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.

15 thoughts on “Gratitude and Guns

  1. Well, usually I am in total agreement with the things you post here. This is an exception. I may be the only person who reads this blog who is brave enough to disagree, and I am sure I will be shot down by many who post after I do. Still, I am here to respectfully offer an opposing view. While I am a big fan of gratitude journals, I disagree with your statement: “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.” I know many people who are gun owners. They are male and female, Republicans and Democrats. They are all very responsible about their weapons. I do not believe that the fact that they have guns causes any of them to look for a reason to use it.

    My own father has a gun in his nightstand. It is loaded and there are two extra clips of ammunition in the drawer right beside it. He has never used it, but the fact that he lives alone has caused him to feel the need to be able to protect himself. He has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. He seldom carries one, but there have been times when he has needed to brandish his weapon because of the kind of work he does. He has never, ever shot anyone. If he had been looking for a reason to use it, he has had more than one. He has no desire to shoot anybody, but being able to brandish his weapon has saved his life on more than one occasion. By showing that he had a weapon, the men who were about to assault him we scared into leaving him alone. I, personally, am very grateful that he had his weapon in situations like that. Because of his weapon, I still have my dad with me.

    On the other hand, I know a wonderful man who was in Mexico a couple of years ago on New Year’s Eve, visiting the town where his wife grew up. He and his wife, along with 5 other couples, were eating dinner in a restaurant. Some men came into the restaurant, began shooting, and took all six men at their table out of the restaurant at gunpoint. Their poor wives could do nothing but cower and watch their husbands go. Those six men were found later that night. They’d been tortured, shot repeatedly at point-blank range, decapitated, and their bodies left in a pit by the side of a road. The only people armed that night were the criminals. Because of that, 6 women were left without husbands and fathers for their children.

    There are a few facts about gun ownership that I feel are absolutely true:
    1. No matter how many laws are passed to regulate guns, criminals will not obey them. The only people who obey those laws are the innocent citizens who may become victims of gun violence.
    2. If there had been people in that theatre in Aurora who had guns, they would have taken the shooter out, quite possibly before he could do so much harm. If there had been people on those planes on 9-11-01 who had weapons, they would have killed the madmen who crashed those planes into our buildings and killed so many innocent Americans. After all, even box cutters cannot fight bullets.
    3. Owning does not automatically mean that you will be ‘looking for a reason to use it.’ You state that “If you have a gun, everything looks like a challenge. You want to use the tool you carry. You look for threats.” With all due respect, that is really ridiculous! I have plenty of things that I carry in my purse every day: a first aid kit, a sewing kit (complete with needles and scissors), medications. Does that mean that I am consumed with a desire to use these items? That I am walking around, looking for someone to hurt so that I can use my first aid kit? That I might be tempted to rip somebody’s clothing, so I will have an excuse to use my sewing kit? These questions sound silly, don’t they? The idea that someone who has a gun is out walking around, just yearning for a reason to use it sounds just as silly to me.

    It is very idealistic to talk of living a life of compassion and compromise and kindness. Owning a gun does not mean one is any less compassionate and kind. It just means that one is realistic and prepared. Perhaps the decision to own a gun can be seen as a decision based on fear and anger but, the fact is, there is REASON to fear. When people cannot go to a movie or fly on a plane or eat dinner in a restaurant in peace, there is REASON to be afraid. It does not mean that one’s entire life has to be consumed with fear or anger or violence. It just means that one has taken every precaution to be safe and protected. If I had high blood pressure, I would do what my doctor recommended to deal with it, be it exercise, medication, or whatever. Whatever threats we face, we need to do what we can to overcome them.

    • You are right, I completely disagree with every single point you make. Not surprising, though, that you call yourself “brave” and “realistic” and my ideas “ridiculous” and “silly.”

      • I note that you deleted my reply. It must have made too much sense. Hard to argue with logic, isn’t it? It is a shame. Until that happened, I was still feeling bad that I had hurt your feelings. Now I see that the only posts you want on your blog are either the ones who agree with you or the ones that you feel you can easily shoot down. The others get deleted. Shame on you!

        Editor’s note: WordPress automatically removes some comments–those with certain links, of a certain length, and multiple, serial posts from the same author. It is true that I did not restore them.

  2. I must have a gun – I’m expecting major trouble? What sort of a way is that to live? Bound by fear!
    And another surprise for you about NZ Quinn, we are not armed unless off to shoot game – and you need a license, lock the gun and ammunition in different places etc. Even the police are not routinely armed . . . although, sadly, there is talk that this may change.
    At least we’re still proudly nuclear-free!

      • Australia has similar laws. I grew up in the UK where even the police were not armed as a matter of course. I find the gun culture very confronting, and needless.
        There will always be illegal guns in the hands of the criminals, but I would like to think that our legacy for the future is gratitude, not mindless violence because we think we might be under threat.
        I live in an underprivileged area where people do not go out at night, but I do not have to worry about being shot in the back going about my daily business, and I probably meet more criminals and addicts in a week than most of you do in a lifetime! I believe there is hope for the future and we can help make it come true by recording the good things of life, not dwelling on the bad.

      • I’d like to think New Zealand is an oasis of calm, unfortunately it’s not . . . we have as much crime as anywhere else I guess and our statistics are getting steadily worse. On the other hand, most crime doesn’t usually involve firearms.
        I always feel safe in my home, though I live alone, can depend on strangers for support in unexpected situations and even the toughest looking people will respond to a smile.
        Someone clipped my car recently and tried to intimidate me and make out I was at fault – what some would think of as the most unlikely looking people came rushing over to say what they saw, got out their cellphones, took photos and one called the local police – he ‘knew’ him and said he was a good bloke. It was a very humbling experience.
        But why do I say unlikely looking? Just because they were young, unkempt, tattooed, swearing every few words does NOT mean the aren’t decent human beings with a sense of fairness. We all need to remember that and reserve judgement.
        I’m investigating Quinn! 😉

  3. Wow! You did it again! I have been watching all the pundits taking about guns and your way of viewing this topic is so refreshing and true. I did a gratitude journal for a couple years but now just think about it before I go to sleep. I’m currently doing a “Photo of the Day” book to help myself look at things during my day. Thanks!

  4. We are what we focus on. If the focus is on the fact that I have a gun, so no one can mess with me ’cause I have permission to protect myself (loosely construed.) If the focus is on living a life of compassion and compromise and kindness, can’t see where a gun would be needed.

    Just because we CAN, doesn’t mean we SHOULD.

  5. “Protect yourself” is a comfortable fiction that’s been invented to misdirect people’s thinking (read “lie”). An extremely successful one. A gun is not a protection; it is used to attack.

    It’s conceivable that a gun wielder will hope to use the gun as a threat of attack, thereby deterring someone else from an attack. It’s also conceivable that a gun wielder will hope to eliminate an ongoing attack, thereby avoiding a potential injury to itself.

    Those are hopes. They rely on complex strings of assumptions. They might sometimes come true. Guns might be strategic deterrents, weapons of aggression, tools of escalation, ways to avoid responsibility, or, more basically, a better way to throw a spear. But calling them “protection” is a salesman’s trope.

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.