Monday, October 09, 2006

Not Quite the Same

We have an officer who is terrible at this job. She is a wonderful person: intelligent, easy going and compassionate. She is a very nice officer. She just isn't a good officer.

Nice and good aren't the same thing. Sometimes it seems that they are mutually exclusive.

A good person does the right thing.

A nice person tries to be liked by everyone. It's almost impossible to do what is right and and not upset someone. But it's relatively easy to do nothing without ruffling feathers.

Maybe good is a matter of intensity and depth and nice is a matter of perception and gloss. Maybe.

Don't get me wrong, in most cases, in day to day life, it is possible to be good and nice at the same time. As your strength, confidence and abilities increase you can be nice in more situations because you have attention and energy to spare for feelings. Like most things, it's a matter of choice: if you are teaching an officer a basic skill and he screws it up, a good instructor's first instinct is to instill the skill. A nice instructor's first instinct is to leave the student feeling great about themselves. False self-esteem is a product of spending time around nice people. Self-confidence comes from spending time with good people.

Another thing- I am absolutely not saying that if you are good, you can't be nice. I repeat, as your skill increases, you can be nicer in more situations. Just because someone is an ass doesn't mean he's good at anything. In general it means that tearing others down has worked better for him than building his own skill.

Safety and righteousness are two other things that are both important but don't match well. I see this a lot in my profession and it is a constant friction between management and line supervisors, between "risk management" bureaucrats and officers. In a dangerous job or a dangerous world, the safe thing can be very attractive... but doing the right thing is rarely completely safe.

We make it as safe as we can, we value safety, we want to go home tonight and hug our kids and wives and we will use every bit of cunning, every resource and all the strength and skill we possess to do that. But when you see someone attacked, the safe thing to do is to walk away, and the right thing to do is to run in. In a dangerous job, there's no absolute safety, and the safest thing you can do is not to do the job.. and that is not righteous. You do the job.

This goes as deep as security and living. Perhaps the way to great longevity is to avoid all extremes and live a life of calm balance.. but how much calm balance can truly be called living? When have you felt the most alive with every sense tingling and absolute awareness and breathless exhileration? Was it in freefall? In battle joy? Pitting yourself against white water or a granite cliff? Cause it sure as hell wasn't eating yogurt and doing twenty minutes on a treadmill at your precise cardiac workout speed. Which would you choose- one hour in the top of a pine tree in a wind storm or four days in a safe, climate-controlled split level?

1 comment:

Matt Withers said...

I always tell people that I care what others think of me, I've just never been able to do something other than what I think is right because of what others will think of me. It can be a shitty place to be if you let it, but then again, I do notice that many of the "nice" people aren't really all that nice when you get down to it.

I do mildly disagree with the idea that you can only feel truly alive when living on the edge though. I think anti-depressants and the like have turned the idea of calm balance into a catatonic state of not feeling or experiencing anything. But finding that calm, that balance is the hardest, most constant struggle I've ever tackled. But in those moments where I touch it; when I feel in tune with the rhythm and flow of the universe; when my passions aren't ruling my head, heart or loins, I don't just feel alive. I feel like a sun. Strong, shining, and warm.