Long ago in my priesthood I realized that the best way to be a good and holy priest (I’m still working on that, understatement of the year) is to play the criminal all the time. I’m forever explaining to people that I can see myself as being verification of the aphorism that goes “There (in that criminal way), but for the grace of God go I.” And because of that, I’m instantly aware of what people are up to; I’m not blind to all that which is bad and evil because I know that, but for the grace of God, I could be just like that.
If you congratulate yourself as a nice person – the Italians say persona per bene – you’re always in the white zone of situational awareness, you know, like the three monkeys covering eyes and ears and mouth, making sure that you’re the next victim of a criminal, who is, instead, thinking like a criminal. Criminals look for nice people, for those who oblivious to them. Sure, we’re to see the best in others, but to do that you also have to notice a couple of things: (1) any good in any of us is only because of God; (2) any one of us could slip from whatever goodness into crucifying the Son of the Living God. Be realistic. Criminals are always looking for nice people to be their next victims.
The yellow zone in situational awareness jacks things up just a bit, where you’re aware of ways to escape and deescalate any situation or conditions that you’re in. This can be a bit tiresome since so much of the time nothing happens. So, the way to make this fun is to play the part of the criminal and look for people who are in the white zone, noting how dangerous that is. People, looking at their phones, will walk right into light poles (I’ve seen it many times) or right out into traffic without looking (I’ve seen that too). But in this way you also instantly see others who are situationally aware, whether good guys being dutiful or criminals looking for targets. Good guys are obviously (to me) military or law enforcement. Situational awareness is a way of life. Very few civilians are in anything other than the white zone of oblivion, and have to go from zero to one hundred, from white to red (fight or flight). This means that they have no time with level orange, assessing a particular individual or group because of signals they are providing of their dangerous intentions. There is no extra time to reconsider paths of escape or how to fight the fight.
Thinking like the criminal is not to fall into the trap of having a darkened eye so that the whole soul is filled with darkness, which our dear Lord warns us against. What our Lord condemned is being so much in the totally self righteous zone that all those criminals and sinners (everyone else without exception) are held to be totally inept even at being criminals and sinners. Such a person is so dismissive of all others that they think they have no need for any situational awareness, not even of one’s own criminal soul in the face of God’s fierce judgment.
Playing the criminal, as it were, so to speak, for situational awareness, is actually a service to be able to help others out because you know where they are at.
About that lady who suffered a beating from her “boyfriend” the other day (Domestic battery on woman)…
I spoke about my intervention with a number of others who are well aware of guns and tactics and deescalation and prudence and they agreed that I had done the best I could in the situation. Even if I didn’t have any doubts about that, it is always good to get the insight of others in such events. When I heard the screaming I could have just left and pretend I didn’t hear anything, just shaking my head and thinking it’s all sad, but that’s the end of that. I just can’t.