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On courage: Honor begins at home

We have to place a proper perspective on our career versus our family.

Editor’s Note: My good friend Travis Yates is a Captain with the Tulsa Police Department and is the Police Driving Columnist for PoliceOne. More importantly, he is a husband and father of three children (his third son, Taygen, was born last December). Travis is — without question — one of the most courageous men I’ve ever known. His example inspires me to be a better person. I hope he has a similar effect on you.
— PoliceOne Senior Editor Doug Wyllie

Before I started my 18-year career in law enforcement, my father had been in it for 22 years. As long as I can remember, law enforcement stories and acts of courage were normal topics of conversation. I grew up around these modern day heroes and I currently work with and know thousands more. Not a day goes by that I am not amazed at the courageous behavior these men and women behind the badge show.

Most of us think nothing of it. We go to work; we enter areas that most wouldn’t; when gun fire erupts we run towards it when normal people run away and we really like it. It is simply an unbelievable profession and it is one that quite frankly can be difficult in other ways.

Have you ever thought what it means to be courageous? I’m not talking about at work I am speaking about at home. Have you ever known that great cop that seems to always be having trouble at home? How about that great cop that seems to love their job more than their family?

I will be honest with you and I hope you can be honest with yourself. Most of us don’t do this police and family thing correctly. The research bears it out and you have all heard it. Our alcoholism rates and divorce rates are too high, and for some, the only place of calm is the chaos of the streets we patrol.

Not all of us are that stereotypical alcoholic, twice-divorced police officer. In fact, I’m thinking most of you are like me. I love my job, and yes, I love my family, but I really love my job. I love my family but I would do anything to work overtime. I’m doing it because I love my family but I also like my toys but I’m also providing for my family. It goes on and on and for some of us we justify our actions but is that honest?

The success of balancing our professional and private life is not whether we’ve been divorced or that we have bought our spouse and children a nice car or house. Our standards have to be higher than that. We have to place a proper perspective on our career versus our family. If you are like me, you have struggled with this balance but after many years of the struggle, I refuse to balance anymore.

One minute, my oldest son is 11 years old, and I literally blinked and he is just a few years from college. I really didn’t blink….I worked and I worked a lot. Yes, I had to work, but to be honest I didn’t have to work as much as I did. It was not worth it.

I am not balancing anymore. In fact, I am going to be very unbalanced. My family will be first and my career will be second. It will not be 50/50 and probably not even 60/40. I will pour my energy into my wife and three children and if promotions, extra jobs, and a few training trips have to go than that is OK with me. For years my identity was my job but that is a temporary identity. For most of us, on our last day on earth, our coworkers will not be standing next to us…it will be our family.

When my family looks in my eyes, I want them to see a dad and a husband who was courageous. The courage to tell coworkers that I am going home when choir practice awaits. The courage to get up early or stay late to play catch with my son and the courage to love my wife enough to leave work at work and to spend the time it takes to make her feel special.

Yes, these are things we don’t do well with. I’m sure I’ll take my share of jokes by some and I’ll admit it’s easier to run to gunfire than it sometimes is to be a dad and husband and I have no doubt that the courageous thing to do is to sometimes do the things that are the most difficult.

This past weekend, a movie called “Courageous” opened up in theaters nationwide. It’s about four deputies who struggle at home and many of those struggles look a lot like our struggles. Some in the movie show the courage needed at home and some do not.

It is never too late to be courageous...

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