When to Take a Bullet

Would you take a bullet for someone? Who would it be? Under what circumstances? What if the bullet wasn't a bullet, but something just as hard. Suppose someone you love is going through a tough time and they turn on you and say an impossibly hard thing to take. This is something that has the potential to wound you to the heart, but you know the person is speaking from an unusually disturbing time.

Do you toughen up, ignore it and move on? Do you immediately protest and defend yourself? Do you strike back with equivalent force and emotion in a mutually assured destruction mode?

Each one of us have experienced one or all of the above--but what if this was the time, and you knew it in your heart--this was the time to put your commitment on the line, this was the time to step up and take the bullet, regardless of the cost to you personally, to prove your love, your level of commitment to the relationship--would you do it?

Suppose someone you love and someone who has said that they love you says "My life is crap and it's all your fault!" or "I hate you and I wish you would die!" Would you pack your bags, pack their bags or engage in the above defensive scenarios? Would it change things if you knew that something you did or said was part of the reason for their devastating statement?

Before you answer these questions, consider the ones in either literature or real life who took a bullet for some one else.

Les Misreables-Eponine and Marius, the one she took a musket shot for
Les Misreables-Eponine and Marius, the one she took a musket shot for

In Les Miserables, Eponine loves Marius, but since he does not return the love, she leads him to the barricades where they could be killed and be together in heaven and not be with Cosette, the one he truly loves. Then, in a change of heart, she steps in front of a bullet intended for him, giving him Cosette's letter and asking him to kiss her forehead when she dies.

In Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton, who happens to look like Charles Darnay, the son of the Marquis, makes the ultimate sacrifice by substituting himself for Darnay at the guillotine during the French Revolution. Because his love for Lucy, Darnay's fiancé, can never be returned, he drugs the imprisoned Charles and puts himself in his cell. At the guillotine, he utters the most famous "taking the bullet" phrase in literature: It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.

Greater love has no man than this, that a man gives up his life for his friends. ~ John 15:13

I was in the service for 17 years so I kind of wanted to take a bullet for all of you. Of course I was hoping for a whole lot of missing. ~ Denny on SodaHead

Alexis Goggins was a seven-year-old who took six bullets for her own mother. She also managed to survive. To many people, the soft-spoken 7-year-old is a hero after she threw herself across her mother just as a former lover was about to shoot the woman in an SUV crying: "Don't hurt my mother!" Alexis had been diagnosed as remedial in some ways before this, but there was nothing slow about her willingness to protect her mom with her body.

Clint Hill was a Secret Service agent in Dealey Plaza during the Kennedy assassination, he ran up to the Presidential Limo in order to shield JFK, who was already critically wounded and Jackie Kennedy from any further shots. He has said ever since that his largest regret was that he was unable to reach the limo in time to take the bullets meant for Kennedy.

Timothy McCarthy in the foreground after shielding President Reagan with his body
Timothy McCarthy in the foreground after shielding President Reagan with his body

The attempt on Ronald Reagan's life by John Hinckley Jr. may have succeeded had it not been for the actions of Secret Service agent Timothy J. McCarthy, one of America's unsung heroes. He was a member of President Reagan's Secret Service detail on March 30, 1981, the day John Hinckley Jr. fired six bullets from a .22 caliber gun. One of the shots hit the president. But McCarthy prevented further damage by leaping in front of Mr. Reagan and taking a bullet for him, receiving a wound in his abdomen. He survived.
President Reagan recalls the event: I was almost to the car when I heard what sounded like two or three firecrackers over to my left - just a small fluttering sound, pop, pop, pop. I turned and said, "What the hell's that?" Just then, Jerry Parr, the head of our Secret Service unit, grabbed me by the waist and literally hurled me into the back of the limousine. I landed on my face atop the armrest across the back seat and Jerry jumped on top of me.
Once I opened my eyes and saw Nancy looking down at me. "Honey," I said, "I forgot to duck," borrowing Jack Dempsey's line to his wife the night he was beaten by Gene Tunney for the heavyweight championship. Seeing Nancy in the hospital gave me an enormous lift. As long as I live I will never forget the thought that rushed into my head as I looked up into her face. Later I wrote it down in my diary: "
I pray I'll never face a day when she isn't there. Of all the ways God had blessed me, giving her to me was the greatest - beyond anything I can ever hope to deserve." Someone was looking out for us that day.

Ok, we've seen two fictional characters with complex motivation, a little girl who may have acted on impulse without thinking and secret service men who are trained to react with their bodies as shields so that it is instinctive.

