The Danger of Holding onto Anger:

Twain

In my earlier blog (see post: Learning to Control My Anger), I describe how my Dad made a memorable point of how he expected me to “hold myself to a higher standard”. I can look back now and see how my dad taught a stubborn kid with a short fuse “to be slow to anger” as he knew anger leads “only to evil”. Dad did not know, yet God did, that following that cold day in December my ability to deal with anger would be be put to the test.

To be angry, even intensely angry, after a sudden traumatic loss of a loved one is normal and to be expected as it simply is a reaction to the pain of losing someone you loved. According to the most widely accepted model of how people deal with grief, the Kübler-Ross Grief model identifies anger as one of the five emotional stages that most people will experience during grief. Since anger is normal, the question becomes how do we deal with this anger. How to preclude ourselves from holding onto this anger and not allowing it to take root in our persona.

Good people suffer all the time when they do not know how to deal with the adverse powerful effects of negative emotions. This happens when these negative emotions are held onto and allowed to take root in their persona. As distressing as it is to see how anger not only results in the tragic death of a beloved person, it is even more devastating when multiple additional people are consumed and lost to the anger generated from this tragedy. Often the people marred are the people closest to the person that was tragically lost. By holding on to their anger, they too became additional victims of the same event, not survivors as God intended.

Joel Osteen[1], author and Senior Pastor of one of the largest churches in the United States, understood that we have an important choice in how we respond to the actions of others:

“Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let…things upset you.”[2]

Due to his childhood, Dad understood what anger does to relationships. Dad had known how anger can twist and distort our judgement to the point where we retaliate only to the pain when we lose sight of our own morality. In Genesis 4:4-8, God warned us of the danger of anger in the story of Cain and Abel:

“Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.’ Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.”[3]

If I had focused on how the men murdered Dad, instead of all the great memories I had of Dad, I could have easily ended up like Cain. If I would have given into anger as Cain had, I too would have lost everything Dad had taught me, just as Cain had lost his morality when he killed his own brother. Instead, God guided me to make a choice not to focus on the men that had killed my dad. By God focusing me on the loving memories I had of Dad, God allowed me to let go of any malice as I had been taught not to hold onto my pain and anger. This is a gift I will always be thankful for.

turtle

This may be one of the reasons I find the spiritual leader of Tibet, the Buddhist monk “The Dalai Lama[4] so fascinating. Combined with his engaging personality, his inquisitive nature, and open minded approach to life, this leader of a tiny overrun country has incredibly become a best selling author with his captivating charm that is something of an enigma in our western culture. In the following quotes, The Dalai Lama explains the danger of emotions anger and hatred if they are embraced:

“I believe that generally speaking, anger and hatred are the type of emotions which, if you leave them unchecked or unattended, tend to aggravate and keep on increasing. If you simply get more and more used to letting them happen and just keep expressing them, this usually results in their growth, not their reduction. So, I feel that the more you adopt a cautious attitude and actively try to reduce the level of their force, the better it is.”

“We cannot overcome anger and hatred simply by suppressing them. We need to actively cultivate the antidotes to hatred: patience and tolerance…When we are engaged in the practice of patience and tolerance, in reality, what is happening is you are engaged in a combat with hatred and anger.”[5]

“Anger is the real destroyer of our good human qualities; an enemy with a weapon cannot destroy these qualities, but anger can. Anger is our real enemy.”

“If we live our lives continually motivated by anger and hatred, even our physical health deteriorates.”

“Happiness cannot come from hatred or anger. Nobody can say, ‘Today I am happy because this morning I was angry.’ On the contrary, people feel uneasy and sad and say, ‘Today I am not very happy, because I lost my temper this morning.’ ”[6]

The views on the dangers of anger held by The Dalai Lama seem to harmonize with the teachings of Christ in the New Testament. Similar to how The Dalai Lama teaches patience and tolerance, Jesus stressed this theme in what is considered his most impactful sermon. In His Sermon on the Mount, three of the eight points Jesus emphasized to his disciples in the Beatitudes were the antithesis to anger, hatred, and bitterness. In the Beatitudes, Jesus pronounced:

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” [7]

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”[8]

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”[9]

Jesus would underscore these pronouncements by warning his disciples not to respond to murder with anger. In Matthew 5:21, Jesus first reminded disciples of the teachings in Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17 where we are taught “…You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment”. In the very next verse, Mathew 5:22, Jesus warns us that “…if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment![10], asserting that to be angry is viewed as harshly by God as murder. Jesus continued by clarifying with his disciples in Matthew 5:38-44:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also…You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”[11]

Again, the Apostle Paul would echo these teachings in Romans 12:14-21:

“If someone mistreats you because you are a Christian, don’t curse him; pray that God will bless him…Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through. Don’t quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible…Don’t let evil get the upper hand, but conquer evil by doing good.”[12]

Just as Dad had taught me that I should hold myself to a higher standard, the Apostle Paul was teaching that if you are a Christian, you are expected to make every effort to hold yourself to a higher standard so we could “conquer evil by doing good”. As Christians, we are taught that we must never seek personal retribution, no matter what has been done to us. Similarly, Jesus made it clear we are to “love our enemies” so we must never wish personal harm to someone that has harmed us. This is how we as Christians are expected to hold ourselves to a higher standard. This is how Jesus taught us to stop the dehumanizing cycle of seeking vengeance as justice.

MLK

To understand why Jesus was teaching us to hold ourselves to this higher standard, I believe we have to look no further than what happened in the infamous feud between the Hatfields and McCoys. This feud is reputed to have started over the alleged theft of a hog from the Kentucky family of Randall McCoy by the cousin of West Virginia’s Devil Anse Hatfield. This single act would lead to at least twelve murders over the next twelve years.

As the bad feelings were building between the families of Randall McCoy and Devil Anse Hatfield, the first personal vengeance was taken when three sons of Randall McCoy killed the brother of Devil Anse Hatfield. Devil Anse Hatfield and his family retaliated by raiding into Kentucky, arresting the Randall’s three sons, and executed all three sons in West Virginia without a trial. Each side continued to take matters in their own hand, avenging one wrong after another until it escalated to the barbaric murders of two daughters of Randall McCoy as the Hatfields assaulted and burned down Randall’s home in Kentucky.

Jesus knew that when we take the law into our own hands we give evil control of our life. If we take personal revenge, we are now no better than the person that originally wronged us. Jesus knew the only way to avoid this endless cycle of evil, the evil exhibited in the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys, we had to learn to leave retribution to God. By trusting in God, we can trust that God will enforce justice here on earth though our laws, hold them accountable after their time on earth is over, or both.

It is critical to understand that Jesus is urging us to take this course for our own well-being, not for the benefit of those who have done us wrong. Jesus does not want us to succumb to the same evil that has harmed us, as this is how evil gains control of our life. Jesus did not want us to suffer the same fate as the Hatfields and McCoys. Instead, Jesus is guiding us to a path that will allow us both to live a positive life during our remaining time here on earth and so that we will not face the same condemnation people that committed evil against us when it is our time to go before God.

