Tracy Fields Counselling

Leading with Kindness; a Police Officers Journey

How many times have you been told that you need to toughen up? That you are being too kind? Too much of a doormat? I’m guessing it left you feeling confused. Coming from a place of kindness and respect has always felt right to you. It wasn’t something that you had to be taught to do; it just comes natural.

So then to be told to be different from this is confusing. And maybe you even tried to be tougher and more assertive or aggressive to fit in with everyone else. Maybe you tried not to let things bother you so much.

But when you see someone being treated badly, or ignored, you simply are impacted by this. And it seems others are not.

So the consequence might be that you wonder what’s wrong with you. You might wonder why you can’t react like other people. You might question why you care so much about others.

In our society, it seems that being tough and independent is highly valued. Which then suggests that being warm, kind, and collaborative can be a weakness. I see that there is value in both. But because our society doesn’t value both, many people feel badly about who they are.

We have two choices

For those of us that are like this, we have two choices.

1. We can try and try to be like others and live in a place of exhaustion and disconnection

2. We can embrace who we are and see the gifts in our kindness

I would like to introduce you to Garry Woods, who first chose option one but overtime saw that the cost was too high for him. He now lives his life by embracing who he is.

The very cool thing about him is that he’s a police officer.

Garry is a Sergeant at the Arrest Processing Section for Calgary Police services. I was fortunate to hear Garry speak at a Mental Health conference a few months ago where he shared his struggle with addiction and how he overcame it. He shared his story while wearing his uniform- there was something so powerful about this. During his story he exhibited a variety of emotions; sadness, confidence, humour, honesty, and humility. I was blown away by his courage on many levels.

When I talked to Garry, he shared that he always felt like he never fit in growing up. As a way to belong somewhere, he joined the police force. What he discovered that the feeling of not belonging continued. But he worked hard to fit in and conform at any cost. And the cost was high.

I think it’s fair to say that we all have a stereotype of who a police officer is. When we watch them on TV, they are fearless. They walk into danger without showing emotion and it would seem that they never experience emotion afterwards, that they stay in this state of being tough and emotionally untouched by what they are experiencing.

Some of us feel deeply

This is a common experience for those of us that are more in touch with our emotions. It can be a struggle to find our place in the world. And many of us try what Garry tried; to do whatever it takes to fit in. I’m guessing you already know how terrible this works. We won’t ever fit in, if that means trying to change ourselves. This might seem like devastating news but beautiful things happen when we embrace who we are- like Garry did.

When I talked to Garry about this, he shared that once he had some years of recovery behind him, he was able to reconnect with who he is which then enabled him to follow what was right for him. This has meant that he is able to embrace the different roles as an officer. The two main roles he identified is being a warrior and being a social worker. As a warrior, he is able to show up in dangerous situations and do what needs to be done to ensure safety. As a social worker, he is able to show up with kindness. One of his gifts that I see, is knowing when a warrior is needed and knowing when it’s not. He described that when he is taking someone through the arresting process that he treats the person with dignity and respect.

“There is nothing to be gained by treating people badly”

“Our job is not to make their life worse”

The one thing that I really appreciate about Garry is how he embraces who he is. He describes himself as an atypical police officer without embarrassment or shame. He wears his uniform with pride, following through on all expectations of enforcing the law and has learned to do this is a way that works for him.

Maybe he doesn’t fit into the mold of a police officer but because he does his work in a way that is in alignment with who he is, he was able to reconnect to himself and accept who he is as he serves and protects his community.

What does this look like for you?

As you reflect on Garry’s story, do you see yourself as working hard to fit in at a high cost to you? Or are you able to accept the way you view and interact with the world even if others don’t agree or understand?

For myself, I spent many years trying to fit in; as an introvert I had always felt that I didn’t belong. In my late teens and early 20’s, alcohol did the trick. It allowed me to be outgoing and not care so much in the moment. But as I’m guessing you know, that only works for a very short period of time. To get to a place of truly liking myself took therapy, courage, and self-reflection. And it’s been so worth it.

Being kind isn’t a weakness

The reason I was pulled to share Garry’s story is that it doesn’t support the narrative that if you’re not tough, you won’t survive. There are many of us out there leading from a place of kindness living pretty fantastic and rewarding lives. 

The lesson that I continue to learn is that there is a place for us, but the first step is accepting who we are.