I have looked at several blogs on the net that featured the question: Who would you take a bullet for? There is an amazing number of them and the answers are all about the same--Yes for my child, family, girl-friend or boy-friend and a few who include close friends and even famous people they don't know personally.

Forget about the fact that it is impossible to jump in front of a bullet once it is fired, the fact that a lot of people said they would be willing is interesting to me. Does that mean that they consider their life as unimportant next to the loved one or is it just something to say to evidence the depth of their feelings?

The theme of self-sacrifice is woven through the tapestry of human experience. The ultimate example of course is of Jesus taking the death sentence for the human race in a most painful and prolonged way on the cross. In a dramatic fictional gesture, Obi Wan Kenobi sacrifices himself so that he can help Luke and fight the dark side more powerfully. "Remember the Alamo!" shouted the brave few who held off the invading Santa Ana forces and paid with their lives.

The question I pose is less dramatic. It is in some ways, however, more important. Would you take the immense psychological wounding of someone to protect another and more central to this article--to protect the one who fired the verbal bullet themselves?

Mr. Darcy, who cannot seem to get his foot out of his mouth in Pride and Prejudice, expresses his affection for Elizabeth in a most insensitive way and Elizabeth tells Darcy that she had not known him a month before she felt that he was "the last man in the world whom [she] could ever be prevailed on to marry." Instead of retaliating with disparaging protests or counter insults, he responds with "you have said quite enough, madam. I perfectly comprehend your feelings, and have now only to be ashamed of what my own have been."

Mr. Darcy took the verbal bullet and conducted himself like a gentleman. In time, Elizabeth found out the goodness in his character and fell deeply in love. If he had responded differently, pride and prejudice would have won and love would have lost.

I think that when you have an opportunity to take the verbal bullet for the one you love, you should do it. So what if it is unfair--so what if you don't deserve it--so what if they are not doing the same for you. No one knows how we are perceived by our loved ones who have to deal with all our failings. If we err on the side of being magnanimous a few times, chances are we have not even begun to make up for our own offenses.

I don't mean to say that you should be a doormat and let others walk all over you--you know if there is abuse going on and you never have to submit to that--what I am saying is, if you have a normal relationship, look for opportunities to do the most romantic or loving thing of all--take the bullet for the relationship and let them be blown away by the depth of your love for them.

It is easy to do with children. They are often so distressed they say the most hurtful things, but we love them and know they are hurting and respond by letting the words bounce off and give them the love and affection they need. The difficulty is with your adult partners or family.

Anyone can give flowers, cards and candy--it takes a magnificent heart to protect your loved ones from the devastation of careless or angry words.We may not be able to do as Jesus recommended, to give this treatment to enemies.

But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you; ~ Matthew 5:44

However, when it is someone you love, take the hit, don't take it personally, and respond with the kind of love you wish you would have had when you said something harsh to them.

Forgiveness is the final form of love. ~ Reinhold Niebuhr

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.
~ Mark Twain

I Would Take a Verbal Bullet

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Sometimes the most loving words

Are the ones we don't say

When you were cross and i felt hurt

I put aside the comparing words

And smiled and asked about your day

When we were late and I had to wait longer

Than I felt I should for you to come

I placed the blame words in a box

And buried them so you wouldn't hear them

Or see the pointing finger

Sealing them away and saying:

"I don't care when we get there so long as I am with you."

You liked my attentive manner

And the kind conversation

But I know that the most loving words I spoke today

Were the ones you never heard

©Winsome Publishing 2010, All rights reserved

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Comments 34 comments

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

Winsome - you have a lyrical, compelling style of writing. Your work is enjoyable to read. Thank you.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey Doc, you are so nice. I am always uplifted by your support and kind words.

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cosette 6 years ago

re: verbal bullets, i voted for "From 1, 2 and 3 and my friends". CLOSE friends though.

re: real threats, i would lay down my life for my son. just watch or read 'The Road'...i could literally rip the face off of someone like those fiends who were 'the bad guys' if they threatened my son. but many (not all) parents feel the same without hesitation.

it takes a lot of personal strength to be like Mr. Darcy. what he did was admirable, and possibly more heroic because he spent a lot of time keeping his silence even as he was misunderstood.

and that little girl could have hidden behind the sofa but her protective instincts kicked in. some people have them and some don't.

i would say the Secret Service agent was just doing his job, but his actions were heroic just the same.

