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Book Review: Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker

The premise of the book is that human beings have an innate "gut sense" that often warns us, ahead of time, of any imminent danger. While we may try to rationalize with this feeling, this book shows us that it may be better to err on the side of caution and to trust what our inner feeling may be telling us.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has been keeping people largely indoors for now, when people will be returning to their daily routines another problem will return- public safety. Now certainly there will be adjustments made in a post- COVID-19 world, but I think that this book is still applicable for all of us. I am hopeful that none of us will ever need to call on the information that the book suggests or be faced with a potentially dangerous situation, but it is impossible to completely rule out either of those possibilities in an average society. The header photo credits go entirely to GainKnowledge on

The premise of the book is that human beings have an innate “gut sense” that often warns us, ahead of time, of any imminent danger. While we may try to rationalize with this feeling, this book shows us that it may be better to err on the side of caution and to trust what our inner feeling may be telling us. Furthermore, this book was written by someone who actively works and has worked in security for the government and for famous people like Jeff Bezos. Certainly, I personally can relate to the feeling of being in danger. As a young woman there have been times walking alone where I did feel afraid and I think it is important to recognize just how helpful a healthy amount of suspicion can be in preventing an issue before it escalates. In fact, this book tells us we can harness our innate powers of prediction and emotional intelligence, and work on them as well. The book also highlights a sort of useful framework that I would encourage you all to read about if you are interested in furthering your knowledge on self-defense.

woman in gray tank top looking frightened
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

As Becker writes, ” Sometimes a violent act is so frightening that we call the perpetrator a monster, but it is by finding his humanness- his similarity to you and me- that such an act can be predicted.” While the sentiments of this are clear, I think it is important to put a disclaimer that the intent is not to blame victims or to say that these acts of violence are not monstrous, but rather to say that we can possibly be more empowered to act if such a situation were to occur by realizing the thinking pattern behind such acts. Criminal psychology is a large field, and also focuses on utilizing this idea to piece together the “hows” and the “whys.” While I’m not suggesting that we actively research the thought process of every crime that has occurred in our area, I do think it is important to consider any major “red flags.” The book notes that there are a lot of, often obvious in retrospect, red flags before a situation escalates. It is important that we all work on recognizing possible red flags and how to address them in a correct way.

As the book will later quote, Nietzsche said, “whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. For when you look too long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” It is crucial that we do not lose out hope in humanity because of the capability of some to do harm, but we should also recognize the “human-ness” of perpetrators of villainess acts.  Indeed, people can often appear to be normal, maybe even nice, before “suddenly” turning on someone. This may seem to be completely unexpected, but again there are some red flags that can help to somewhat predict if a disagreement will escalate. DeBecker adds, “Niceness is a decision,  a strategy of social interaction; it is not a character trait. People seeking to control others always present the image of a nice person in the beginning.” This is what lets potentially dangerous people approach us under the guise of help or assistance. Simply put, we should not automatically let our guard down because someone is being nice.

led signage on wall
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

In comes the MOSAIC threat assessment system, which is a system put forth and addressed in the book by Gavin DeBecker. Using MOSAIC helps users to screen any possible threats and/ or inappropriate communications by posing a series of questions that users can answer on a scale of 1-10. Oprah Winfrey has also addressed MOSAIC on her show, and along with Gavin DeBecker has made MOSAIC available at no-cost. If you would like to access it here is the link: .

Another key takeaway from the book was that if something seems abnormal, then there is good reason for suspicion. In addition to that, DeBecker writes, “believing the others will react as we would is the single most dangerous myth of intervention.”  So we know two things from this : 1. strange behavior should not be outright ignored and 2. people will not react as we would in a situation. These are powerful tools in the knowledge of appropriate interventions techniques. If someone, as the book notes as an example, walks around your house freely upon being let in instead of waiting for you to show them around or to a specific destination- that should be cause for concern. This does not mean that every friend of yours that may not have perfect manners is causing trouble, but it is important that we recognize possible “weird” behaviors and look for other behaviors to confirm or dismiss any possible threats.

men s black blazer
Photo by Lukas on

Ultimately, this book is a great resource for anyone that wants to learn more about how to intelligently face a potentially dangerous situation. I would encourage anyone that it is interested to read the book and make note of the different signs and frameworks it proposes. Indeed, our “gut feelings” can be very telling- it is important that we start listening to them.


Magda Wojtara is Junior at the LSA Honors College at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor on a pre-med track with a major in Neuroscience. In her free time, she write articles, volunteers at a chronic pain outpatient facility with UM Medicine, does research, competes in HOSA, and, of course, enjoys photography and singing. In her spare time she manages her own travel and lifestyle blog: @journeythedestiantion on instagram and

1 comment on “Book Review: Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker

  1. Cathy Knox

    Well done Magda, I read this book many years ago and have recommended it to many individuals. In fact, I cannot recommend it strongly enough to young women. I think it should be mandatory for High School graduation – the world is becoming more dangerous all the time.!!


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