What Gabrielle Giffords Can Teach Us About Fearless Living

Long before suspected shooter Lee Loughner shot Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords point blank in the head and killed six others, Giffords had received death threats.

Her husband Mark Kelly quoted her as saying, “Someday, I’m really worried that  somebody’s going to come up to me at one of these events with a gun.”

But she never let that stop her from making herself readily available to her constituents at her Congress On Your Corner events, where she had no security. Even after a contentious race that landed her back in Congress, Giffords stood for what she believed — including a pro-gun stance. People magazine quoted Arizona state representative Steve Farley as saying, “I’d ask her, ‘Aren’t you afraid?’ and she’d say ‘No, we have to stand up for what we believe in,” said Farley.

And now, she’s in a rehab facility after miraculously surviving a through-and-through gunshot wound to the head.

A Fine Line Between Courage And Recklessness

Was Gabrielle Giffords reckless for putting herself out in public with no security after receiving death threats? Not in my opinion. You just can’t live in a state of fear. Nobody lives a joyful life if they’re constantly afraid of what might happen. Period.

As someone who has received death threats myself, I know how scary it can feel to think that someone wants you dead. It’s enough to tempt you to don a bulletproof vest every morning and look twice before you walk out to your car at night. You think about hiring a bodyguard. You avoid telling people where you live. Your heart races in dark alleys. If you let it, fear could paralyze you.

But Gabrielle Giffords chose not to let fear hold her back. Frankly, I’m with her. I choose to live fearlessly. Not recklessly, but fearlessly.

So how do you do that?

5 Tips For Overcoming Fear

  1. Assess whether the risk of danger is high. In Gabrielle Giffords’ case, the risk of an outcome like this was low — real, but low. Thousands of other public figures and politicians gather in public venues. Most of them don’t get shot. If the risk is genuinely high, you might want to take precautions to protect yourself. But don’t let fear paralyze you.
  2. If you’ve determined that the risk of genuine danger is low, free yourself from fear and let it go. Fear is inevitable, but letting it rule your decisions is a choice.
  3. Dissociate from your fear. Recognize that most fear comes from the brainstem — the primal part of your brain that aided in your survival from an evolutionary perspective. If you’re being chased by a cave bear, fear is a healthy response that fuels your fight-or-flight mechanism and gives you superpower strength so you can outrun the bear. But in modern life, you’re not usually being shot or chased by a cave bear, and fear will only hold you back.
  4. Be selective about whose opinion matters to you.Don’t worry about what everybody thinks. Narrow it down to a few select mentors — those who actively adore you and want nothing more than for you to live a joyful, remarkable life. Let go of caring about the opinions of everybody else.
  5. Prioritize authenticity, a sense of mission, and passion over fear. Stand for what you believe, even if it might be risky.

What do you think about what happened to Gabrielle Giffords? Could you be that courageous? Do you think she was reckless or brave for putting herself out there the way she did?

How do you overcome your fears? What wisdom do you have to share? We’d love to hear from you!

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Ruth R.
Ruth R.4 years ago

Thank you for the info.

John S.
Past Member 4 years ago

So, stand up to your fear and get shot?

Charles E.
Charles E.4 years ago

After further reading, perhaps Ms. Giffords isn't grieving since she isn't well enough to be told of the tragedy which is understandable. My point is, while still trying to be sensitive of her situation, the public should be informed when there is known risk involved in attending a political gathering. Pehaps security should not be an option if there have been threats.

Charles E.
Charles E.4 years ago

I need help understanding this. I'm sure that Ms. Giffords grieves tremendously for the 18 supporters that were injured and six that lost their lives at this tragedy but do public officials not owe it to their public to warn them of death threats? Others are put at risk during these situations. I'm not wanting to be insensitive, but can we not learn something from this. What can we do differently so that we don't loose another Christina Taylor Green?

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Rüdiger H.
Rüdiger Heuer4 years ago

Sometimes in my life I found myself in a dangerous situation.

I will give one example. When I studied in the university I worked in the early morning to pay for my studies.The work consisted of distributing the newspaper. One day a young man thratened me with a knife because he wanted the newspaper of that day without paying it. But I didn´t give him it. I said him that I didn´t have a leftover newspaper which was true. Perhaps he didn´t expect that reaction. Any way, he went away.

That it got out well I regard as a stroke of enormous luck. I know that that luck has to do with fearlessness. I also think that fearlessness helps us to overcome any sense of anxiety.

With this in mind, I wish Gabrielle Giffords a speedy recovery. Good luck!

harriet s.
Heather M.4 years ago

She was at the supermarket that day to hear the concerns of her constituents. Finally! A politician who has the courage to truly represents her people! I wish her a speedy recovery and know that she will be back in Tucson soon to continue her good work!

Marleen Paulus
Marleen Paulus4 years ago

I like this woman. It's more than a pity what happened to her.

Mike and Janis B.

Ah an American politician who is a credit to her country and State. They seem to be so rare these days. Most seem to be out of their tiny minds, referring of course to the one whose name cannot be mentioned.