I’ve written before about how you don’t have to change everything about yourself in order to carry concealed, and that’s absolutely true. However, there’s one area in which you’re likely going to have to make a few adjustments, and that’s your attitude.
When you’re carrying a firearm, you must shift your mindset and learn to let go of some trivial annoyances. Why? Because like it or not, if you have a gun, every confrontation you get into has the potential to turn into a gun fight. You simply cannot afford to let small incidents escalate into big incidents, because you are in possession of a major escalation device that changes the game practically and legally. In short, if you have a temper, you are going to have to get it under control before you carry concealed.
Is some jerk on the road driving much too aggressively, trying to pass you, obviously road-raging, honking his horn and trying to get your attention as he’s pulled up beside you at a red light? I know, I know. You did everything right and he’s the terrible driver in this situation. You’re tempted to flip him off (escalation) or pull over and give him a piece of your mind on the side of the road (serious escalation). Don’t. Let it go.
And it’s not just road rage. What about the slightly-too-aggressive panhandler who approaches you in the park, asking for spare change? You told her no twice and she’s still following you. Your car is right over there, so you could leave pretty easily, but why should you have to? You’re tempted to shut this down by yelling at her to buzz off and telling her how inappropriate her behavior is (escalation). Don’t. Let it go.
The examples go on and on. Creepy guy hitting on you in the produce aisle. Fellow soccer mom being rude and causing a scene at a game. Random person on the street cat-calling or insulting you as you window shop. It would feel so righteous and well-deserved to tell them off, wouldn’t it? Don’t! Let it go!
Here’s the thing: The only good fight is one you don’t get in, and that goes double when you are armed. In most of these cases, you have absolutely no idea who you’re dealing with. Some people live their lives right on the edge of crazy and can be pushed over the line shockingly easily. Every person has a different threshold of what they will tolerate before they completely snap, and there’s no way to know how close you are to a stranger’s breaking point when you get into a heated discussion or start a verbal altercation. And once you’re in a confrontation, you have limited control over where and how far it will go.
I know—you would never dream of escalating a shouting match into a physical fight. The two things are completely separate entities in your mind; verbal altercations are something you have to do sometimes, but you’d never cross the line into physically fighting a stranger. You’re just not that kind of person. But that’s the problem—the stranger you’re engaging with might be that kind of person. They might not play by the same rules you do. Maybe they resort to violence as a way of solving problems. Maybe they’d rather throw fists than sling curse words. Maybe they see your verbal dress-down as a challenge and an insult, and physical violence is the next logical step in their mind. The point is, you just don’t know. Not everyone abides by the same social scripts that you do, and not everyone will play by the rules you think are normal.
This is true no matter the circumstances, but when you are armed, the stakes are higher. Even if you have absolutely no intention of letting things turn physical, confrontations can quickly spiral out of control, depending on the temperament of the other person or people involved. The bottom line is that you must exercise self-control when you are armed. You have to let that road-rage driver go around you because the stakes are just too high if you get in an argument on the side of the road. You have to leave situations when you can instead of sticking around and getting the last word in. You can’t afford to tell-off the aggressive panhandler, because if it escalates beyond what you expected, you’ve put yourself in a no-win situation you might need your gun to solve.
I’m not telling you to be a doormat and let people walk all over you. You deserve to stand up for yourself, and there are times when you’ll need to get firm and speak your mind. However, it’s important to exercise an extraordinary amount of self-control for your personal safety, especially when you’re carrying concealed. You’ll bring a lot of peace into your life if you learn to let things go.