The Ethical Warrior: A true test of the 'Warrior Creed'
Bob Humphrey was a child of the Great Depression, a rifle-platoon leader on Iwo Jima, a Harvard Law graduate, a hell of a man, and a real warrior — and he taught me how to be an Ethical Warrior
Becoming an Ethical Warrior can enhance a law enforcement officer’s effectiveness at work, but it can also improve the quality of life at home. We often judge success by our accomplishments on the job, but how would we stack-up if success was measured by our accomplishments at home? The great cop with a train-wreck family life is a common stereotype, but one all too often based on reality. Jack’s personal story demonstrates the true heart of the Warrior Creed.
If you read our previous article, posted here on PoliceOne exactly one month ago — Guiding principles and Humphrey’s ‘Warrior Creed’ — you know the story of a young Marine being taught a warrior lesson by Robert L. Humphrey. Mr. Humphrey was a Marine rifle-platoon leader on Iwo Jima who later earned a Harvard Law degree and taught Economics at MIT. During the Cold War he went back overseas to see if his worldly experiences and Ivy League education would guide him in solving America’s self-defeating Ugly Americanism. It did.
Humphrey had given that young, aggressive, Marine officer some unusual “homework.” He said, “Jack, tonight when you go out, instead of looking at everyone like you want to intimidate them, try this instead. Say to yourself, ‘everyone in this place is a little safer because I am here’.”
Admonition, and Transformation
Even today, when I walk through the mall, or sit in the subway, or pass through the scary part of town, I wonder if I am confident and secure enough in my values and skills to live that admonition. Can I project an acknowledgment of human equality into the eyes of everyone I meet? Even people who may have behaviors I don’t particularly like — perhaps even criminal behaviors? Can I separate the relative value of their behavior (which may be good, bad or indifferent) from the universal intrinsic value of their life, and remain the protector? Is everyone in my presence truly safer because I am there?
I have shared the story of my epiphany regarding warrior ethics with audiences all over the world. And they have responded! The vast majority of them, too, feel that living life as an Ethical Warrior is a “better life.” One of the byproducts of telling the story, however, is that people sometimes view me as some kind of sage. I enjoy the accolades and began to think that they are my due for bringing Humphrey’s powerful message to the world. But here is my little secret: It is not difficult to look like an enlightened warrior genius for a few hours or a few days in front of a sympathetic audience. That does not mean you are one.
A True Test
And so, of course, it happened. Almost exactly 16 years later after that homework assignment, I learned that I was not yet the Ethical Warrior I thought I was. Dr. Humphrey was visiting my home. We were doing a seminar that combined warrior ethics and combative skills in one moral-physical lesson. That would be the next day. But it was Friday and I was still working my day job up in North Jersey (which was nearly a 60-mile commute from my house). It was March, it was sleeting, and traffic was horrible. I had already had a bad day at work. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, and it took me about two-and-a-half hours to get home on the icy roads. I got out of the car and walked up to my front door and just about had smoke coming out of my ears (ever had a day like that?).
Imagine this scene as I opened the door and walked in to my house: Dr. Humphrey was sitting on the couch in the living room with my two kids crawling all over him, laughing and screaming. My wife was in the kitchen cooking and singing. And I’m standing there after having had this horrific day, and for some reason, the whole scene just pissed me off! I felt, “I’m glad everyone else is having such a great time while I am out bringing home the bacon.” I remember standing there with that strange torn feeling. Dr. Humphrey looked up at me from the couch, saw the look on my face, and he said, “Get out!”
Get out? I said, “Wait a minute, this is my house.”
He said, “Get out!”
So I got out. I walked out the door, and I remember standing on the porch in the sleet. He came out and he looked at me, sternly at first, and then kindly. He said, “Jack, do you know what was going on in this house before you walked in the door? Everybody was waiting in joyous anticipation of you coming home. We couldn’t wait for you to get home, because we were all going to have dinner and be together and enjoy the evening. And you walked in looking like that and in three seconds you broke everybody’s heart in this house. Is that what you were trying to do, there, Mr. “Ethical Warrior?”
Of course, I was ashamed and felt about an inch tall. He went on to say, “If you’re really going to be a warrior, these are the people that you need to protect — especially their feelings and their hearts.”
And that’s where the last component of “The Warrior Creed” came from.
Wherever I go,
everyone is a little bit safer because I am there.
Wherever I am,
anyone in need has a friend.
When I return home,
everyone is happy I am there.
“It’s a better life!”
The challenge is to always remember to protect our loved ones and families before ourselves. There is an old saying: “You always hurt the ones you love,” and we know that after a difficult tour — or even a tough day at the office — it is common to bring the stress and fear home with you. But the Ethical Warrior recognizes that the work of a Warrior Knight is not done when he or she comes “home from the wars.”
Rather, job #1 is just starting. That is, to protect and defend the ones he or she loves the most. So we encourage you to try on the Warrior Creed for size. Living by this simple admonition may take us a long way toward decreasing domestic problems and officer burnout. In many ways, living the last part of the Creed is the most difficult. But if we can, it is truly a better life.