An Essay on the Meaning of Confidence
By Eric Liu
Front Sight Diamond Member
The target stood motionless in front of me, quiet and still, while my heart pounded deep within my chest, loud enough that I swore I was hearing it with my ears. My eyes strained to see the fine details of his silhouette as my fingers twitched against my legs. Suddenly and with violence of action it was on – a crisp and smooth sweep of my right hand against my field jacket flung the heavy coat open, and I found the frame of my Glock 17 sitting patiently in its holster, as if waiting for this very day, and in a flash of motion it was moving toward the target. Pressure applied. Focus on the front sight. Trigger press smooth. The sights rocked back toward me in slow motion, then found themselves back on the target, and rocked back again. Bringing the still smoking gun to the “ready” position I quickly scanned the area for other adversaries, checked the target again, and then performed a slow and deliberate assessment of my environment. The test was over but my education in the meaning of “confidence” had only just begun.
Confidence. That word, or some related synonym, is used by job-seekers, interviewers, or smug sports stars predicting the outcome of a game. It typically conveys assurance in one’s own skills, abilities, or powers, and more often than not should be wisely construed as purely self-advertisement rather than provable fact. We like our leaders confident but not arrogant. Our spokespersons should possess a certain level of surety but the warning bells go off when they are overly certain. Is confidence something worth having, and if so, how best can it be cultivated?
True confidence is an asset stemming from the possession of real skill, ability, or power for a given task, and must be assessed via accurate and objective means to be of any value. Confidence that has no basis or experience to support it, is more liability than benefit, and should be avoided. It is a precious but rare quality, that enables the possessor, and by extension, those who are under that individual’s influence, to be calm, collected, and sound in times of great distress, simply because they truly know of what they are capable. It is definitely something worth having.
Confidence is also a personal quality that has benefit throughout all stages of life. Whether it be venturing out on the elementary school playground, standing up to a bully, facing a critical final exam, toughing out a challenging work situation, to facing the freedom of retirement, confidence is a critical attitude that empowers individuals to overcome life’s uncertainties.
In the first paragraph, I conveyed to you a test I took nine years ago. It was a critical step in my process of becoming a more confident person. Most education these days is about knowledge and fact of the world around us, and less, if none at all, about understanding the complexities of our own character. Studying history from the safety of pages in a book while at university, important as it may be, is unable to equip us to analyze the strengths, or overcome the weaknesses of our personhood, so much as the solemn study of the martial skills…in this case the study of firearms for personal protection.
One who is not familiar with the benefits of firearms training will be quick to scoff at the idea that shooting a gun, much less the dedicated and life-long practice of becoming a better, safer, and faster shooter has any benefit whatsoever. The uninitiated tend to see firearms training as the realm of professionals – be they soldiers or cops – and something better left to those whose employment requires a firearm as part of the uniform. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, and proper firearms training is a powerful tool to teach people of all ages the many qualities we would love to see carried on for generations to come.
Comfort with weapons, or what is called “comfort of skill at arms”, is an investment that builds character. It requires humbling oneself to learn, seeking out those who are more knowledgeable, diligence to perfect a step, and commitment. It also requires that they understand and appreciate why a firearm is used in dire situations to protect the innocent, defend the defenseless, and safeguard the righteous. An individual who has learned to master a dangerous tool, from the crucible of repetitious practice, now possesses a certain confidence born of responsibility, knowledge, and experience.