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Has the Job Made You Calloused?

Briefing: How long does it take a rookie officer, who is eager to protect and serve, to become calloused?

Dispatch (Assignment): Read Psalm 73.

On the Street: Webster’s Dictionary defines callous as having no emotion and no sympathy for others. This is familiar to peace officers who have worked the streets for a while. Callousness is actually a defense mechanism. In an effort to protect us, our mind will turn off our emotions during difficult events. This allows us to focus our attention on the tasks that need to be performed. A great law enforcement example of a calloused officer is from the 1969 TV series called Dragnet. Sergeant Joe Friday’s famous line was, “just the facts”. He did not want to hear about how the victim was affected. He showed no compassion or sympathy, he just wanted the facts of the case and nothing else.

Some police agencies have obstacle courses for their academy and/or tactical teams. I can remember being in training and having to cross monkey bars every day for a couple of weeks. After the first day, the palms of my hands were raw. I quickly developed blisters which turned into calluses. The calluses were my body’s way of protecting the raw and exposed areas of my flesh. These calluses were a buildup of flesh, hardened thick skin. When I developed the calluses, I could do the monkey bars faster and better without feeling the pain. The mind works the same way.

Calluses are beneficial in some areas of our lives. They can also be detrimental to others. Calloused skin is a good thing but a calloused mind can hinder your ability to have compassion, mercy and love. Psalm 73:6-8 tells us how dangerous having a callous spirit is. “Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity, the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression.”

Our communities do not want or need officers who are calloused. We need to get back to God’s way of policing. The attributes we learn from His Word are needed by the community we serve. They need someone who can sympathize. They want someone who understand that their call is the most important call to them; it may be my fifth call of the day but to them it is very important. Our community wants and need officers who care and are genuinely concerned. It is good for us to be emotionally invested and have the ability to sympathize. This may cause us to be emotionally raw but mentally it is okay, it is how we deal with problems. When we hold it in and don’t talk about issues is when we get in trouble.

The definition of raw is lacking covering, naked, not protected, and susceptible to hurt. That sounds about right. Why would we ever want to be raw? I don’t want to be hurt and neither does my body. So how can we be raw and still be protected? “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” Jesus tells us this in Matthew 19:26. We must be still in our minds and trust God, yet continue to move in our bodies and do the things God has called us to. Being raw on the job takes trust in God. In Matthew 5:4 Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Christian officers believing He will protect our heart and mind from any deep pain while still being able to have compassion and understanding for the people you serve. This is a skill that will take some time to develop.

“Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.” Proverbs 28:14. This is God’s word to us. Do not let your heart become calloused.

Investigational Resources: Luke 7:36-50, 2 Peter 2:7-8, Proverbs 28:14, Psalm 95:8, Hebrews 3:8, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Revelation 2:1-7.

Officer Safety Principle: Trust God to protect you as you move in obedience to His Word.

from Psalms Through the Eyes of a Cop, Volume 1
©by Charles Gilliland. Used by permission.
Click here to check out the entire Through the Eyes of a Cop series!