Spirituality: An Invisible Weapon for Wounded Warriors

By Feemster, Samuel L. | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, January 2009 | Go to article overview

Spirituality: An Invisible Weapon for Wounded Warriors


Feemster, Samuel L., The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


According to Sir Robert Peel, England's pioneer of modern policing, "The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it." If evidence of their actions should not be visible, does it follow that the wounds all law enforcement officers incur carrying out these activities also should remain unseen? The ominous necessity of being armed and vigilant to protect the innocent and defenseless, not to mention their fellow officers and themselves, against the assaults of human predators wounds all those sworn to uphold the law. Fortunately, spirituality, "a universal, human dimension," (1) is an invisible weapon used by law enforcement professionals worldwide, even when they cannot explain its features or precisely identify how it operates. (2) Sometimes, spirituality is misidentified as ethics, emotional intelligence, intuitive policing, or stress management. However, these experience-based behavioral responses and coping mechanisms are learned disciplines that officers employ in their fight to survive wounds inflicted upon them.

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Most law enforcement agencies have begun proactively addressing the realities of job-related stressors, crisis incidents, post-traumatic stress symptoms, and other potentially debilitating conditions and wounds often caused or exacerbated by the rigors of law enforcement duties. (3) Liven though such efforts prove helpful, many do not incorporate a spiritual-wellness component. By contrast, however, military branches have developed effective programs to address the inculcation of core spiritual values in training and practice. "The language of spirituality reveals the inspirations, intuitions, and devotions that reside in the spirit (soul, inner life, core, subconscious) of human beings. This is the realm in which ontological questions are discussed yet defy the limitations of the spoken word. Human touch, a smile, the shedding of a tear, the embrace of persons in love, a silent prayer of the heart; these are the expressions of a language in which all fully developed persons need to be fluent. This is the powerful dimension of humanity that is sadly, and too often, disregarded or cast aside as sentimental, of inferior importance to the rational mind." (4)

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"Human beings are essentially spiritual creatures because we are driven by a need to ask 'fundamental' or 'ultimate' questions. Why was I born? What is the meaning of my life? Why should I go on when I am tired, or depressed, or feel beaten? What makes it all worthwhile?" (5) The pursuit of answers to questions of meaning and purposefulness is the transformative activity of spiritual intelligence that addresses the lack of integrity between precepts and practices. (6) Spiritual intelligence is the deepest inner capacity (beyond the hardware of the brain, emotions, and psychological states) human beings possess that directs their perceptions or interpretations of the meaning of life and reality. It is a universe that engulfs, as well as governs, patterns of conscious and unconscious thoughts into coherent bits of meaning that can shape attitudes, mediate feelings, and guide behavior. The disciplines employed nurturing their spiritual intelligence throughout the discovery and perpetuation of meaning and value in what people do and experience is spirituality. (7)

Intentionally cultivating spirituality without neglecting other human dimensions can provide officers with an effective invisible weapon for defense against evil and its toxic wounds. This result follows because spirituality is more capacious that stress management and more ubiquitous than intuitive policing. It defies a simplified definition. Just as entertaining holistic thoughts while punching a heavy bag or inhaling nature's beauty while eclipsing mile 2 on a 4-mile run invigorates the spirit, mind, and body, intentionally cultivating spirituality increases awareness and intuitive accuracy. …

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