|On Sheep, Wolves And Sheepdogs
|by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if
he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, "I will never be caught without my gun in
church." I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a police officer he knew who
was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas, in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged
individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down 14 people. He said that officer
believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was
shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy's body and wait to die. That cop looked me in
the eye and said, "Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?"
Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church,
They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be
enraged and would call for "heads to roll" if they found out that the airbags in their cars were
defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids' school did not work. They can
accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against
them. Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the
sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, "Do you have any idea how
hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones were attacked and killed, and you had to stand
there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?"
The warrior must cleanse denial from his thinking. Coach Bob Lindsey, a renowned law enforcement
trainer, says that warriors must practice "when/then" thinking, not "if/when." Instead of saying,"If it
happens then I will take action," the warrior says, "When it happens then I will be ready."
It is denial that turns people into sheep, Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because
their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear,
helplessness and horror when the wolf slows up.
Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared:
You didn't bring your gun; you didn't train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a
strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are
psychologically shattered by fear, helplessness, horror and shame at your moment of truth.
Chuck Yeager, the famous test pilot and first man to fly faster than the speed of sound, says that he
knew he could die. There was no denial for him. He did not allow himself the luxury of denial. This
acceptance of reality can cause fear, but it is a healthy, controlled fear that will keep you alive:
"I was always afraid of dying. Always. It was my fear that made me learn everything I could about my
airplane and my emergency equipment, and kept me flying respectful of my machine and always alert
in the cockpit,"
- Brigadier General Chuck Yeager
Yeager, An Autobiography
Gavin de Becker puts it like this in Fear Less, his superb post-9/11 book, which should be
required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation:
".. denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace
of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn 't so, the fall they take when
faced with new violence is all the more unsettling, Denial is a save-now-pay¬later scheme, a contract
written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level."
And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the
day when evil comes.
If you are a warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that
weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be
"on" 24/7 for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and
you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself... "Baa."
This business of being a sheep or a sheepdog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or¬nothing,
either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-grass
sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the
other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up
that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating
their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move
up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones
will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.