Like Dad, Mom too understood this important choice we have to make to avoid the hatred that anger can lead to in our life. Instead of falling into the trap of anger, Mom instead focused on the Christian faith she shared with Dad. A few months after Dad was murdered, Mom provided the following profound statement explaining why she did not hate the men that had so ruthlessly murdered her husband in cold blood:

“I don’t have any hatred for the men, I don’t think I could live with this type of thing. It is hard enough to accept death to begin with, and, to accept murder is very difficult. But to accept hatred as part of your life – just won’t make life worthwhile. And you just can’t do that. I want them apprehended very badly…for them not to pay for what they have done is wrong…”[13]

Mom was able to understand how to separate letting go of the anger so she could recover in a healthy way without hatred from what needed to take place in the legal system. Mom served as a phenomenal example to each of us kids on how Jesus expected us to let go of our anger so we could avoid the hatred, resentment, and bitterness that embracing anger leads to in your life. Mom was an inspiration on how to become a survivor, which lead to first her involvement in Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) and then my involvement in C.O.P.S. through her example. She wanted the murders to be held accountable in the legal system and understood that she did not need to hold on to the destructive anger and hatred for that to happen.

In his book, The Journey: Living by Faith in an Uncertain World, the great evangelist Billy Graham warned us of the dangers of condoning the destructive emotion of anger in our lives:

“Every destructive emotion bears its own harvest, but anger’s fruit is the most bitter of all. Uncontrolled anger is a devastating sin, and no one is exempt from its havoc. It shatters friendships and destroys marriages; it causes abuse in families and discord in business; it breeds violence in the community and war between nations. Its recoil, like that of a high-powered rifle, often hurts the one who wields it as well as its target. Anger makes us lash out at others, destroying relationships…”  

“…we must stop making excuses for our anger or bad temper-blaming it on our parents, for example, or claiming we have every right to be angry because of something that happened to us in the past. We also must face honestly the toll anger and bitterness takes on our lives. They are our enemies. The Bible says, ‘An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered on commits many sins’ (Proverbs 29:22)…Never underestimate anger’s destructive power.” [14]

Later in my life I would have the opportunity to serve on the National Board of C.O.P.S. where I would discover the harsh reality of how anger can destroy a person. Good people suffer all the time when they did not know how to deal with the adverse powerful effects of negative emotions when they allow these negative emotions to take root in their persona. It was distressing to see how anger and bitterness not only resulted in the tragic death of the person in the Line-of-Duty, but could devastate multiple lives when the anger was allowed to develop into bitterness and resentment. By holding on to their anger, they too became additional victims of the same event, not survivors as God intended.

redheadbird

The people closest to the officer that had been killed, naturally experience anger following the death of a loved one. This can be even more dangerous when the anger seems so justified due to the circumstances of their loved ones death, as it would have been in the case of Dad’s murder. Justification does not lesson the trap anger represents, instead it intensifies the danger. The more justified a person feels they are to be angry, the easier it becomes to rationalize remaining angry and giving in to these negative emotions. This is the trap, the longer a person remains angry the easier it is for them to lose themselves to hatred, resentment, and bitterness. It is in this way the evil of anger can sadly consume multiple lives, when these negative emotions are allowed to take over the persona of anyone that has tragically lost a loved one.

God bless!

 

[1] Joel Osteen is a televangelist, author, and the Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church, in Houston, Texas.

[2] Heslop, Jessica. 2014. ‘Step By Step: How To Free Yourself From Negative Emotions – Purpose Fairy’. Purpose Fairy. http://www.purposefairy.com/70068/step-by-step-how-to-free-yourself-from-negative-emotions/.

[3] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[4] The 14th Dalai Lama describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. He is the spiritual leader of Tibet. In 1959, with the brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops, the Dalai Lama was forced to escape into exile to Dharamsala, northern India.

[5] Falahee, Jamie. 2012. ‘How To Deal With Anger (According To The Dalai Lama)’. Heallovebe. http://heallovebe.com/2012/05/22/how-to-deal-with-anger-according-to-the-dalai-lama/.

[6] Bond, Annie. 2015. Care2.Com. http://www.care2.com/greenliving/the-dalai-lama-s-wisdom-about-anger.html.

[7] Matthew 5:5, New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[8] Matthew 5:7, New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[9] Matthew 5:9, New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[10] New Living Translation (NLT).

[11] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[12] The Living Bible (TLB).

[13] “Tom Carpenter A Proud Patrolman”. 1974. Patrol 829 Volume 1, Number 1 (q): Page 3.

[14] The Journey: Living by Faith in an Uncertain World by Billy Graham, Published by W Publishing Group (2005). Pg 180.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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Introduction to Police Week and Forgiveness:

forgiveness

Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) did not exist when my dad was murdered in the Line-of-Duty, so it would not be until after I relocated to South Carolina that I would be introduced to the special work done by this extraordinary organization. At this time, I had little interest in C.O.P.S., or what Mom was doing with this charity, as I was too focused on starting my own career in federal law enforcement. Not long after my wife and I had relocated, FBI Special Agent James Horn and my mom approached me about coming to the next Police Week. They hoped I would speak at a “Forgiveness” workshop in which  Mom was helping Special Agent Horn with at the next conference held by C.O.P.S. during the days that surround the National Peace Officers Memorial Day.

This workshop was designed to help survivors understand the need for “Forgiveness” in the grieving process as it allows the survivors to overcome the anger that all too often leads to bitterness, resentment, and at times hatred. Special Agent Horn explained that it would be casual and all I would need to do is tell my story about how I dealt with my dad being killed in the Line-of-Duty, focusing on how I felt about the men that had killed my dad. Incidentally, Special Agent Horn had been assigned to the Denver FBI office at the time Dad was killed thus had assisted in the investigation of his murder. Special Agent Horn was also good friends with the police psychologist that had contacted me about first talking to a surviving family (see: Responding to the Call). Again, it is astounding to me how God weaves events in our lives together so they can lead to a purpose you never would have foreseen.

This was way out of my comfort zone and I really did not want to do it. The only time I had talked about how I had dealt with the death of my dad, there were only four other people in a small office. Moreover, at the time I did not fully grasp the premise of “forgiveness” in this context, nor did I understand how my story had anything to do with “forgiveness”. Special Agent Horn and Mom convinced me that my story worked with what Special Agent Horn was doing with this workshop and that this would again be a great way to give back to everyone that had helped our family over the years. As before, extremely reluctantly I agreed to do it.

A short time before Police Week, Mom let me know that she would not be able to attend the C.O.P.S. conference that year. As a result, she would not be there to assist with the “Forgiveness” workshop I had agreed to speak at. This made me more nervous and anxious than ever. Nevertheless, Mom convinced me that everything would be fine, all I had to do was contact Special Agent Horn when I arrived and he would take care of everything. With apprehension, I nervously agreed to keep my commitment and drove to Washington DC to speak at this “Forgiveness” workshop as planned.

As soon as I arrived at the hotel that was hosting the C.O.P.S. Conference for Police Week I realized how much I had underestimated what I had allowed myself to be talked into. The size and the scope of the event was way beyond anything I had ever experienced. The event consumed the entire hotel, and the hotel was designed for conventions in our Nation’s Capital. There were officers from all parts of the country escorting the survivors along with the families themselves. The sense of emotion was unmistakable, much like a funeral the air was full of stress, despair, pain, loss, fear, and anger. I felt overwhelmed and full of trepidation.

