Gratitude and Guns

Because I live in Arizona, I see a lot of people packin’ heat. Carrying guns in hip and shoulder holsters. Here, it’s fine to conceal-carry. Or open carry. I see guns in the library, bars (yes, places where you go to drink and let down your inhibitions), and movie theaters. Gives the store name  “Target” a whole new meaning.  My classes are gun-free zones, and when I announce that, some people argue and some go stow their guns in their cars. Life can be weird here in the West.

Walt Whitman from

When I ask my coaching clients to keep a gratitude journal, I start slowly. It’s hard to be grateful when you are downtrodden, angry, restless or a victim of your own life. Gratitude is hard. It makes you responsible for your own self, your own joy. And when you are busy eating worms, it sounds annoying, not helpful.

Gratitude journals do something very ancient and very interesting. They base their success on the sure knowledge that we create our own reality.  What we look at, we find. What we find, we become.

Walt Whitman had it exactly right when he said:
” There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he looked upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.”

So the gratitude journal serves the purpose, not of making you grateful, but of making you aware that you can allow yourself to be grateful. Once you have done that, you begin to look for things to put in the journal. You go gratitude hunting. Things that are mildly gratitude-producing become grist for your gratitude. You find what you look for.

To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. (It’s often attributed to Abraham Kaplan and slightly reworded, to Abraham Maslow, the developer of that hierarchy of needs, Maslow’s pyramid.) We use the tool we have. If the tool is gratitude, we look at our life trying to figure out how to be grateful, even if it’s not obvious, even if it’s hard.

Now replace that gratitude journal with a gun. Concealed carry.

When a gun is strapped to your hip, you are ready to “protect” yourself, your ideas, your beliefs, your world. That gun becomes part of your reality.  And you begin to look for reasons to use it. Without a gun, armed only with your pen and journal, you have to look for a way to reason with someone who argues with you. You have to be willing to lose, to walk away, to concede a point. You have to learn patience, tact, honesty, compassion.

If you have a gun, everything looks like a challenge. You want to use the tool you carry. You look for threats. No one goes to the range to practices “shoot to scare.”

Be careful what you choose to arm yourself with. You think it’s hard to withdraw words said in anger, it’s a lot harder to take back a bullet.

-Quinn McDonald is a user of words. She does not own a gun, although she has qualified as a sharpshooter in years gone by.