Briefing: Being humble is a characteristic. It is contrary to human nature. Webster’s dictionary defines it as not proud, arrogant or assertive but being reflective or offered in a spirit of deference or submission.
Dispatch (Assignment): Should law enforcement officers be humble? Why or why not? Are there any advantages to being humble? Think back on your last seven days. Was there a time you were humble? What were the circumstances and the outcome of your humility?
On the Street: Humility is another one of those misunderstood concepts that is not seen much in law enforcement. If you think about it, it is not just in law enforcement but in our modern day society as well. Humility is not a characteristic that has any value today.
What comes to mind when you think about a humble person? I picture someone who is smart, wise, and who does not say too much. In times past I equated humble with humility which led me to humiliation. I did not want anything to do with that! My definition of humble was all wrong. Not only did it not fit the Biblical definition but it did not line up with Webster’s definition. If you look at the last part of Webster’s definition it shows that being humble is not just something that happens to us rather it is something we act on.
There are two action words in the last part of the definition, reflective and offered. To reflect on something I have to think about it. To offer something I have to make a conscious decision to give. A natural act does not require me to think or make a conscious decision to do. Animals can be forced into submission but they cannot be made to be humble.
So what does being humble have to do with law enforcement? One of the aspects of humility is honesty. It’s difficult to have true humility without being honest about yourself. Being humble is important to your walk with Christ and your living witness to those around you. If you are going to be the Christian law enforcement officer that God has called you to be, you have to practice humility.
Humility is not part of the force continuum. We are trained to stay one step above an offender’s level of force. Law enforcement officers are sometimes called to use violence to stop violence. Where does humility fit into all of this? Is there a place for this kind of thinking in law enforcement? Absolutely, but just like everything else, there has to be a balance.
We sometimes use our authority in a very prideful and arrogant way. The authority transferred to me by the State of Texas is not so that I can go kick butt and take names. I have to humble myself. I have to take Chuck out of the mix and realize it’s not about me. When I get called to a domestic disturbance and the suspect starts cursing and takes a swing at me, I have to realize that he is not mad at Chuck. He is lashing out at the authority I represent. It is hard to take our personal feeling out of the situation and do what is right. It takes us being humble and deferring to the authority we are called to enforce.
I know this is a hard lesson because I too have had a difficult time taking myself out of certain calls and not being offended. It is a discipline and character trait that requires constant monitoring. For most people, being humble does not come easy. We have to be intentional about it.
Here is what the writers of Proverbs have to say about being humble:
Proverbs 3:34 (NKJV), “Surely He (God) scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble.”
If you are in a position of authority, like a law enforcement officer, and have someone who deliberately breaks the laws, flagrantly being disobedient, being disrespectful, you now have the understanding of a mocker. A mocker is proud and arrogant, the opposite of humble. This proverb says that God shows favor to the humble. There is a clear choice here, are you going to be the mocker or are you going to be humble?
Proverbs 6:1-5 (HCSB), “My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor or entered into an agreement with a stranger, you have been trapped by the words of your lips, ensnared by the words of your mouth. Do this, then, my son, and free yourself, for you have put yourself in your neighbor’s power: Go, humble yourself, and plead with your neighbor. Don’t give sleep to your eyes or slumber to your eyelids. Escape like a gazelle from a hunter, like a bird from a fowler’s trap.”
Have you ever made a bad decision and put yourself in danger? My hope is that when we find ourselves in this kind of predicament we would be smart enough to realize the bad choice and the need to work our way out of it. Proverbs 6:1-5 is a picture of someone in the process of learning wisdom (learning from their mistakes and hopefully not repeating them).
Proverbs 11:2 (NKJV), “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.”
For some reason the Jim Croce song, “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown” song comes to mind. A picture of pride and arrogance, but what happens when we turn this verse around and look at ourselves? What areas of your life are you proud, boastful, arrogant?
Proverbs 14:3 (NKJV), “In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride, but the lips of the wise will preserve them.”
Are you the kind of person that is quick with a comeback? Some call this a quick wit but I think it is the highway to a haughty spirit. Instead of being reflective, like Webster’s definition describes being humble, you are putting yourself in the dangerous position of being a mocker.
Proverbs 15:33 (NKJV), “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility.”
Proverbs 16:19 (HCSB), “Better to be lowly of spirit with the humble than to divide plunder with the proud.”
Oh, how easy it is to be a humble person when we are by ourselves. Get us around a crowd of people and the ego demon starts whispering in your ear, “tell them about the time you…”, “you have a better example than that”, “put that wimp in his place”, “don’t let her talk to you like that”, “you can’t treat me like this, I’m a cop”.
Proverbs 17:14 (NKJV), “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.”
Are you good at letting things go or do you have to have the last word? How hard is it to say I’m sorry? How big is your pride? This is a great place to start practicing humility. Practicing humility leads to understanding wisdom.
Proverbs 18:23 (NKJV), “The poor man uses entreaties, but the rich answers roughly”.
Proverbs 19:20 (NKJV), “Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days.”
Proverbs 22:4 (NKJV), “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.”
Proverbs 27:2 (HCSB), “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”
This one can really steps on toes. I know too many people who live for the praise of others. We call them high maintenance. The seeking out of praise from man is a disease that if not treated can overtake your spirit. This kind of thinking leads to idol worship. How? You become your own god, constantly praising yourself and looking for others to sing your praises. You seek your own glory and not the glory of the Father. I know this because I have been there.
Proverbs 27:21 (HCSB), “A crucible for silver, and a smelter for gold, and a man for the words of his praise.”
Proverbs 28:13 (NKJV), “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”
If you have not been a humble person, like all of the topics from Proverbs, it’s not too late to change. That is what we are called to do, turn from our evil ways and give praise and glory to God.
Investigational Resources: 2 Chronicles 7:14, Daniel 4:36-37, Matthew 11:29, James 1:2-9
Officer Safety Principle: As law enforcement officers we must be an example of humility. Nobody respects a prideful, arrogant cop.
from The Book of Proverbs Through the Eyes of a Cop
©by Charles Gilliland. Used by permission.
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