As I arrived at the conference room reserved for the workshop, I felt as though I had been mislead. The room seated at least 40-50 people and there was a film crew setting up their equipment. Special Agent Horn had decided to take this opportunity and have the crew film my story along with the story of FBI Special Agent Judson Ray[1]. Special Agent Ray had recently told his story on the top rated CBS television news show “60 Minutes”. Special Agent Horn hoped to use the video as part of his “Forgiveness” workshops in the future. At this moment I realized I was totally unprepared, out of my league, and wondered what I had allowed myself to be talked into doing.

After Special Agent Horn made his presentation on the need for “forgiveness”, he asked me to speak first. I was dressed casually, had no notes, and had a hard time seeing anyone through the bright lights of the camera crew. As I nervously began telling my story, God seemed to help settle me and allow me to recall details I had long forgotten as I told my story better than I thought possible. I was surprised as I slowly began to sense how so many of the survivors seemed to relate to much of what I had to say. I was even more surprised when Special Agent Horn said it was a powerful story and he would later ask me to come back the next year to help him again.

FBI Special Agent Ray went next. He was a senior agent, a member of the FBI’s Behavior Science Unit made famous by retired FBI Special Agent John Douglas’ book “Mind Hunter”, a Vietnam veteran, former police officer and homicide detective. Wearing a perfect suit, and working with prepared notes, Special Agent Ray was exceptionally well prepared. To my amazement, the first thing Special Agent Ray said was that he felt I had stolen his speech. As he then told his amazing story flawlessly. It was obvious he was an accomplished speaker and had done this numerous times. As he spoke, I felt confirmation that I had no business speaking on the same stage with him.

In 1981, Special Agent Ray had been ambushed at his apartment by three hired contract assassins and shot several times in his back, leaving him for dead with a collapsed lung. As he recovered from his wounds the investigation determined Special Agent’s Ray wife had hired the men that had tried to kill him after Ray had informed her he wanted a divorce and custody of his daughters. Instead of collecting on her husband’s life insurance, his wife was convicted as were the men she had hired to kill him.

As he recovered from his wounds. Special Agent Ray realized that to survive both emotionally and physically, he must find the capacity to forgive his wife and the men she hired to kill him. Special Agent Ray had not been a particularly religious man. Yet, God had disclosed to him that the path to becoming a survivor required forgiveness. Speaking at a Critical Incident Conference at the FBI Academy, Special Agent Ray asserted that the most important thing he could think of to help any survivor was:

“Bring that person to forgiveness. Yes, we may be able to function, but we cannot be whole until we forgive.”[2]

Over the years I worked with Special Agent Horn a few more times during Police Week. As a result, I spent a great deal of time engaged in introspection as I tried to gain a deeper understanding of the context of “forgiveness” as it related to my story. It was important to me to know how I could do a better job conveying this important message to others, and I thought that started with having a better understanding of “forgiveness” in the context of the workshop.

kushner

My story was simple, at least it was simple to me. I never spent any time thinking about the men that killed my dad. In my mind, they simply were not worth my time or thought. In a single moment in time these men had taken Dad from me forever and I was not going to allow them to take anything more from me. If I spent even one moment thinking about them, in my mind, it would allow what they had done to overshadow what my Dad had done. Time and memories were all I had left and I was not going to waste it focusing on what they had done in that single moment. Instead, I wanted to concentrate all my time remembering and honoring Dad. I only had Dad for nine plus years and I wanted to remember as much of what he had taught me during that time as I possibly could.

In this simple way I was able to avoid the trap of anger that naturally comes with focusing on the pain that had been inflicted on me and my family when these cruel men killed my dad. Yet it was more than just that. By holding on to the lessons I had been taught by my dad I was able to control my anger to the point I was simply able to let it go. Remembering how my dad had taught me not to hate and to hold myself to a higher standard, I was able to avoid lowering myself to the level of hate the these men had exercised when they ruthlessly executed my dad. When God focused my thoughts on the dad I had, I was blessed as the wonderful memories I had of Dad would protect me from the dangerous path of anger, bitterness, resentment, and hate.

During my journey to comprehend forgiveness, I came to understand that all of us have been wronged at some point and if we hold onto the pain we felt from that moment we will eventually develop anger, bitterness, and resentment. All of which lead to hatred. The more justified we feel we are, the more difficult it becomes to see what the angry, bitterness, resentment, and hate are doing to us. Regrettably, the greater the hold these negative emotions have on us, the less we see the effect it has on the people we love the most. The more entrenched the anger, resentment, hatred, and bitterness becomes in our lives; the more these negative emotions will diminish our ability to give and accept love. This is why Jesus stressed our need to forgive after he emphasized the most important commandment is to love God and then love our neighbor as we need to forgive to do this wholeheartedly.

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I believe this is the significance of Jesus warning his disciples of the dangers of responding to murder with anger (Matthew 5:21-22). There was a important reason that in Mathew 5:25 Jesus advises us to “…settle our differences quickly…[3]. I believe Christ was warning us to forgive quickly so we could avoid the anger we experience when someone murders a loved one from taking root in our lives. I believe this is why Christ led the Apostle Paul to advise the Ephesians to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you[4]. To help us avoid this anger from taking root, I believe Christ lead the Apostle Paul to advise the Philippians in Philippians 4:8[5] that they should focus their minds on the good things God has done in their lives.

In Luke 6:37, Jesus added “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.[6] Jesus wanted us to be able to forgive, so we could be forgiven; because he wanted us to be able to love, to be able to be loved. Although Jesus advised us to “settle our differences quickly” in Mathew 5:25, I believe Jesus understood that not all of us would be able to do this. I believe Jesus emphasized forgiving quickly as he was trying to protect us from allowing anger, hatred, and bitterness, from taking hold within us.

In his book, The Journey: Living by Faith in an Uncertain World, the great evangelist Billy Graham proclaims the transforming power to be found when we forgive:

“…be quick to seek not only God’s forgiveness, but also the forgiveness of those you hurt. If you have been harboring anger or bitterness or jealousy in your heart toward someone – a parent, an ex-spouse, a boss – hand it over to Christ, and ask Him to help you let it go. In addition, discover the transforming power of forgiving others…” [7]

My personal journey has taught me that strong negative emotions can eventually cause us to emotionally shut down and withdraw from everyone that loves us. This can lead us to withdraw into a place so dark that we are in danger of never finding our way out. These emotions are so strong that they can slowly take over our life and prevent us from expressing and receiving love, because love is the polar opposite emotion to anger, bitterness, and hatred. It is through this “transforming power of forgiving others” that we free ourselves to heal and move forward with our lives. By forgiving others we are freeing ourselves from the past allowing us to be a survivor. In contrast, when we hold onto the past and do not forgive we remain ensnared in the psychological trauma of victimization.

God bless!

 

[1] FBI Special Agent Judson Ray was nearly killed when he was shot at his home by two men hired by his wife to kill him.

[2] Bromley, John S. 1991. ‘Suicide – The Survivor’. LEO-Trainer. http://www.leotrainer.com/suicidesurvivor.pdf.

[3] New Living Translation (NLT).

[4] Ephesians 4:31-32, New International Version (NIV).

[5] Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” English Standard Version (ESV)

[6] New International Version (NIV).

