It came slowly, and when I heard about
it I went down kicking and screaming over it. Cops do not accept—cops enforce. Cops take what is awry, what is wrong in the world, and make it “right.” Don’t talk to me about “acceptance”—that means being passive, standing
back and letting the world go by and not caring. I cannot, I said, and I will not accept, ever, even on my deathbed, people who talk in movie theaters, litterbugs, knotheads who drive with
their heads below the dashboard, people who take my shopping cart, the guy who hangs the pizza ad on my doorknob, or the guy
who races up on me when I can’t change lanes.
So, a therapist once asked, how could you
change all those things and all those people? Easy!
“Have them arrested!” I shouted. “Put them up against the
“Acceptance,” she reminded
me, again. We kept coming back to that until I finally began to realize it was the
only answer left for me if I didn’t want to live a life of anger and frustration over a world that didn’t want
to change for me no matter how hard I tried to change it.
Most of us have heard that portion of the
Serenity Prayer that encourages us to “accept the things we cannot change.” This
means more than angry resignation, however—more than taking things as a loss. It
means being realistic and really and truly letting things go—not letting
them fester and eat at our guts. By “letting go,” we stop fighting ourselves
and everyone else and let a little peace into our lives.
We move on.
For example, one kind of acceptance is
very easy for me—the acceptance of things I like. I love rocky road ice
cream—I can accept that. I also like accept certain kinds of music that bring
me joy—they help me relax and lighten my day. So—right off the bat I have
no problem accepting those things. Indeed, accepting the things we like is a breeze!
Our challenge is accepting those things
we don’t like. We don’t want to do that. We prefer to be angry, object, complain, and be unhappy when they don’t change. Even as cops, life might have been easier for us had we not taken some of those briefing items and idiotic directives
so seriously—instead of grousing about them at the coffee shop, it would have been so much easier to recognize that
it was beyond our power to force a change—and move on to the more important stuff.
I don’t like paying taxes one bit. And it’s not so much a fear of doing time in Leavenworth that helps me accept it—it’s
the recognition that I can’t change it. Instead, I look for the things I can
change. If my heating bill was too high, last month, I can turn the thermostat down
a bit this month. I can vote for representatives, perhaps, to influence energy costs. But I can’t change the fact that winter is cold or that last month’s bill already
came and must be paid.
As we grow older (or more “mature,”
as I learned in a seniors’ driving class) we are challenged to accept more things. Our
bodies begin to protest more, but acceptance can help us carry on in spite of those complaints. I have two bad disks in my back for which I was certain I would have surgery several years ago. I decided to live with the pain (accept it) instead and continue working part time in a warehouse and, in time,
I’ve realized I notice the discomfort only when I think about it.
time I began to realize that, had I understand these basic principals of "acceptance" long ago, I could have relieved much
of the stress and anxiety I had undergone during my long career as a police officer. How could this have happened, of
course? Those mental health checks would have been a good start.
“Acceptance.” A valuable tool for your mental health arsenal, whether you’re an active or retired police officer. It allows you not only to let past grievances go, but allows you to begin each day with
a clean slate and keep it that way—and to let new and exciting things into your life where there used to be clutter.