Meeting with Triumph and Disaster: Two Imposters of Policing

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In 1896, the British poet Rudyard Kipling penned the words to “If”. The stanzas of the popular poem outline qualities and values which lead to success and maturity if embraced. One of the challenges of the poem is to, “…meet with Triumph and Disaster \ And treat those two imposters just the same.”

Each of us will experience triumph and disaster in different areas of our lives. No one is untouched by the impact of these conditions, which can come at a personal, academic, professional, or organizational level.

Over the past year, the law enforcement community has experienced what can be described as a pendulum effect in terms of triumph and disaster. At the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, first responders were widely recognized for their hard work and dedication in the face of the global pandemic. Just a few months later, the death of George Floyd in police custody resulted in petitions for police reforms and renewed criticisms regarding police interactions with minorities. Those working in law enforcement have struggled to adjust to this dramatic shift, resulting in feelings of frustration and isolation. Recognizing the wisdom of Kipling’s poem can help bring stability and direction to those who are experiencing difficult changes.

Focus on Dignity: In her book, “Leading with Dignity”, Dr. Donna Hicks examines the concepts of dignity and respect. She observes that although the two are often confused, dignity is an inherent human value, while respect is something that must be earned. People react very negatively when they perceive that their dignity has been attacked, especially during times of change. A proper understanding of personal dignity, however, can help maintain stability and focus while work is being done to restore respect and trust.

Practice Empathy: During times of change, it is easy to get drawn into debates about blame and feel the need to entrench for conflict. These reactions only serve to further divisions between groups and can hinder the development of solutions for complicated social problems. Empathy doesn’t require agreement, but it can bridge the gap between people by developing our understanding and appreciation for the perspective of others.

Prioritize Self-Assessment: As much as we would like to have our best achievements remembered and our worst failures forgotten, we should recognize that we are rarely defined by either extreme. Our true worth is more accurately reflected by the actions we take and the character we display on a daily basis. The best investment of our energy is to raise the median point of our performance by striving for excellence in our everyday tasks.

Embrace Change: Few things cause more distress and anxiety than the idea of change. We often perceive change as a threat to our stability and a negation of past achievements. Regardless of how difficult change can be, successful individuals find opportunities for personal growth during complicated circumstances.

Kipling’s poem challenges us to keep a balanced perspective on the highs and lows of life. Regardless of whether you are experiencing the thrill of Triumph or the frustration of Disaster, recognize that true success comes to those who can build on their experiences and adapt to new challenges.

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