[7] The Journey: Living by Faith in an Uncertain World by Billy Graham, Published by W Publishing Group (2005). Pg 181.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Why We Need Good Samaritans

agassi

In my life, God has repeatedly demonstrated to me how important it is that everyone knows that each of us can help another person. In “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” Jesus clearly reveals the significance of the actions any of us can make if we are willing to take the time, step outside our own comfort zones and put forth personal effort to provide aid to another. Opportunities to help others happens all the time if we simply pay attention to what is happening all around us.

One such opportunity took place on August 21, 2016, when an officer in Yoba City (California) responded to a vehicle accident. When the officer contacted the men that were attempting to flee the scene of the accident, he was viciously attacked by both men in the physical struggle that ensued. As the officer was fighting for his life, one of the assailants gained control of the officer’s baton and “began striking the officer in the head with it”. It was at this moment a bystander intervened, disregarding his own safety to do the right thing. The Good Samaritan pushed the assailant off of the officer and fought with him until additional officers were able to respond.[1]

Another example occurred in Cleveland (Ohio) on May 6, 2013. On this days neighbors responded to the cries of a woman from a house she had been held hostage in for ten years. After these Good Samaritans helped free this woman and her daughter from the house, the police would find two more women that had been abducted and held in the home since 2002 and 2004, respectively. During their captivity these women had been repeatedly raped and beaten by their abductor. If these Good Samaritans had not responded to the cries for help on that fateful day, not only may these women and the little girl continued to be tormented, their abductor would have remained free to victimize other young women.

It does not take great risks to be a Good Samaritan, as even a simple act of kindness can make all the difference in the life of someone else. Today I read another story where a family with a young child was stranded on side of a busy road when their vehicle broke down. The family remained in their vehicle all night with the hood up and hazards on without anyone stopping to offer assistance or even calling 9-1-1. It would be early the next morning before a courtesy patrol vehicle would stop and offer them assistance. This frightening ordeal could have easily ended tragically. Sadly, no one traveling the road was willing to take the time to help, they were either too busy to notice or too afraid to get involved.

There are simply so many amazing opportunity each of us has to get involved and make an important difference in the life of another. It is this point that I passionately hope that I am able to convey. It is far too often that we fail to act on this lesson emphasized by Jesus in “The Parable of the Good Samaritan”. Whether we decide it is not our place to get involved or we simply believe we are to busy to stop and help, time and again people in our society ignore the opportunities to get involved. Instead they simply make the choice to leave it up to someone else to address the problem.

It is in Luke 10:25-37, that Jesus reminds us first of “The Most Important Commandment” followed by the “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” to emphasize the importance for each of us to to get involved when given the opportunity. As so often is the case, this message is as applicable to non-Christians as it is to Christians:

The Most Important Commandment:

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Parable of the Good Samaritan:

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. 

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ 

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

In his book “Studies in the Sermon of the Mount”, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones states:

“You remember the parable of the Good Samaritan told by our Lord in response to the question ‘who is my neighbor?’ The Jews traditionally hated the Samaritians and were their bitter enemies. However, our Lord tells us in the parable that when the Jew was attacked by thieves and robbers on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem, several Jews passed by and did not help him. But the Samaritain, the traditional enemy, went across the road and cared for him and did everything for him. That is loving our neighbour and our enemy. Who is my neighbour? Any man who is in need, any man who is down through sin or anything else. We must help him, whether he is a Jew or a Samaritain. Love your neighbour, even if it means loving your enemy. ‘Do good to them that hate you.’ And our Lord, of course, not only taught it, but He did it” [2]

The Apostle Paul echoes this theme in Romans 15:1-7:

 Romans 15:1-7: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up…For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope…May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”[3]

After Dad was executed in the Line-of-Duty, there were witnesses that came forward and admitted they had observed two men struggle with dad after he had stopped to help them. The witnesses did not initially do anything as they did not want to get involved. As in the case in Yoba City, Dad may have lived if these witnesses immediately called the police. Yet, they will never know if they could have made a difference. What they do know is that they did nothing and as the result a patrolman was brutally murdered.

roosevelt

Conversely, Good Samaritans like my uncle, my high school counselor, and many others would prove to be critical to my ability to overcoming both the cold blooded murder of my dad as well as the events that took place when I was a freshman in high school. It was the willingness of these Good Samaritans to take time out of their busy lives to provide the support I needed which helped me become a survivor. Without this support, I would never have found my way back to the road I was meant to travel. The impact these Good Samaritans and my dad had on my life, along with the inaction of the witnesses of the abduction of my dad, would have a profound influence on the choices I would make the rest of my life.

As a result, I decided after I returned from Alaska, I never again wanted to come that close to quitting or giving into my fears again. I may make some mistakes along the way, which I have many times, yet I never again wanted to be afraid to face my fears. You just never know when you might do something that has a dramatic impact on someone’s life, including your own. You might even save a life. Doing nothing, especially if it is due to fear, has not been a option in my life ever since I was able to come to terms with my greatest fear, the fear I faced as a freshman in high school, when I failed to face my peers after becoming overwhelmed with years of repressed emotions.

thepatriot

This approach to life is permeated with the potential of risk, yet I face the same risks if I choose to do nothing. In the film, The Patriot, there is a decisive moment when the main character Benjamin Martin states, “I have done nothing. And for that I am ashamed.”[4] It is this sentiment that I strive to avoid as it gives me a sick feeling in my gut whenever I think of the consequences of doing nothing. I believe God gives us opportunities by placing us in situations for a reason, and I believe that reason is seldom ever to do nothing. As a result, I have chosen to do my best to live my life and to tell my story with the hope it will do more good than harm.

God bless!

 

[1] “Yuba City Officer Beaten While Investigating Accident”. Chicoer.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

[2] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Studies in the Sermon of the Mount”, Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Company 1976, pg 272.

[3] New International Version (NIV).

[4] The Patriot is a 2000 American historical fiction war film directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Robert Rodat, and starring Mel Gibson, Chris Cooper, Heath Ledger, and Jason Isaacs. The film depicts the fictional patriotic character of Benjamin Martin which was a composite figure loosely based on American Revolutionary War heroes Andrew Pickens, Francis Marion, Daniel Morgan and Thomas Sumter.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

 

Recognizing the Need to Mourn:

LEO-1

Although I have absolutely no idea what had happened that fall, I suddenly found myself unable to continue with school. I was devastated and overwhelmed with the crushing failure and could not bring myself to face my friends and fellow classmates. I was devastated and embarrassed, yet I could not explain to anyone why. Unable to reconcile this dichotomy of not knowing how I failed, yet somehow knowing my blunder was more than I could face, I simply could not bring myself to continue to attend school (see blog post: We Each Need to Grieve).

After Dad had been killed, Mom returned to college where she received a baccalaureate in Social Studies and Counseling. With Mom’s background along with her love and support, she would patiently work with me to make sure I did not drop out of school. Without her love and support, I have no doubt that I would not have been able to take the time to find myself again and instead could have easily made choices that could have dramatically changed the course of my life. In addition to Mom, the assistance of a compassionate school counselor would help me take correspondence courses allowing me to pass on to be a sophomore in high school. As a result, I developed a deep appreciation of the following assertion by the influential psychologist and behaviorist B.F Skinner:

“A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.”

