wife; bring her flowers for no reason other than to show you love her. (I call that foreplay.) Demonstrate to your sons and daughters how a real man treats the woman he loves and adores so he can be worthy of her returning love and adoration. Your sons are learning how to treat their future mates by watching how you treat your wife. And your daughters are being taught behaviors they’ll seek in their future man. If you ignore your wife, or worse, abuse her physically, or put her down verbally, your sons will treat their future wives that way and your daughters will seek men that treat them in the same way. In either case, you are dooming their chances for finding the most satisfying conditions available to humans known. Be the spouse you want your son to be and your daughter to marry.
“Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby.. If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her. So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit!”
― Erick S. Gray
I realize what I am suggesting is not fun and exciting like the job, but depriving yourself today of fun and pleasure at work creates a more satisfied future for you and better futures for your family members. That is real love and what being a real man is about. Man-up!
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In order to find help and encouragement to carry this load, seek a man who appears to have his priorities straight and is thriving on the job. Take him to lunch; pick his brain. Ask what he’s read, who he listens to and learn his secrets. The few dollar investment in lunch will pay compounded interest and dividends that you cannot imagine. With luck, you may find a mentor.
We tend to embrace physical and dangerous challenges routinely in law enforcement and, at the end of a heroic and award-filled career, many cops are alone because they ignored these very routines that lead to a satisfying life. They trade their treasures for trinkets. They end up working the agency’s plan or the police culture’s plan for them and discover, too late, that it had nothing but loneliness and depression planned for them, their spouses and children. The stats on retiree alcoholism and suicide are skewed to nonexistent; however, one is too many. Man-up; make a plan for your life that puts your spouse and children first. The cops I know that do this are more satisfied and better cops for doing so. Take on your load and carry it with dignity, accepting the heaviest you can handle, though difficult, it is your way to satisfaction.
For those of you that need convincing that this is the road to success and satisfaction, I challenge you to turn off the bubble gum for the ears and mindless talk radio while driving and listen to Jordan Peterson on YouTube. He is encouraging men to be men and seek balance in a culture that is turning men into eunuchs. To get a flavor of some of Peterson’s ideas listen to Joe Rogan 1139. The mental nourishment you gain may lead to a healthier future. Godspeed.