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.
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.
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
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.
Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it. ~ Mark Twain
I Would Take a Verbal Bullet
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