It seems so out of character for me not to look back on what happen and try to understand and learn from what happened, what I have no memory of. This is what I have done with most everything in my entire life. Yet, I still do not feel even a mild curiosity as to what happened or why it was so painful that I could not face it. While it has been extremely important to me to understand how I recovered from that day, even as I write my story I feel no compulsion to try to pry this memory out of my mind. I can not articulate why, I just seem to understand that God will reveal the memories that have been hidden when and if I need to know. Until then, I am content to leave this portion of the story unknown.

The unconscious repression of memories along with the conscious suppression of memories has long been associated with how people, particularly children, deal with traumatic memories. Although repression and suppression of memories have been associated with dissociative amnesia and in severe cases with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), recent studies indicate this is due to a natural biological reaction in the brain and can be a healthy method of coping with traumatic events. Specifically, in 2008, researchers from Stanford University and the University of Oregon[1] were able to identify the biological mechanism in the human brain that is able to block unwanted memories as reported in the Stanford Report:

The experiment showed that people are capable of repeatedly blocking thoughts of experiences they don’t want to remember until they can no longer retrieve the memory, even if they want to, Gabrieli explained.

“It’s amazing to think that we’ve broken new ground on this…that there is a clear neurobiological basis for motivated forgetting,” Anderson said. “Repression has been a vague and controversial construct for over a century, in part because it has been unclear how such a mechanism could be implemented in the brain. The study provides a clear model for how this occurs by grounding it firmly in an essential human ability — the ability to control behavior.”[2]

Subsequent research published in 2014 by MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit and the University of Cambridge’s Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI) [3] revealed the ability of our brain to subconsciously suppress memories from traumatic events as a method to help us cope. According to an article in Science Daily:

“The study…challenges the idea that suppressed memories remain fully preserved in the brain’s unconscious, allowing them to be inadvertently expressed in someone’s behaviour. The results of the study suggest instead that the act of suppressing intrusive memories helps to disrupt traces of the memories in the parts of the brain responsible for sensory processing.” [4]

It is amazing to see how God designed us to deal with the world we live in. Each time I learn something new about how God has designed each of us, I am astounded how God prepared us in advance to deal with unthinkable tragic events we all will undoubtedly face during our lives. Having lived through my experiences, I am continuously astonished to personally witness how God gave us these incredible natural ways to subconsciously and/or consciously address unthinkable traumas.

My wife too witnessed an example of the minds ability to cope by repressing a memory. When my wife was 15 years old, her mom was advised that her brother had died of a massive heart attack. When my wife asked her mom if she was going to the funeral her mom told my wife in a combative tone that her brother had not died, he had just had a heart attack. My wife was so confused and she looked to her father, who was a physician, and he told my wife not to worry that this is normal. Sure enough, a few hours later her mother was able to talk about the fact that her brother had died earlier that day.

In the Bible, God warns us that each of us would experience test or trials throughout our lives. Knowing in advance that there could be times each of us could be overwhelmed by the emotional experiences of the trials we would face. God designed our brains with the ability to turnoff our memories allowing us to avoid becoming devastated by our emotions until we could be prepared to deal with them. This is one example of what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.”[5]

In my life, I can now look back and see that God was giving me a chance to deal with my grief so I could get back on the path to becoming a survivor. According to the most widely accepted model of how people deal with grief, the Kübler-Ross Grief model identifies five emotional stages that most people will experience during grief. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As Dr. Christiana Hibbert points out, this five stage model should be used only as a guide:

“The 5 Stages of Grief are not intended to be worked through and ‘checked off,’ like a list. Rather, they are guideposts, helping us identify and understand what we may be feeling. Not everyone will experience every stage, and many people will go through the stages in a different order…”[6]

The explanation Dr. Hibbert gives regarding the “Stage of Depression” in this model is refreshing and significant. Dr. Hibbert not only notes that it is during the “Stage of Depression” in which people grieve, Dr. Hibbert clarifies the meaning of the word “depression” as it applies to this state. Dr. Hibbert distinguishes that in this context depression is descriptive of the sorrowful and melancholy emotions that are a natural part of grief and should not be confused with the disabling mental illness of clinical depression (also known as Major depressive disorder-MDD):

“…it’s important to know that this isn’t a mental illness – it’s a natural response to loss. It’s not a clinical depression we’re experiencing, but rather bereavement and mourning, and the emotions of depression must be experienced in order to heal. We have to let ourselves feel the pain, loss, grief, and sadness, hard as it may seem.” [7]

As a young man, I did not understand this distinction anymore than most people in our world today truly understand it. Unfortunately, even today I believe most people, or at least most men, associate the word “depression” with some form of mental illness instead of the feelings of sorrow. In our world of labels, this one difference in interpretation of the word “depression” can keep us from being open about what we are experiencing. Right or wrong, there is still a world of difference to most men from saying you are experiencing sorrow, which is viewed by most as a natural emotion, opposed to saying you are experiencing depression, which too many men still associate with the mental illness.

Although this was not something that I recall giving much thought about at the time, I do see that this distinction is important, particularly for boys and men. The importance is to avoid any negative connotations as negative connotations can prove to be an impediment to dealing with these emotions in a healthy manner. There is a need to understand this is natural and it is extremely normal to experience these feeling when we grieve after an unthinkable traumatic event impacts our life. In fact, it is so necessary and important for us to navigate through these stages of grief that Jesus discussed our need to grieve, our need to mourn, during his ministry.

In what is considered his most impactful sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, the very second insight Jesus taught his disciples in the Beatitudes was “Blessed are those who mourn, for they should be comforted[8]. Christ understood that with love comes the pain of loss when a loved one dies. As love was the key to the message he was teaching, I believe Jesus wanted us to all understand that with that love comes the need to mourn, the need to grieve, the need to be comforted, and that He would always be there to comfort us.

In the Gospel of John, we are given and example of what it means to mourn as we learn that even Jesus needed to mourn. When a friend of Jesus named Lazarus had died, in John 11:33-35 we learn:

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. [9]

As men we are to often led to believe that it is a sign of weakness to show our emotions by crying, weeping, mourning. An example of “Godly men” mourning the death is found in Acts 8:2 where it declares that after the new disciple Stephen was stoned to death “Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.”[10] I believe this is intentional to demonstrate to men that even Jesus wept and men of God mourned. By proclaiming that all men, even his son Jesus, have a need to weep and to mourn the tragic loss of someone we loved God is affirming this release of emotions is a natural part of living.

The reason we need to mourn is exemplified in Jeremiah 31:13, when the Lord declared to the Profit Jeremiah:

“For I will turn their mourning into joy

And will comfort them

and give them joy for their sorrow.”[11]

This is made clear again in John 16:22, when as Jesus prepared the Apostles for His death, Jesus expressed:

“now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy”.[12]

When I was young, I did not appreciate the significance of these verses found in this ancient text. I thought the purpose of Bible stories was limited an illustrations of our creation, discovery of God by the people of Israel, and the story of Jesus. As I read verses again with the insight found from years of real life experience I continue to be astounded to find within the ancient verses of the Bible are clear relevant messages to every day life in this modern world. I am again especially amazed to see this clear message that weeping is a natural part of mourning, and that exhibiting a public display of this emotional response to death is an essential extension of love. As with the other illustrations found in this great ancient book, these depictions are emphasized so we can recognize this is something we all must do, men most of all, if we wish to remain healthy and recover from tragic losses to be a survivor.

