A month ago a Reddit community member using the handle Greeneyedlatinguy asked a very provocative question of his fellow Redditors.

Redditors who have had to kill in self defense, Did you ever recover psychologically? What is it to live knowing you killed someone regardless you didn’t want to do it?

The responses to the question from people all over the world are as riveting, as they are varied. Some of the attacks were home invasions. Some were robberies. Some were rapes, or attempted rapes. One was a man who gave shelter to a battered spouse when her violent husband attacked.

Some of those responding used their bare hands, while others used bats, knives, or guns. Once used a machine gun in war. Another threw a man off a parking garage.

In each and every instance, the most common thread wasn’t just the utter unpredictability and chaos of every attack, but that each and every survivor did so because they realized the stakes of the fight and employed all the force they had to fight, win, and survive.

It is this ability to escalate from confusion, through fear, into overwhelming aggression that separated the living from the dead in nearly every instance.

Real life isn’t TV.

Screenwriters for television shows and movies are there to tell stories, and foreshadow nearly every act of violence that is part of a coherent plot. When you watch defensive gun use (DGU) videos on Bearing Arms or elsewhere, you know that you are about to watch a video showing violence. You know something is coming before you see it.

Real life life and death situations aren’t often like those we consume in our entertainment, as the stories in this thread show time and again. In most real-world instances, the attackers give the victim/survivors little or no warning before they attack.

You have to remember that these are the stories of crime survivors; the incidents where the criminal attackers had the edge and the upper hand and somehow lost that significant advantage to have the tables turned completely against them.

Let that sink in, and contemplate the fact that many, if not most people in similar situations didn’t live to tell their tales.

“The quick and the dead,” indeed.

As to Greeneyedlatinguy’s original question, the answers are as varied as the people themselves. Some people have no regrets and very little or no psychological trauma from having to take lives in self-defense. Others were psychologically shattered, and of course, there were many varying degrees of feeling between those extremes.

The lesson I learned from these posts is that deadly force is to be avoided if at all possible, but if you arrive at the conclusion that it must be used, that it must be used decisively and without hesitation.

What lessons did you learn?