A MESSAGE FROM OUR CHAPLAIN | A Quest for Excellence - Solitude

In the coming weeks, those members living in the upper half of the northern hemisphere will be coming out of winter and enjoying the promise of newness that comes with spring.  Just as Christ followers experience new life after dying to ourselves, so does nature experience new life after the death caused by the winter coldness.  With this promise of nice weather and long days of sun comes the pressure to fill those days with loads of fun and excitement.  I pray this article finds you well and happy.

I promised that we would be embarking on a “Quest for Excellence” in our quarterly Chaplain articles by focusing on Solitude, Scripture, Service, Support and Significant Events.  This quest is to stimulate us to always work towards emotional and spiritual fullness and happiness, just as we learned in the National Academy to always strive towards physical wellness.

For the next two articles I will be focusing on the concept of solitude.   Spending time in solitude is many times the most difficult thing for police officers to do on a regular basis.  Face it, we become hyper-vigilant as we progress through our careers as police officers.  I know many officers who have been retired for years, but still insist on sitting in a seat facing the door when eating out.  This state of hyper awareness grows slowly in our early years on a beat, but over time becomes second nature in our lives 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.  How many times have you sat in a crowd, or a large gathering and checked out the exits and focused closely on the people around you.  Are you even able to close your eyes in a crowd?? 

Some of the best police officers I have ever known were always able to keep themselves in a state of hyper vigilance.  Their proactive statistics bear that out.  General Norman Schwarzkopf was known to say that, a quality of leadership is to create a sense of urgency to all you do.  We have all experienced, as police managers and executives that the very thing rewarding us and leading to our success was counter-productive to the spending of time in solitude.  These traits led us to being good police officers or leaders, but I would question if it contributed to us staying mentally healthy people.

Some of the most healthy and balanced people I know have mastered the ability to place themselves into periods of pause or solitude.  Their calmness and attitude of peace is evident.  Whether that calmness is shown in a crisis, or merely permeates the entirety of their life; the resulting leadership they exhibit can be amazing to witness.

I spent several days doing Critical Incident Stress Debriefs with police, fire and dispatch staff in Rockport Texas after Hurricane Harvey hit that state last fall.  Without fail, the persons who had lived through the storm indicated they could not turn it off in their heads.  This is a perfectly natural reaction to crisis we have experienced.   It is also very common for police officers to get into a pattern of “not turning it off in their heads” as they come home from a normal day of work. 

Finding a time to spend in solitude has been very difficult for me during my career.  I love being in the mix of a crisis, and have always been pulled to the hot incident.  As I have grown older, I have tried to focus on time to pause, but the conflict with other things going on is continuous.   If I have 20 minutes free do I spend it trying to become quiet in solitude, or do I make sure I get something else done.  Just when I try to set aside some morning time a series of early meetings will get on my schedule.  As a young police officer, the need to attend court, the pressure to work overtime, or moving around the different shifts always seemed to conflict with any effort to just sit and spend time in solitude.

I would encourage you to Google search for a UTUBE video of “Just Breathe” by Jonny Diaz.   This contemporary Christian song has had over 14 million views on YouTube at the time of this writing.  Its lyrics are:

“Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life

Ninety miles an hour going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life
It’s ready, set, go it’s another wild day
When the stress is on the rise in my heart I feel you say just

Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe”

The bible is very clear that Christ followers need to spend time taking a pause and spending time in solitude.  Psalm 46:10 says to “Be still, and know that I am God”  It is only when we step off this crazy world and work at spending time just in quiet solitude can we listen to that still small voice inside us that is so important to our emotional and spiritual health.  It will take practice to achieve success in solitude.  Just as it takes time to build muscles that have been dormant for a period of time, so it will take time to develop the ability to “be still” and listen to your thoughts and let them be sorted out without distraction.  Only then are you prepared to enter your day and work duties with a clear and emotionally balanced attitude.

Next issue we will delve more into the practices of P.R.A.Y.  Praise, Repent, Ask, and Yield as steps to take when you achieve true solitude.  Until then remember to pause and just breathe.  God Bless.

Feel free to write me at jkruithoff@fbinaa.org