 

 

[1] Anderson, Michael C., et al. “Neural systems underlying the suppression of unwanted memories.” Science 303.5655 (2004): 232-235.

[2] Trei, Lisa. 2004. “Psychologists Offer Proof Of Brain’S Ability To Suppress Memories”. News.Stanford.Edu. http://news.stanford.edu/news/2004/january14/memory-114.html.

[3] Gagnepain, Pierre, Richard N. Henson, and Michael C. Anderson. “Suppressing unwanted memories reduces their unconscious influence via targeted cortical inhibition.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111.13 (2014): E1310-E1319.

[4] ScienceDaily,. 2014. “Suppressing Unwanted Memories Reduces Their Unconscious Influence On Behavior”. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140318093910.htm.

[5] The Message (MSG).

[6] Hibbert, Dr. Christiana. 2015. ‘5 Stages Of Grief’. Dr. Christina Hibbert. http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/dealing-with-grief/5-stages-of-grief/.

[7] Hibbert, Dr. Christiana. 2015. ‘5 Stages Of Grief’. Dr. Christina Hibbert. http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/dealing-with-grief/5-stages-of-grief/.

[8] Matthew 5:4, New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[9] New International Version (NIV).

[10] New International Version (NIV).

[11] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[12] New International Version (NIV).

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Boy Scouts and Moonlighting:

Unremembered-2

Because God focused my thoughts on the Dad I had, I was blessed as the events that ended his life would never overshadow the wonderful memories I had of Dad. Just as it states in Romans 12:9: “…Hold tightly to what is good” (NLT), and 1 Thessalonians 5:21: “…Hold on to what is good.” (NLT); I was able to hold onto these memories of the man my dad was. As I share more of these memories, I hope others will find the wisdom of these verses and hold on to their own memories of what made the person they lost so very special to them. By holding onto these wonderful memories and focusing on them, we each are making a choice not to let the tragic painful lose of a loved one overshadow the gift of wonderful memories they gave us and the remarkable impact they had on our lives.

Boy Scouts

My memories of are full of how Dad taught me how to fish, taking me rabbit hunting, and going on family camping trips. It was the love of the outdoors that led me, as it did for a lot of the boys my age, to join the Cub Scouts. Although there was already a leader of the pack I joined, Dad loved helping out whenever and wherever he could. Dad enjoyed working with scouts so much that a year or two before he was murdered, Dad volunteered to be in charge of all the Boy Scouts in our area when our local Boy Scouts organization needed someone to step forward. Likewise, when they needed someone to take over as the leader of a group of Webelos Dad volunteered for that too.

I was too young to appreciate the impact Dad had on others through his willingness to get involved in the Boy Scout program. As a former volunteer football coach, the following post is particularly meaningful as I know first hand that to make this kind of difference on the life of someone that was not as fortunate to have a father encapsulates why Dad volunteered:

“I was a fatherless youth growing up in Lafayette, Colorado. Officer Tom Carpenter was our Boy Scout Leader and one of the more significant influences on my youth. I remember the cloud over Christmas that year. I attended the funeral and I will never forget the image of all the law enforcement agencies that showed their support. Husband, Father, and Scott Leader Tom Carpenter will always be a positive memory in my thoughts.” -Warren Charter (December 7, 2013)[2]

Dad was good about making sure I learned how to do everything myself and made sure I earned my merit badges on my own. I specifically remember how frustrating it was when he was trying to teach me how to tie all the different knots. I was born with a minor birth defect in which I am missing the last joint in my fingers. This has never given me much trouble with the exception that I struggle a bit with the dexterity of fingers. Consequently, I struggled some with learning how to tie, and untie, knots. I would get so frustrated when I would struggle handling the string or small rope the way it was taught, I would test the patience of Dad as he would try to keep me from getting overly frustrated with my fingers. Thanks to his quiet patience, I was able to learn to tie all the knots and earned my merit badge for knot tying.

One of the highlights as a Cub Scout was the pinewood derby. In the pinewood derby, each Cubs Scout builds and races a car made from a block of pinewood with plastic wheels and metal nails for axles. At first Dad insisted that I would need to build my car myself with only minimal guidance from him. After I did most of the work on my car before we tested it and it just did not do very well. At this point Dad, like a lot of dads, took over and “my race car” became “our race car”. I remember him drilling holes in the back of the car, adding small metal bearings to increase the weight of the back of the car, covering the hole with glue and sawdust, and painting over it. Next Dad worked on the getting the best nails and added graphite to the axels so the wheels would roll as free as possible.

I still remember the day of the race. Most of the kids cars were tricked out and looked a lot flashier than my car. You could tell most of the other kids dad’s had done most of the work on the cars. My car was bland and plain. You could tell I had done almost all of the design work on the car myself. I remember feeling a bit embarrassed and wishing my car looked as cool as all the other cars. Yet, it was “our car” that won each heat and advanced to the finals. I still remember how surprised everyone there was, none more than myself, when my car won the final race. No one could see the work Dad had done to help “my” car roll faster, I was the only one that knew.

DerbyCar

I know Dad did not cheat, as everything he did to make my pinewood derby car faster was within the rules. Nonetheless, I am left to wonder why he did so in such a way that it did not look as though he had done much to help me. Looking back today, I cannot help to wonder if he was trying to encourage the other dads to let their kids do most of the work on the cars. Perhaps he just wanted to help me win so I could feel good about building a winning car. Maybe he just was like the other dads and wanted “our car” to win. All I know is I was so proud of that car and Dad that day and it still makes me smile when I see my car and think of that day!

Moonlighting

Like most young law enforcement officers, my dad did not earn a large salary so Dad would work second jobs on his time off, something they called “moon lighting”. Some of my best memories of dad were of him taking me with him to the gas station and wrecking yard when he was moon lighting. To me, the best place in the world to watch an Army-Navy football game was sitting on an old rickety stool in the backroom of an old gas station watching a portable black and white TV while dad work on cars!

When I read the following tribute to Dad, I think back to the time I spent with Dad at this gas station and wonder if I ever met this high school kid. This type of response reminds me how you never know when a “little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love” will have a lasting impact on another person:

“I think of you often even though I barely knew you. I was in high school and worked at a gas station. You would stop by and say high occasionally. About a week before your tragic death I asked you what it would take to become a Colorado State Patrolman. You told me that I should just work hard and stay in business. You where special and will never be forgotten. I continue to pray for your family.” -R. T. Elder (Admirer – May 21, 2014)[2]

One of the greatest adventures in the world for a young boy might be to investigate and rummage through old wrecked trucks and cars with his friends! Mom hated the wrecking yard and made Dad promise he would keep us in sight and out of trouble. Nonetheless, after I promised Dad to be safe and stay outside the wrecks, as soon as we were out of his sight we would go crawling through the wrecks looking for the coolest piece of junk we could find. I remember several times when climbing on the stacks of three wrecks on top of each other that we would cause the wrecks to shift and move as we climbed through them. Luckily for us, and perhaps luckier still for Dad, despite this exercise in extremely poor judgment nothing serious ever happened to us. For me, this is but one example which proves that David was right when he had written in Psalms 121:8 “The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.[4]

 

 

[1] The Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP),. 2016. “Patrolman Thomas Ray Carpenter”. https://www.odmp.org/officer/reflections/2820-patrolman-thomas-ray-carpenter.

