Resolve: The Ultimate Survival Attribute

Ask yourself this question: “Do I really think I could use deadly force against someone to protect my family?” Most, (if not all reading this) quickly respond with a resounding YES! In fact, you may even have fantasized about scenarios where that might happen; usually in the context of “what would I do if…” One has to plan for every contingency, right?

The thing is, these fantasies are usually on the same level as a Hollywood movie—contain some sense of bravado—and almost always leave you feeling like somewhat of a hero. There are those who are unnerved about this and find themselves with a slightly different feeling in the end, but in my experience those who fall into the category of “preppers” or “survivalists” are of the mindset that protecting their families is a no-brainer and very straight forward… “Bang.”

First, let me preface the remainder of this article with a simple statement: This is not about gun control, it’s not about teaching you to be a trained killer, and it’s certainly not about advocating a position of appeasement. It’s about Resolve. It’s about getting Resolve. And, it’s about when you need to acquire Resolve. I’m making this statement because I don’t want you to have a predetermination about where the article is going before you finish…or don’t finish, as the case might be. Please be patient and open-minded—it could save your life, someone else’s life…and your sanity.

The Advent of PTSD

PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—I am amazed with all the attention surrounding this newly termed ‘disorder.’ In World War II they called it “shell shock.” In Special Ops, we didn’t have a title for it…well, beyond “the thousand yard stare” anyway. There were those that displayed these characteristics, but not like today. I believe it to be much more prevalent than when I was active duty. Of course, just having a name to attach to it can make this so, thus making it easier to ‘diagnose’ and assign treatment…as well as create more popularity. One could argue that the today’s victims have more damaging exposure than previous generations or they have experienced carnage on a level not seen before. However, a brief review of world history will quickly debunk that position.

I am not a licensed psychologist and I don’t fault the discovery of PTSD or even most of the treatments used, but what I do have issue with is the focus. It seems to be more about treating the symptoms, less on treating the problem, and virtually nothing to prevent the problem. How do you prevent PTSD? I have a theory of my own…and it starts with Resolve.

I have had a full military career; the last 11 years were in Special Operations. We were always busy; not just in the Middle East, but in many other places doing things you won’t read about. In addition to my own experiences, I’ve had many discussions with veteran colleagues about their experiences as well. Most of the conversations started with PTSD and the affect, if any, it had on us. Most of us agreed that we were changed by our experiences, but thought just the military lifestyle alone would have accomplished significant change. What I found common to this group of friends was that none of them had any issues associated with moderate to severe PTSD. Most didn’t feel they had any symptoms. All had effectively used deadly force and seen the results. All had lost friends or colleagues and experienced the associated grief. Most had witnessed atrocity. So, what did this group have in common that helped them avoid PTSD? All are Christian for one, which I think is key, but not necessarily a guarantee because it’s closely related to the second attribute, which is—you guessed it—Resolve.

I thought about writing a book for young warriors entering the fray, in hopes it could make a difference. But, raising a family of six kind of got in the way and my focus was diverted…until my youngest son entered his senior year in high school and hadn’t shed the childhood dream of following in the ‘old man’s footsteps.’ Needless to say, my motivation to convey helpful or antidotal information to my son and others has changed significantly. And so, I write.

I do not mean to trivialize PTSD or suggest those afflicted with it are weak, fakers, or need to just “suck it up.” Nor do I intend to demonstrate they are any less the heroes we know them to be for defending our nation. They are not failures. They are the best we can ever hope to be and need to be treated as such for contributions that are essentially priceless. For this, we should do all we can and provide all we can to make them healthy again—this owed for a debt we can never repay.

However, treatment is no match for prevention and preparation—and I’m not talking about false bravado or getting jacked up on “hooyah’s” before battle. That will fail you every time! It’s the first thing stripped of you when the SHTF. Yet, it’s always encouraged by leaders who know no better because that’s what they were taught to do. How else do you get someone to ‘charge that hill?’ All the fantasies of being the hero are ripped from your mind like a whirlwind. Without bravado, without fantasy—and most importantly, without Resolve—you stand naked before the scariest scenarios of your life. First it seems surreal, but it quickly becomes reality when death and atrocity confront you face to face.

You’ve picked up by now that the Resolve of which I speak is multi-faceted. It consists of preparation, deliberate and pre-meditated action based on that preparation, and resolution of that action when it is safe to do so. These are the key tenets of Resolve.

Several studies conducted after World War II uncovered a curious fact: Approximately 50% of the US soldiers that fought in battle admitted they fired their weapons with “plausible deniability.” This means they really didn’t zero in on their targets, but fired in the general direction of the enemy—the idea being that they really wouldn’t know for sure if they killed another human being.

Why? Consequences of those actions and the inability to Resolve them.