true heroism comes say, while in the Ministry of Love, where someone endures their most profound fear for someone they love and doesn't betray them. i know in my heart i couldn't wish the hidden fears they plucked from my subconscious onto my son. i know it with every fiber of my being. it wouldn't be to defy Big Brother - it would be to protect my son and when they put that bullet into my brain i would die knowing i didn't betray him. any one of us, depending on the circumstances, could take a bullet for another. ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances can find the best in themselves. i like to think so anyway.

you always write such thoughful hubs.

thank you.

alahiker28 profile image

alahiker28 6 years ago from the Deep South

Awesome words of wisdom. Forgiveness and taking a bullet are probably the greatest ways to express love for someone -hopefully it rarely comes to the latter : ) I like your illustrations.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey Cosette, thank you for the great feedback. Facing your most profound fear has to be the ultimate challenge--and to face it to protect another--that is the stuff of great action thrillers.

I agree with you about Darcy, I watched the series and found myself challenged to display a greater degree of character as a gentleman--especially when faced with complete misunderstanding and harsh words. I think that he was able to do what he did by holding his esteem for her in such a high place that even her momentary rudeness could not dislodge it.

That was heroic of Eponine to take the bullet for your Marius eh Cosette? =:)

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Alahiker, thank you for the kind words and comment. As I was reading yours and Cosette's comments I started to think about the Tale of Two Cities--I think I will add it to the hub. =:)

mysterylady 89 profile image

mysterylady 89 6 years ago from Florida

A thought-provoking Hub, Winsome. You give meaningful examples.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Thank you M'Lady. Provoking is only in good taste when the subject is thought. =:)

Gigi2 profile image

Gigi2 6 years ago from UK

An awesomely thought provoking hub. Forgiveness helps us be better people and therefore better equipped to love. Great job, thumbs up.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hi Gigi, you are right about forgiveness--it is a bullet we can take that actually leaves us in better health than before we do it. The pre-forgiveness decision is the hard one and it helps to keep in mind the end result of the path we take. Thank you for a great comment.

Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 6 years ago from India

Wow, that made me stop and think alright! I guess unconsciously we are taking the bullet for our loved ones all the time - and then something happens that is like the last straw and we react very badly. Then instead of stepping up to take the bullet anymore, we retaliate, and things get progressively worse. What your hub teaches us is the need to step back and think about things dispassionately before we give in to a reaction that we will definitely regret at a later stage.

Well done, Winsome! :)

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey FP, thank you. Stopping and thinking without passion is definitely the key--doing it.....umm that's the tricky part. Good news is you could change a relationship forever if you did it right--that makes it all worth it, huh.

I keep thinking of the Emperor in Star Wars trying to make Luke give in to his anger so that Luke would be hooked on the power of the dark side. Obi Wan just takes the hit and has all the real power. Thank you for your great comment. =:)

De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK


I take my hat off to you for a very well thought out and inspiring piece of writing.

You have brought past thoughts and memories to my mind that are not of the moment, but I wish to say thank you for this. Well done

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Thank you DG, the De Greek tip o' the hat warms the cockles of my heart (and if you're wondering where that lovely expression comes from: actually no one knows, but perhaps from the Medieval Latin phrase cochleae cordis "ventricles of the heart"? Charles Darwin wrote in a letter in 1858, "I have just had the innermost cockles of my heart rejoiced by a letter from Lyell." Maybe those pretty little corn cockle flowers on the side of the road.) anyway thank you, my cockles are warmed. =:)

AJHargrove profile image

AJHargrove 6 years ago from USA

This is a beautiful and touching act - one that I hope I'll never have to do.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey AJ, thank you for stopping by. Yes the supreme gesture is not to be rushed into--however, the verbal bullet, that one you may be asked to do and if you do, know that the community is with you and would love to have you come back and comment on it. =:)

md_azamkhan profile image

md_azamkhan 6 years ago

good work as well winsome):(

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Thank you MD for stopping by and for your kind comment.

Lady_E profile image

Lady_E 6 years ago from London, UK

Very interesting Hub - thought provoking. Very brave people. As for the Verbal bullet - The best way to deal with it is to pretend it meant nothing and play dumb. The person directing the abuse will eventually notice and apologise after their conscience gets the better of them.

Great Hub.