[2] The Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP),. 2016. “Patrolman Thomas Ray Carpenter”. https://www.odmp.org/officer/reflections/2820-patrolman-thomas-ray-carpenter.

[3] New Living Translation (NLT).

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

A Man of Quiet Christian Faith:

QuietMan

I was fortunate to have been raised in a home with loving parents that instilled in me my Christian faith. Dad was quiet about his faith, letting his actions speak louder than his words. At the same time Dad was careful never to be judgmental or demeaning of others, he always tried to treat everyone with respect as he took it to heart when Jesus said in Luke 6:31 to “treat others the same way you want them to treat you”[1]. Not only did he teach this, Dad lived it, and as a result everyone that knew him, were well aware of his Christian faith and respected him for it.  

Just as Christ asserted in his Sermon of the Mount, “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”, Dad believed it was your actions that spoke louder than your words. Dad did not just believe this, this was the example by which he lived his life. In an article written after Dad was killed in the Line-of-Duty, Dad was described as “quiet about his religion and very non-condemning, the people on the patrol respected him very much for what he believed.”[2] 

For example, Dad rarely would drink alcohol or use foul language. Yet he had many friends that would drink alcohol and use some harsh language at times. Nonetheless, I never recall Dad speaking negatively in any way of their choices. It was in this way Dad was able to convey to me that I could live by his example without judging others for their choices. Moreover, I came to understand that not drinking alcohol did not make you a good person no more than using harsh language affirmed a person was bad. Despite my occasional failures, I continue to try to live by this example and always remember to look past the facade of a person to see what is in their heart.

Today as I read the words of Saint Peter in 1 Peter 3:15-16, I see Dad lived his life by them and I can now see how prophetic they would be:

“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.”[3]

My granddad was a minister that preached loud and hard. Many people would find the grace of Christ through the preaching of my granddad. Yet, God would use Dad another way that too would have an immense impact on the lives of others. Following his murder, several of his friends and co-workers would let it be known to Mom that they became Christians due to the impact Dad had on their lives, including one of his very best friends and his wife. Even today, I only need to go to one of the memorial pages and I will find a post like the one below reminding me the actions of Dad were heard and are still heard today:

“Tom was instrumental in my Christian conversion and will always be remembered honorably in my memories for his service as a dedicated officer”. -James C. McClung (Former CSP Trooper – May 8, 2010)[4]

Dad was quiet and I was not, which tested Dad at times. As I have previously stated (Blog: Learning to Control My Anger), I never saw Dad lose his temper or outwardly show anger. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for me when I was a young boy as I had quite the temper and was head strong. I remember many times Dad would stop everything to make the point to me if he felt I had done something that was not in line with treating others the way I would want them to treat me. Not only did Dad live it, he made it crystal clear that he expected me to live it too. In this way, to this very day I can see how Dad made certain I understood James 1:19-20:

…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” [5]

Likewise, as I previously stated (Blog: Do not Lower Yourself to their Level), Dad taught me that I should hold myself to a higher standard. Just as the Apostle Paul contended in Romans 12:14-21:

“If someone mistreats you because you are a Christian, don’t curse him; pray that God will bless him…Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through. Don’t quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible…Don’t let evil get the upper hand, but conquer evil by doing good.”[5]

Dad made it clear both by his example and his words that I was to conduct myself with self-control.  I am reminded of this when I read Titus 2:6-8, where the Apostle Paul advises Titus to teach young men how to conduct themselves:

“Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”[6]

Although I am far from perfect, to this day very few people have seen me outwardly display anger or lose control of my temper. This temperament would serve me well in my career in law enforcement and would not have been possible without the persistent lessons bestowed on me by Dad.

These are but a few of the memories I am blessed to have of Dad and how his faith was imparted onto my life. If it had not been for God guiding me to focus on the good memories I had of Dad, just as he had lead the Apostle Paul to focus on the good things about people as he taught in Philippians 4:8, I could have lost these irreplaceable memories forever. Not only did God preserve for me the dad I was so fortunate to have, in this way I see how God was leading me away from the anger I could otherwise have focused towards the men that had brutally murdered Dad in cold blood. I am so thankful for God’s guidance and comfort during that time in my life, as I walked “through the valley of the shadow of death” I learned to “fear no evil”, for God was “with me” along with his “rod” and his “staff” to comfort me.

It would be the loving memories of Dad and the man that he was that God would use to guide my moral compass each time I would misstep or make a mistakes that would cause me to veer off the course God had intended for me to take. Although I would be blessed with a number of phenomenal mentors throughout my life, these memories of Dad would continue to impact and shape the very core of my character. It is this central core that has had the greatest impact on the person I would become. Notwithstanding my many mistakes and missteps, the best things I have ever accomplished are by virtue of staying true to the core of my character that has been infused with these loving memories of a man I am honored to call my dad.

Furthermore, it is through these loving memories of Christian faith that I will always know what guided my Dad. Subsequently, it is in this faith that God continues to guide me, showing how I can apply these loving memory in my everyday life as I continue to realize and appreciate what it is that I have gained. As it states in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”[8]. Through his example, as well as his words, in less than ten years Dad had passed on to me the character of his Christian faith. It is by this faith, I continue to find guidance over forty years after his life tragically ended. For his Christian faith I was blessed to know, I am eternally thankful as it has made all the difference in my life.

 

[2] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[2] “Tom Carpenter Off Duty”. 1974. Patrol 829 Volume 1, Number 1 (q): Page 3.

[3] New Living Translation (NLT).

[4] New International Version (NIV).

[5] The Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP),. 2016. “Patrolman Thomas Ray Carpenter”. https://www.odmp.org/officer/reflections/2820-patrolman-thomas-ray-carpenter.

[6] The Living Bible (TLB).

[7] English Standard Version (ESV).

[8] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

My Dad the Patrolman:

Dad-Academy

My memories of Dad are forever flawed in a beautiful way as they are forever frozen in time, the time where a nine year old boy sees his dad as his hero that can do nothing wrong. I understand Dad was not a perfect man, yet my memories of him will never be tainted by trials of teenage years when I would have grown to question him, challenge the boundaries he set, and magnify any flaws I might perceive he would have had. Like many boys my age, I believe I had the best dad and there was nothing Dad could not do. Although I would struggle with understanding why my hero did not prevail and survive that fateful December day, I would grow to discover the strength and power of the quiet love, along with the faithful lessons,  I was blessed to have received from Dad in the time that he was alive.

As a nine year old boy, the fact that my dad worked in law enforcement weighs prominently in many of my pronounced memories of Dad. I was inthralled by every aspect of his job. One of my favorite things was to sit and watch as Dad meticulously shined his boots, belt, and badge. I never had seen a belt with so many holes, all aligned so Dad could position all of the equipment he carried while he patrolled in his assigned car. Of course the fact Dad drove a marked patrol car was perhaps the coolest thing of all. The flashing lights and siren were riveting to a young boy. I often imagine the thrill of driving fast, chasing down spending cars with the lights and sirens. I just knew driving a patrol car with flash lights and sirens blaring had to be one of the coolest things there could be.