Mad Dog, a very good friend and former Green Beret as well as strong Christian explained it best: “God did not design us to take human life. And, to engage in activities that result in it have consequences—not punishments—but consequences.” For example, what’s the best off-road vehicle made?…A Rental! Joking aside, a rental car can be a great off-road vehicle—once. Then, it’s trashed. Why?…because, it wasn’t designed for it. This is a consequence of using something for a purpose it wasn’t designed to do. The car wasn’t trashed out of punishment; it was a direct consequence of misusing it.

Now, having said that, all real off-road vehicles are not created equal either, some do much better than others—and the same can be said about humans. Case in point; only a select few are chosen for Special Ops—the hell they are put through to select the best candidates is a testament to it. To the uninitiated, it is a belief that brute physical stamina identifies them as the cream of the crop…and they would be incorrect. Certainly, physical ability is important, but it’s having heart and Resolve to push past physical limits that insure success, all the while maintaining perspective, mental focus, and situational awareness.

I’m reminded of Bible history where God told Gideon to select 300 men for a battle against thousands. To select the best of the best, Gideon was to march all the candidates mercilessly around the desert for an extended time. Finally, he was to guide them to a water hole and observe them. Those that dropped their weapons and buried their faces to lap like dogs were disqualified. God told Gideon to look for those that kept vigilance—retaining their weapons and maintaining their bearing—always at the ready, mentally focused, just in case—yet still satisfy their thirst. The 300 selected were “special” because they had the mindset, the heart, and the Resolve to be prepared for any contingency. I’ll make one concession here—these were men that naturally found the Resolve to be selected. It was in their nature. God wasn’t asking Gideon to train these men to meet a standard. The standard was applied to insure they already had the Resolve to accomplish the task.

Preparing to Resolve

While Gideon only selected those with adequate Resolve, I believe it is possible to gain Resolve through training or learning. And, while some will always have a natural preponderance to it, everyone can increase their ‘resolve quotient’ like anything else—simply by preparing. No one can prepare for you, because it must be attached to a very personal and deep rooted belief or beliefs. Certainly it can start with the position that you will protect your family and their livelihood, but you have to peel layers of thought deeper and deeper…and go beyond the logic of protecting your loved ones—use your heart. You are training yourself here and in the training world we look to Bloom’s Taxonomy for the different domains of learning. They are the Cognitive domain (mental skills or knowledge), the Psychomotor domain (matching knowledge with manual or physical skill) and the Affective domain (growth in feelings or emotional areas). Learning about guns, their operations and increasing skill in the use of them is covered by the first two domains—dealing with the Resolve to use them and the emotional aftermath, is covered by the Affective domain. This domain by far has the most impact and ‘bang for the buck’ if it is employed correctly. I’ll give an example.

Remember back to high school and of all that you learned—what sticks out in your mind? Is it memorizing formulas for chemical concoctions from chemistry class or maybe the names of every bone in the human body? Doubtful, unless you’re a chemist or doctor and work with it every day to reinforce your rote memory. More than likely, it’s a subject taught by a well-respected and effective teacher—like history. We all remember that ‘special teacher’ we really liked and their way of making things interesting or alive. Think back to that time and the subject they taught. Can you remember things you learned…are they still there? Why?…because they employed emotion or feeling to facilitate the transfer of knowledge. They likely used war stories or personal experiences and attached it to the subject matter being taught. It’s well known in training circles that the Affective Domain will imbed knowledge more permanently in the human mind than any other method. This is the most prominent distinction between a computer and the human mind. A machine will never feel anything, they can only emulate. It’s because they have no spirit…no soul…no heart.

Attaching emotion to learning is what you need to do in your quest to increase Resolve. Don’t use temporary emotion or heat of the moment techniques as I mentioned before—like watching a war movie, listening to pumped-up rock music, or getting jacked up on “hooyahs.” Don’t think Dirty Harry—think Braveheart. Don’t think AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”—think Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American.” Which of those move your heart? Strengthen your Resolve?

I’m reminded of an interview I saw recently with the late Chris Kyle; the world’s deadliest sniper. When asked by a smug reporter about how he dealt with knowing he terminated over 160 human lives, he responded matter-of-factly that it was to save the lives of his comrades. He believed that every enemy terrorist he killed, saved the lives of American soldiers—that was his logic. What he didn’t impart was bond that drove the deeper feelings and emotions he held that were the foundation of his logic and the basis for his Resolve. Believe me, they are there…ask his wife, I’ll bet she knows. There’s nothing cavalier about Chris and his Resolve.

To wrap it up, I’m reminded of a Biblical scripture that says, “For greater love has no man than this; that he lay down his life for his friends.” If you have this kind of love for those you protect, then I believe you are capable of creating a healthy Resolve to do what is necessary. I could write several chapters on this—and probably will, but for this article I will leave it at provoking deeper thought and feeling to establish the foundation for your Resolve. Don’t be cavalier about this critical step in acquiring Resolve. Of all the skills and preparation you acquire in your pursuit of survival, this is likely the first you may have to employ immediately following the start of TEOTWAWKI.

