To protect yourself from violent crime, you must be willing and able to act decisively when the criminal attacks.
Willing and able. We use that phrase a lot. When I was a child, I thought it was one big compound word: willing-and-able. But there’s a big difference between being willing to do something, and being able to do it. They aren’t the same thing at all, and the difference between the two might save your life.
Willingness covers the choices you might make, or that you could see yourself making. There’s a lot of territory hiding inside this question. Could you see yourself killing an intruder in your home, if that was the only way to assure your own survival? Could you make that choice quickly and without hesitation? Could you make that same decision if the intruder were a teenager, a woman, a mentally disabled person? Every criminal is someone’s son or daughter, someone’s child. But some decisions would be more heart-wrenching than others. Find the ones that make you hesitate, and explore them for yourself. Find the ones you’re confident with, and make sure your confidence is not misplaced.
These are tough questions.
Sometimes when people discuss questions like this, they will tell you there are no right answers and no wrong ones. That’s not quite true. The right answer is one you can come to peace with, that will enable you to act with decisive speed in the moment. The wrong answer is the one you cannot come to peace with, the one that will slow you down or stop you from acting. Nobody else can hand you the answers to questions like this. You have to look for them and find them on your own, because they must fit your own internal landscape.
Although you have to work out the answers for yourself, based on your own emotional and ethical wiring, other people can help you find good questions to ask. So can your own observations of the world. When you read or hear stories about how other people defended their lives from violent crime, you have an opportunity to think about these questions. When you hear about situations where others have needed to defend themselves, try picturing yourself in the same position. Then ask, “Would I be willing to do that?”
Ability is something else entirely. You might have no emotional or ethical problem with shooting an attacker, but not know where to aim in order to stop him quickly. Or you might be missing the skill it would take to hit him at the distance he is from you or at the speed he’s moving. You might be willing to shoot, but be unable to draw your pistol in time to save your life. You might not know how to deal with a physical attack. All of these things can be learned, but you won’t learn any of them by sitting around and thinking about it. You’ll have to step outside yourself to learn them, and it will take work.
There’s as much territory hiding inside able as there is inside willing. That’s because every situation is different. They aren’t all alike, and there’s no way to know what skills you will need until you need them. For example, you might be physically, emotionally, and ethically prepared to deal with one type of criminal attack, but not have the physical skill it would take to survive a different attack for which you were just as emotionally and ethically prepared. You might be able to shoot with a high level accuracy, but move too slowly for the situation you face. For this reason, it’s good to stop sometimes and look at where your physical skills actually are. How do those skills stack up to the ones most often needed in the face of violence? Where can you improve your skill and ability?
Willing and able are really two halves of the same coin. That’s why they’re so often paired in conversation. Unfortunately, most of us have a natural tendency to stock up a lot of YES answers on our favorite side of the coin, and ignore the other half. But both halves matter. To defend yourself from a violent crime, both sides of the coin must be marked with a YES within the situation you face. The more YES answers you stack up in advance on both sides of the coin, the more prepared you become to deal with whatever life throws at you.
Are you willing and able?