Royalmark profile image

Royalmark 6 years ago from Lagos, Nigeria

Yeah! Forgiveness is the key to better a relationship rather than 'fights'... Awesome and educative-that's the summary of the hub "When to take a bullet" by Winall *rather prefer that to Winsome (...lol...)*... You actually hit the nail on the head by your prolific writing... Don't relent

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Thank you Lady_E, you are right, as they say--discretion is the better part of valor. I had a mild instance this morning and instead of reacting or protesting I just started singing a show tune. The person later apologized for being in a bad mood and neither of us had to remember a bad experience. I appreciate your thoughtful comment.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Thanks RM, for the "Winall" and the gracious comment. Maybe we should call it "fore" giving and be proactive by giving people a little grace ahead of time. =:)

Royalmark profile image

Royalmark 6 years ago from Lagos, Nigeria

You're welcome... Waoh! Nice make-up, i mean the 'fore' giving aspect *guess that means giving the person on the other end the grace even after being offended, right?*... I'll get to read most of your hubs next week when I'm chanced because it fills the air of hubpages with the aroma of prolific writing :-)... Can't wait

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain

This trilogy has been a wonderful read for me, you hit the nail right on the head with each Hub. I was a little disappointed that there was no poem at the end of this hub, as your poems have touched me so much and I find myself looking forward to the poem at the end. This is not a criticism by the way; this hub like the other two is wonderful just as it is, it is just an expression of my longing to read more of your poetry. I have given it the thumbs up.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Thank you Maggs, I'm so happy you liked it and I promise to write more poetry--you would think I was messy and forgetful to look at my desk sometimes but the truth is I rarely forget anything and I have piles because I want to give everything the attention it deserves before filing it in just the right place. Important things are like that in my mind--piles of thoughts that deserve the very best words and the seamless dance of imagery and soul that people like you can read and experience and come away a changed and happier person. I'm grateful for these opportunities to practice because sometimes when I don't try at all they come spilling out like gems from the jeweler's velvet bag--flawless and sparkling and timeless. Thank you for being with me on the journey. =:)

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

Great hub Winsome!When a person enlists into "service" the person is stepping up to the plate. Thank you!

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

You are so right Micky and a heartfelt thanks for stepping up...I suppose it's true they also serve who clear the plates. =:)

kai777 profile image

kai777 6 years ago from Chicago

Truly amazing!!! This is just what I needed. Thank you and God Bless!

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Kai I am so happy this helped. It is a privilege to write when it improves, even a little bit, the lives of those who read. My very best to you. =:)

salt profile image

salt 6 years ago from australia

Lovely. Having come out of a relationship where all of this seems so real, I wonder do some live to test love?

Romance and honour are wonderful things....Sometimes you have to move so you are protected from the self destructiveness of another. That can feel like your heart has been riped out, yet you sometimes have to let others live out their own..

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Salt, thank you for the kindness--sounds like you ran into the free will of another which chooses to disregard your best intentions and spiral down anyway. Sometimes an ego is so bruised they do test everyone to see if anyone can really love them and because they can't forgive or really love themselves, they won't let others love them. I still believe in the healing power of love, but from a distance sometimes is all that is possible. Thanks again for sharing. =:)

trish1048 profile image

trish1048 5 years ago

This is beautiful. I've learned along the way to take those verbal bullets. I've learned to listen and contemplate what the person was saying, take a few deep breaths, and in a calm voice, echo back to them what they seem to be feeling. It immediately diffuses a bad situation. I love this -

Sometimes the most loving words

Are the ones we don't say

When you were cross and i felt hurt

I put aside the comparing words

Far too many times, when I was much younger, I had those knee-jerk reactions and would respond in kind. It doesn't work.

Well done, Wimsome :)

Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Thank you Trish, I wish I could say my walk has echoed my talk, but I'm still working on it. If we all took that deep breath and acknowledged the other's feelings before we addressed our own, we would all be happier. I appreciate your kind and thoughtful words. =:)

trish1048 profile image

trish1048 5 years ago

Oh, I didn't mean to say that I've conquered the knee-jerk reaction, just that I've gotten much better at controlling it :) I've been told I am much too easy going, and much too gullible. I was brought up to believe never judge a book by its cover, and I don't. Countless friendships and even perhaps the greatest love of all is missed when people do that. There are also mamy situations I've been in and someone would ask, well, aren't you mad? Didn't you get angry? I'd have to answer no, in most cases. Maybe it's my sense of self preservation that allows me to let a lot of things roll off my back, so to speak. I do know I've never been one to confront. It takes a great deal to push my buttons, but once pushed, then I let my feelings be known.

Again, you are welcome :)

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