The Art of Being Defensive

As a teenager in KC in the 1990’s, nothing was more fun than seeing a Derrick Thomas strip sack or a Neil Smith homerun swing after a big tackle for loss.

Albert Lewis. Deron Cherry. Dan Saleaumua. Kevin Ross.

These guys and many others defined what a tough, hard-nosed defense should look like.

We didn’t go to a lot of games growing up, but when we did, I remember how loud it got on 3rd downs. Especially when the opponent was backed up in their own end zone.

On the lower level, in the corner, there was always a couple guys I remember. One would hold up a giant, painted “D”.

Then the other guy would hold up an equally giant, painted white picket fence.



Clap clap.



Clap clap.

Misspelling aside, it made for a great cue for rowdy Chiefs fans to cheer.

The best offense is a great defense, some say.

And if that’s true, I could have made a killing selling a lifestyle guide titled, “The Art of Being Defensive.”

I was actually a terrible tackler in my real football defense days, but I’m an MVP caliber player when it comes to being defensive in the game of life.

I’m embarrassed to admit how close to the surface my defensiveness still hangs around. Even with a red-hot awareness of it the past couple years.

Second-guess my decisions?

Get snarky with a defensive comment.

Hit too close to home with a question that stings?

Defend and turn it back on you.

Question my intentions?

Question yours.

Ask me something that’s really painful and makes me squirm?

See ya.

It’s an old-trick, in an old worn-out bag. A trick I rely on less and less but still far too often than it should.

Being defensive by definition is that I’m defending something. What exactly?

My ego. My pride. My worth. My value. My identity.

And instead of living open and vulnerable, when I feel like any of those things may be on the witness stand, being defensive feels safer.

It’s not.

But it feels that way.

Real safety is found when the fences are laid down, when the ego gets exposed, when the heart can shine through, when vulnerability becomes the go-to not the protected against.

That can’t happen when the claws are out and the core parts are being defended.

Stay away. Keep out. Don’t come close.

That’s the message of defensiveness.

It makes sense.

It just blocks what I’m really after: connection, love, being known.

The Art of Being Defensive could be a best-seller. Just a lonely, miserable way to live.

I know from experience. And I’m sorry.

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