“Protect what you love” is a concept that can serve as a great motivation and justification for defensive training. It is important to have both of them from time to time, regardless of whether you are thinking about your own training or trying to encourage others to take their preparations more seriously. We know that far too many people barely take any steps at all, and even people who may seem very dedicated to training and practice can sometimes get distracted from what is really important. In the worst-case scenarios, I’ve been told by people that they don’t think they could use a gun or other means to protect themselves even when directly threatened. “Protect what you love” can refocus or motivate people—maybe even you.

If you are reading this article, chances are that you have accepted your responsibility to be prepared to defend yourself or others in a worst-case scenario. But are you really spending your limited resources (time, money, access to a range, etc.) in the best way possible? Perhaps you have been given this article to read by someone who cares about you because you haven’t taken steps to be prepared yet. Have you thought about all of the things you’ll miss should you be seriously injured or killed by an attacker?

I love my daughters, I love my wife, I love my family. I love my work. Also, I love interacting with students and other training professionals. I love the feedback I get from students who appreciate a class, a book, a video or other information I have produced. I have friends that I love. The list doesn’t end. I love learning, traveling and cooking. I love the idea of projects that I am working on coming to fruition.

All of these things are important to me; I would miss all of them if I were killed or injured in a way that took them out of my life. At any given moment, one or more of those things could motivate me to fight for my life under adverse circumstances, and they all serve as valid motivation for me to spend time, money and effort to be prepared to do so. They could also serve as an explanation to someone who questions why I carry a gun, train in unarmed defense or take a moment to set my alarm before going to sleep at night. They all justify the resources I spend on training. What do you love?

Fighting Back

I have met the type of person who says that they don’t think they could hurt anyone, even if that person was trying to hurt them. I’ve had students in some classes who thought they might be able to use certain levels of force (unarmed, chemical, electrical, for example) but not use lethal force under any circumstances to defend themselves. I have even met people who didn’t do anything while someone was hurting them—including some who took the fact that they “survived” as an indication that they didn’t actually need to do anything and shouldn’t regret their inaction.

But I can honestly say that I’ve never met a parent who hasn’t readily admitted that they would fight as much as they needed to defend their children from violence. In some cases, parents will say that they wouldn’t defend themselves but would kill for their kids. It was this group of people, often mothers, who I first started using the “protect what you love” concept with.

If you love your children and the idea of being there for them, raising them, supporting them and watching them be happy and successful, then how can you not be prepared to defend yourself from losing all that? How could you possibly let yourself be taken away from them? How could you let yourself be hurt, physically or psychologically, so much that it took you out of their lives or made you less capable as a parent? If you love your children, you simply must be prepared to defend them as well as yourself.

Most mentally healthy people have very similar feelings about other family members as well. We would fight to defend our parents, our siblings, our spouses. We love them, we want to be able to support them and enjoy their company in the future. If you are not prepared to defend yourself, you could lose your family.

What if you have been training and practicing? Do you tell yourself and your family that you are prepared for defense? When you go to the range, do they have the impression that you are practicing to protect them? Is that really what you are doing? Are you focused on developing applicable and practical skills, or are you trying to get a better score in a gun game? When you fill out a form 4473, are you purchasing defensive tools or just adding to your collection of toys? There’s nothing wrong with being a gun collector or enjoying shooting, of course, but make sure that you are being honest with yourself. Don’t use “personal defense” as a justification for sending thousands of rounds of ammunition downrange in competition.

Remember that buying a second or third gun of the exact same kind you carry for backup and staging them in different places is probably a much better idea than getting the newest gun from Brand X just because it got a great review. I know at least a few people who have been reminded to do the right thing when they thought about their families, refocusing on true defensive preparation instead of just their shooting hobby.

What about your profession or volunteer work? Do you truly enjoy your job? Would you miss it? Do you think that it brings value to your community and the people in it? Many of us truly believe that the way we spend our time does more than just generate revenue that allows us to do other things.

Doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, soldiers, teachers and similar professionals obviously carry a sense of contribution and service with them. But just about any profession can bring value and make someone proud. Whether it is a road well built, a customer who was assisted in buying the perfect dress or a woman whose hair was made to look perfect on her wedding day, it all matters. The pride you take in your work and the satisfaction you get from it could be a strong motivation to live another day—and put some effort into being prepared to do so.

I am skeptical that altruism exists in a pure form. I believe that, at the very least, people derive pleasure, pride and satisfaction from helping others. Most sacrifices, including time we volunteer to help others or charitable donations, I believe are trades for the positive psychological payoffs. We are better people when we help others. If you are disabled by a violent attacker, you may no longer be able to even take care of yourself, let alone make others’ lives better. If you are killed, you will never again have the opportunity to help someone else in need. Just as there may be a little bit of benefit in every act of giving, the act of protecting yourself could be an incredible gift to others.

Outside of your work, what life experiences do you value the most? What is it that you can’t wait to do again? What experiences can you not imagine living without? For some people, their hobbies can be strong motivations to live another day. Fishing, hunting, travel, art, scuba diving, motorcycling—it really doesn’t matter what you enjoy the most. It matters that you value some experiences enough to fight for the chance to do them again. Maybe you have an activity that you love not only for the experiences themselves, but also because you share them with a special friend or family member.

Imagine you are injured in a fight. It’s hard to breath, and you have debilitating pain in some part (or parts) of your body. Maybe your hand or leg is injured, affecting your ability to continue fighting. Maybe your gun has malfunctioned. At a moment like that, thinking about your desire to take one more corner on the track dragging your knee, catch one more trout, finish reading one more great book or serving one more delicious meal to your friends could give you the motivation you need to get through it and survive. Thinking about missing out on your most cherished experiences could justify spending a little more time practicing. Reminding someone of the things they would miss out on if they were killed might convince them that self-defense is a worthwhile endeavor.

Protect What You Love For The Future

What does the future hold for you? What do you hope the future holds for you? And what do you have to look forward to? A new career opportunity, a new love of your life, a child? What about the future of your current job? The things you will get to share with your current partner? The experience of watching your child grow up and become successful?

These things are worth fighting for. Maybe you look around right now and think that you don’t have much going on.

Some people get so depressed that they actually take their own lives rather than prepare to defend themselves from harm. You don’t have to look very hard to find stories of people who were in dire straits, fighting the worst demons, or suffering some of the worst ailments known to man who fought through and came out on the other side healthy, happy and productive. It certainly doesn’t always work out that way, but you don’t have a chance if you don’t fight.

Suicide is as much or more of a threat to many people as any violent attacker may be. The “protect what you love” concept might get you through a rough night, remind you how much you have to live for and motivate you to reach out to those who probably would put you on their list of people to protect. The future is something is worth loving, if only for the fact that it is full of opportunity.

Preparing yourself for defense isn’t just about the hard skills of physical defense or collecting gear and equipment. It’s also about preparing yourself mentally for tough times. Preparing yourself to overcome fear, doubt, shock, pain and find the motivation in that moment when you might not feel like you can fight or that there is anything worth fighting for.

What about others that you care about—the people in your life who you know are not taking reasonable steps to protect themselves or be prepared for defense? There’s no point in talking about concealed carry permits or home alarm systems if people aren’t invested in the idea of safety or security. Maybe sharing the “protect what you love” concept with others will motivate them. If you love them, it’s certainly worth trying.

I’ve written countless articles on various aspects of training and personal defense. I’ve done scores of TV episodes, written a few books and produced over 100 training DVDs. They are all meaningless if people aren’t interested in preparing for violent encounters. Your family, profession, contributions, experiences and opportunities are all worth fighting for. Ultimately, though, there is nothing wrong with defending yourself. You should love yourself. You are worth fighting for, defending and protecting. Maybe thinking about those other things is needed every once in a while to remind you why you are valuable or where that value lies. Be prepared to protect what you love, whatever it is.

This article is from the 2018 issue of “Concealed Carry Handguns” magazine. To order a copy, visit

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