Deliberate & Premeditated Resolve to Action

Preparing to Resolve is the foundation for acting; knowing what action you are willing to take and under what general circumstances. Now, you must join this with decisiveness—a willingness to follow through—before you are confronted with a situation. You must have already made the decision to act—weeks, months, or even years before you find yourself confronted with a scenario that demands you to act. If you prepare, but don’t act, you cannot benefit from your preparation—period!
Decisiveness to act also carries the crucial benefit of speed, or more definitively—lack of hesitation. Any seasoned vet with tell you that he’s had successes because the enemy hesitated or paused to ‘think.’ These vital seconds can be the difference between life and death for you or your loved ones.
Have a heart to heart with yourself and ask the question: Am I willing to act…can I do this? If your answer is “I think so,” “I don’t know,” or anything other than a strong affirmation—you need to go back to preparation and Resolve it. This isn’t easy, and to trivialize it or be cavalier won’t work.

Resolution of Action Taken

When safe to do so and the dangers have passed, you need to Resolve your feelings and emotions. A good warrior can easily push these aside during a fight knowing they are a distraction that could cost him or his comrades their lives. However, it’s a slippery slope down the road to PTSD if you don’t deal with them afterwards; like a festering sore they will return to haunt you. This I promise. Knowing you are directly responsible for the loss life of another human being will change your life forever—even if you effectively resolve it—you will be changed. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, justified or not.

First step: Start with logic, because you’re going to go there anyway. What were the circumstances that required your actions and how did you respond? Could you have handled it any other way…maybe a better way? The purpose of this initial step is to confront yourself. This may sound like you’re borrowing trouble, but it’s really about getting it out on the table. Guaranteed you will second guess yourself at some point anyway, why not now?

Consider an After-Action Report format. Include everything from what went well to what didn’t, and include mistakes—especially mistakes. The whole purpose is to learn from it and then move on. “Maybe” and “if” yourself thoroughly, but don’t dwell on it too long because that causes ‘analysis paralysis.’ Then, formulate the perfect solution and compare it to how you handled it. Are they the same—no, they never are…and they never will be. Consider the deltas; the things you could have done better and vow to learn from them.

The next step is to mourn. Cry, pray, etc.—get it out.

Now, forgive yourself…God did. You have to go forward from here. Again, vow to learn from it because this makes you more valuable to yourself and others. Even if you are partly or directly responsible for the death of a comrade because of your action or inaction—you can be better for it. Part of your healing is to vow to do better and educate subordinates so they won’t make the same mistake. To clam up, quit, or even take your own life is not only an atrocity, it’s sentencing a comrade to make the same mistake because you weren’t there to pass on valuable advice…is that what you really want for them?

So…think you’re ready???

For those of you that believe they’ve already prepared themselves. Let me drop a test scenario on you.

You’ve done all the right things. Prepped, stored, and relocated to your retreat in the wilds of Montana. An economic collapse was the culprit, just like you thought it would be. It’s been several weeks and your family is in a routine. Adjustments to your new life are going well.
However, a starving man and his family show up at your gate. The man and his wife are gaunt and drawn; clearly they had given whatever food they had to their three young children, now clinging to their mother’s leg. You decide not to draw your weapon as you approach because of the children. The man smiles as you get within speaking distance. It’s clear they need assistance and will likely beg for food. You planned for some charity like a good prepper and prepared yourself for how you would handle this—give them what you can, but be firm in asserting they move on and don’t come back.

Suddenly, the man’s smile slips away as he draws a pistol. He yells commands for you to disarm and voices his intention to take from you and your family. Clearly, he’s desperate—like you would be if you had to stare in to your family’s starving eyes every day and listen to their cries of hunger at night. The distance between you is 50 feet—an easy shot for you, as you’d practiced many times. You recognize the man is not an accomplished gunman by the way he holds the weapon and wields it carelessly. While he could get lucky, it’s not likely he would hit you. Frequently, he looks away to glance at his family—more than enough time for you to strip your pistol from its holster and double tap him. If you kill him, the man’s family will eventually suffer the same fate; wing him, and the result is still the same…just takes longer while they watch him die of infection.
He’s done talking, his gun fires…he misses you…he’s cocking it again…

What would you do? Is this one of the scenarios you fantasized about? Prepared for? Resolution of Action Taken has a whole new aspect to it now. You won’t be dealing with just the man’s death, but his family also…maybe they wouldn’t die, but what a tragic thing to witness for them. If you don’t think that will rattle around in your head for the rest of your life, you’re a sociopath. Bottom line: You’re alive, but your sanity and quality of life is dismal. In the end, you may have no choice except to defend yourself with extreme prejudice, but dealing with the aftermath will come hard.

You prepared to Resolve ridding the earth of a marauding biker gang, not the Brady Bunch—yet both scenarios are equally feasible in TEOTWAWKI.

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