While working as a patrolman, I responded to a dispute between a husband and wife. Three of us responded to find the husband angry, the wife distraught, and the children huddled in a bedroom.
Being the senior officer, I walked the wife into a separate room while my two partners spoke with the husband. The bruises on her body told the story.
As I was speaking to her, I heard her husband yell in the other room so I intervened.
“What’s the problem, sir?” His eyes were reflecting a mixture of both anger and fear. My officers were standing to either side of him and with looks of determination and anticipation for the scuffle that appeared to be unavoidable.
He looked to me and said, “You are not going to take me to jail.” As if he said it enough, it’d come true. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t his decision.
When I looked at him, I had a choice to make. Like him, I was a big man. I had two other officers with me and we had the tools and training to take him to jail whether he wanted to go or not. Pride reared up within me as I considered showing him what I was going to do. After all, I had the authority and the means to put him in his place.
However, another voice spoke up. This was a voice of reason and experience. It spoke to me in remembrance that more can be accomplished through treating all with respect and patience. I could have forced this man into compliance but, in the long run, that wouldn’t help this situation. I took a breath before speaking.
I looked him in the eye and spoke to him in a very calm but authoritative voice. A tone that let him know that I was in control but also respected both who he was and his place within that household. I said to him, “Sir, you will be going to jail tonight. That is no longer the issue. I will be placing you under arrest but you have a choice to make. You can choose to fight us but we will handcuff you, drag you out to my car, and take you to jail. On the other hand, you can choose to accept the situation for what it is. You can allow me to handcuff you and walk with you out to my car.”
I had his full attention. My tone as well as my words were speaking to him and I could sense the situation was starting to resolve itself but I wasn’t finished. “Sir, you have children. They are going to be watching how you handle this. They can watch their father yell, kick, and scream before being forcefully thrown into a police car or they can see him calmly accept what’s happening and walk out of here like a man. That image will last a lot longer than anything else that happens here and will affect how they see you for the rest of their lives.”
I paused to allow him time to process all of this before finishing. “Either way, you are going to jail. The question is how you are going to go.”
Nothing else was said as we waited for his answer. After watching him think for a few moments, he nodded to me and turned his back so I could cuff him.
I’ve run into him several times over the years since that incident. He worked it out with his wife and they are still together. Whenever I see him, we shake hands and speak affably to one another.
I’m not sharing this to demonstrate how outstanding I am. This was one triumph amongst a hundred failures but it brings to mind the lesson given to us in Proverbs 15:18 which says, “A hot-tempered man stirs up conflict, but a man slow to anger calms strife.” If I had left my pride overwhelm me, I would have won the battle but not the war. By remaining calm, I was victorious beyond my expectations.
Too often we let winning the immediate fight cause us to lose in the long run. We overwhelm our children, spouses, and others with a hot-tempered response that gets us our immediate results but at the cost of their respect, love, and appreciation.
Don’t lose the war for the sake of the battle.
After all, it’s your choice.
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