Dad would write many of his reports at home. I remember watching Dad in total fascination as he used the stencils to recreate diagrams of the accidents on paper for his reports. He would even let me try to do the same on some of the scrap paper which made me feel so important. At times, Dad would use my little Matchbox and Hot Wheel cars to figure out what happened during the accident. I would mimic this when I played with my toy cars, creating accidents like I had seen Dad prepare reports on.

One of my favorite memories was Dad using my Hot Wheel set to demonstrate how the new Colorado State Patrol radar guns worked at one of the county fairs. I remember helping Dad pick out the best cars to use. This was serious to me so I tested each car to make sure the wheels were not bent and made sure the each track had not been bent or broken. I was so proud as Dad made me feel like I was part of something new and important. It is the love Dad demonstrated by including me, letting me feel I was important and able to contribute, that makes moments like this stand out to this day.

Dad was always extremely careful to take care of his sidearm when us kids were not around. It was made extremely clear to us kids that we were never to touch his handgun and I have few passing memories of Dad with his Colt .357 Magnum revolver that he carried for work. My dad was a hunter, and I remember him teaching me about his Remington .22LR rifle and even recall taking it rabbit hunting. I even recall watching Dad get his .270 hunting rifle from Sears ready for hunting deer or elk. Yet, the Colt was off limits, kept out of sight and out of mind. I do not know if it was because of this, or due to the fact Dad was murdered with the Colt. Regardless, I have little memory of the sidearm my dad carried when he went to work.

I would carryover these lessons to when I worked in law enforcement. Over the years I carried three different sidearms and I would be surprised if my kids saw anyone of them more than a split second at any time throughout my career. As soon as I was home I would quickly take off my gun and lock it in the gun safe without anyone around. As my dad had, I made it crystal clear that the gun was off limits and my kids were never to discuss it with their  friends. I had no issue carrying a handgun at work, it was just part of the job. Yet, I had a healthy respect for what could happen when a gun falls into the wrong hands.

As a member of the Colorado State Patrol, Dad was selected to serve on the first Governor’s detail after it was created. Known as the Executive Security Unit, this detail provided security for the Colorado Governor and dignitaries visiting the state. This detail was reserved for the best Colorado State Patrolmen. Dad was honored to be selected and would serve for at least two years of his career on this detail. Serving on a rotating basis, Dad would spend one month out of every three to four months providing security for Governor John Arthur Love[1] and Governor John Vanderhoof[2]. The elite detail served two weeks at the Colorado Capitol and two weeks at the Governor’s mansion. For a young boy like me, this was awesome and validation of just how incredibly important my dad was.

When President Nixon and his wife Patricia (Pat) traveled to Colorado, Dad was assigned to the motorcade that traveled with them along with the Secret Service. On one occasion Dad let my mom know that Pat Nixon, along with Governor Love’s wife Ann, would be stopping in our home town to visit a child care facility. Mom decided to take us kids to see if we might be able to see them. Mom was amazed to see so many people and the number of Secret Service on the detail. Mom was shocked when just before getting back into the limousine, Pat Nixon turned to Mom and asked her how old her baby was. Mom was holding my baby brother who was a few months old. After Mom answered her question, Pat Nixon said “she is sure cute” and shook my mom’s hand before she climbed back into the limousine to leave.

Mom said I was quite impressed as I was standing next to her holding the stroller where my sister was resting. When Dad came home he brought a lot of extremely fancy and very tasty hors d’oeuvre from the luncheon they had for Pat Nixon. I was extremely impressed as I never recalled having seen fancy hors d’oeuvres like this before. When Mom and I told Dad what had happened with Pat Nixon, Dad was a little bit jealous as he had not had a chance to meet her as he was too far back in the motorcade. As I think back to the times I was called on to assist on Secret Service protection details I feel a kind of bond with my dad. Even though Dad is gone, I identify with what Dad experienced by recalling my serving on similar details.

Governor Love’s wife, Ann, apparently really liked Dad. When Dad was at the Governor’s mansion, Ann Love often enjoyed spending time talking to Dad. On one occasion, she gave my dad a belt buckle to give to me. I can remember getting the belt buckle, yet neither my mom nor I could recall why Ann Love thought to give it to Dad for me. The Love’s daughter, Becky, would also like to talk to Dad while they each had a piece of pie in the kitchen in the Governor’s Mansion. Becky Love would go on to serve as a Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court from 1995 to 2006.

Earlier in 1973, Governor Love resigned the governorship to become the nation’s first Director of the Office of Energy Policy in the administration of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon. Despite the fact that her husband was no longer the governor, Ann Love quietly came to out to see Mom and us kids after Dad had been murdered to personally offer her condolences and to see how we were doing. Ann Love personally wrote Mom about every year until she passed away in 1999.

Colorado Governor John Vanderhoof stated the following when the legislature honored Dad after he was murdered:

 “Tom Carpenter exhibited a combination of the finest qualities of a law enforcement officer both in daily routine and in time of stress. While on assignment to the Executive office, he was a favorite of the staff for his pleasant and considerate manner…“[3]

In recognition of Dad’s service with the Executive Security Unit along with the Colorado State Patrol, the Colorado General Assembly passed resolution H.J.R. 1019 honoring his service and extending their sympathies to our family. One of the sponsors of this resolution, State Representative John Buechner stated:

“I very rarely sponsor resolutions, but I think Patrolman Carpenter deserves to be commemorated by the General Assembly for his exemplary work as a patrolman, and a state official of the highest caliber.” [4]

These are a some of the memories I am grateful to have of my dad, memories I draw upon for my resilience to this day. Even the memories that have been passed on to me from others like my mom, or stories written about Dad, enrich this core of inner strength my positive memories provide. It is not ideal, and I would gladly trade these memories if I could still have my dad with me. Nonetheless, I am extremely thankful for the time I did have with the dad I was bless with.

I do not know all the answers anymore than I am able to go back and prevent the loss of my dad or the painful losses others have had to endure. Yet, as I look back over my life I can now see more clearly what I have gained following the painful loss of my dad. Today as I read Ecclesiastes 6:9, “Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have…” (NLT), I believe this choice is part of the picture that God meant for me to gain and understand. As I share this part of my story, it is my hope others too will find something that will help them with their choices, so they too can find resilience as they move forward in their journey so they too can become a survivor. God bless!

“The grief of losing my father has come in waves over the years, as it does with most people. His love and devotion as a father provided my closest, most intimate relationship. Dad, and our time together, is in my bones. While reflecting on him, the memories themselves seem to boil down into certain ‘essences of Dad.'” –  Jennifer Grant

 

[1] Governor John A. Love was elected to an unprecedented three terms as the Governor of Colorado from 1963-1973 (www.nga.org).

[2] Governor John D. Vanderhoof was Lieutenant Governor in Colorado from 1971-73 and he succeeded Governor John A. Love as the Governor of Colorado in July of 1973 (www.nga.org).

[3] “Tom Carpenter Recognized By Legislature”. 1974. Patrol 829 Volume 1, Number 1 (q): Page 4.

[4] “Tom Carpenter Recognized By Legislature”. 1974. Patrol 829 Volume 1, Number 1 (q): Page 4.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.