In considering asocial, antisocial, or any dissociative actions–be they criminal, unhealthy, or merely not optimal for human growth and well being–I track onto a pattern of three things: A break with community, check and balances, and loss of empathy for others, seemingly inversely proportionate to one’s increase in self-preoccupation.
As I personally researched and considered police chaplaincy, I first presumed I would be working with anyone in need at the police station, be it law enforcement personnel, victims and their families, or perpetrators. In a conversation lasting multiple hours with an officer, and the head of a top chaplaincy program in the country, I was told that this program was actually only for law enforcement officers, related staff, and their families. This was fine, I’d love to help who ever I can, I thought. But, was there a crisis going on? Did these pillars of the community need spiritual help so badly?
For starters, I was told that the problem of alcohol abuse rates was severe. At least 33% had serious problems. So, if I’m pulled over, 1 of 3 of those people self-medicates with booze? I thought. Ugh! Also, officers learned quickly not to trust anyone-not citizens, not co-workers, and not family members. Gaining their trust would be slow. I was told that they kept all their problems to themselves, and were loners. This was all very sad news. It did not bode well for the health, spiritual or otherwise for this group. Maybe I should try working with drug addicts, I thought. Would there be much progress or rewarding experience in this perspective ministerial pursuit? Should I bother? What a sorry situation, I mused.
He told me the great majority die within 3 years of retiring, if they retire at age 65. The need for caring, spiritual guidance was urgent. Most police, even in major cities, have nothing in place at all to help them cope with the stresses of life and career. At least this fairly recent program saw the need. I told him I didn’t have the credentials of ordination, but after he heard some of my educational qualifications, and our lengthy conversation on spiritual matters, we solidified a common bond as spiritual siblings desiring to truly be of service. A chaplain application came in the mail in the days following our conversation.
After beginning their careers, these law enforcers soon disassociate from the world, and have no one to confide in. This way, they are undone–soon eaten up alive, from the inside. In reality, they are the worst kinds of people to have in powerful positions, once that begins. This is why the chaplaincy program is so needed, so their spirits (entire selves) can be fully alive, and at their healthiest. In this way, they get all the life-giving benefits of community. It’s no different for civilians, and, in fact, it’s needed for criminals behind bars, too. (Many prisons have chaplains.)
The stress of the job might not flesh out precisely the same way for civilians as it does for police personnel, but the stakes can be just as high, ultimately–life or death.
These law enforcers who started out hoping to help the public, must not seclude themselves, and handle their own problems. If they do, they hurt the public, their families, and obviously, themselves. The same goes for the average Joe or Jane. The misguided loner uses the same coping tactic as the criminal, and begins to posses the same psychological makeup of the criminal, once isolation is chosen. Criminals are classic antisocial personalities, with an inflated ego, and little or no regard for others. Talk about an ironic twist!
This isn’t just a psychological problem, or circumstantial situation, but, of course, it is a whole person issue–a spiritual issue, [or you could say, an issue of one’s spirit (entire self.)]
A great many people can get sucked into handling their problems alone. Some personalities are bent in the direction of thwarting companionship more readily, or shying away from community “styled” resolutions. And, sometimes these choices break down on gender lines, cultural lines, or generational lines.
As the healing power of communing and community salves the wound of isolation, the culpability is renewed in that needy person. A sense of self-respect based on respectability, and accountability is cemented. The honor, regard, and bonding that occurs invigorates individual and communal purpose, and forges new pathways for empathy, specifically and generally, pulling that person away from the vortex of selfishness, self-loathing, or self-absorption.