The Better Part of Valor

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

I don’t remember where I first heard it, but you’ve probably heard it too. That is, the quote “Discretion is the better part of valor.” Actually, since this was originally written by Shakespeare, the original wording is a bit different than the way we would say it today. Shakespeare’s version goes: “Caution is preferred to rash bravery.” That was said by Falstaff in King Henry the Fourth, part one.

We need to ask ourselves just what that means and how to practically apply it to our own lives.

Valor, as most of us think of it, is usually taken to refer to marching to the sound of the muskets, even though we don’t use muskets today. I’ll have to say, those soldiers of old had to have plenty of valor, marching straight at their enemy, in formation, and standing out in the open shooting, while being shot at in return. I wouldn’t relish that sort of warfare, even with the inaccuracy of the British muskets.

Warfare has changed much since that time and General George Washington started that change. While the British were marching into battle, he recruited sharpshooters, who brought their privately-owned Kentucky long rifles to the battlefield. Those rifles were far superior to anything the British had, allowing those sharpshooters to be the first snipers in military history.

The changes brought about by those early snipers, including the technological superiority of their weapons, made the old form of warfare obsolete, as it was truly suicidal to march into battle, knowing that those snipers were around. The idea of marching to the muskets was replaced by crawling from cover to cover, trying to find the enemy, before he could find you.

There’s a lesson there for you and I. That is, there’s no valor in getting shot. Our job isn’t to go out there and make a target out of ourselves, just to prove how brave we are. Rather, our job is to stay alive. That might extend out to keeping others alive; but even then, we’re only responsible to keep alive those who matter to us. Nobody is paying us to be heroes and if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us aren’t really trained as heroes either, even though we have that tendency within us.

But what if we do try to be heroes? Chances are fairly good that we’ll come out on top. Most criminals don’t really practice shooting, preferring to use their guns to intimidate people. Ammunition costs money and they don’t want to spend the hours it takes to truly become proficient. You and I, on the other hand, practice with our guns so that we are ready to use them.

But accidents still happen. They can get in a lucky shot and ruin our day, anytime. That’s why we shouldn’t take any chances. If we have the opportunity to make a difference and stop them in their tracks, that’s one thing; but we have to be able to maintain the upper hand in the situation, if we want to live through the day.

Before getting involved in any potential shooting incident, we need to do an honest evaluation of the situation, covering several key factors:

  • Do we know what’s going on?
  • Are we outnumbered?
  • Are we outgunned?
  • Are we in a good position to bring fire on the bad guys?
  • Do we have any cover or even concealment available?
  • Will out shooing put our family more at risk?
  • Is shooting even necessary?
  • Do we have an egress route that we can use to get away, without being seen?
  • Just how good a shot are we?

That’s a lot to consider in the half second or so we have available to us. But that’s about all the time we usually have. After that, we have to act, whether that means to flee or to draw. Either way is taking chances and we’ve somehow got to make the right decision.

Let me throw one more thing in here. If you’re not sure that you can take them out and you have an option to flee, your greater responsibility is to flee, not to get yourself shot. Your family needs you and if you get yourself shot, they might not have you. They are the ones you have to answer to, not all the other people who might be there.

Of course, if your family is at risk and you can’t get them out with you, then you might have to act. It’s not your responsibility to protect all those other people out there; but it is your responsibility to protect your family. That just might require marching to the sound of the muskets, even if you know that you’re putting yourself at risk.

Practice making those decisions. Use wherever you are, in public, making up a scenario in your mind. Then work through the list of questions, training yourself for the thought process you will have to go through. That’s the only way you can be sure you’ll even know what to think, when the time comes.

And as always; be sure to keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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