He talks a good game. He's got all the qualifications- a Black Belt, a security job, special team membership. He buys every piece of new equipment and every cool weapon that comes on the market. I asked his captain once what he thought of him as an operator. The captain gave a smirk and said, "He sure dresses nice." He has a reputation for freezing, standing there with a deer-in-the-headlights look while his partner fights and, once, was injured. When he plays the bad guy for training, he curls up on the ground the second the team enters... then says he thought getting him out of that position would be an "interesting challenge for the team". It also hurts a lot less than fighting.
You can have all the skills, all the recognition, accolades and approbation and still lack heart. Because it's easy to fake heart.
There was a new officer, a six-foot former marine, who called me to say that an inmate had challenged him and insulted him. He wanted to know what to do. He was hiding in the locked officer's station when he called me. The question, of course, is what should he have done, which was get the inmate cuffed and if it turned into a fight to win. He left the job after a year or so. He never got any braver.
The same week another rookie had her first fight. She was a 5'2" single mother who had no military training, no martial arts, and had never been in a fight or even thought to... but when she saw two inmates fighting, she jumped on the big one and when he threw her completely out of the cubicle, she jumped on him again. Over the years she became one of my favorite officers- she even, occassionally, scared her partners because she would jump into any fight and always picked the big one.
Heart is a big one for us. We know from bitter experience that there is no way to tell who, when the shit starts, will run toward the fight, who will run away and who will freeze. Size doesn't matter. Tournament trophies and championship belts don't matter. I've seen Marines run away and former SEALs unable to control their shakes or their tempers.
I've also read claims (we all have) that with this course or those DVDs you will learn to control your fear, be a master of combat, "fear no man"... I haven't seen it. I'm in a unique place for that, since I know people who go to those classes and then I watch them deal with danger. It makes the good ones better. A really good class can point out weaknesses. But I've never seen any training that can make a coward into a brave man.
Yet I don't think you're born with it either. I don't think I had any special heart when I was young. I was afraid of conflict, afraid of violence, afraid of being hurt- but I fought. I always fought because I believed I was supposed to, believed with the faith that children are known for. You protected the weak, even if you were weak yourself. You stepped between bullies and their victims. When you heard a cry for help, you ran to help. When you honestly believed that there were vampires in the cave (long story) you went in, because if you didn't they would get someone else, someone who couldn't fight.
It became a habit to fight, to defend, to go in. Just a habit, chosen by a child who read too much about King Arthur.
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