As I walked into my home yesterday, my wife said, “Did you see the news on today’s school shooting?” I hadn’t. My day was filled with meetings without media access.
From the tone of her voice, I knew she was shaken. As a veteran public school teacher, these tragic incidents hit close to home for her—again. She just kept saying, “Three sets of parents will never see their children walk through the doors of their home.”
My intent was to write about gratitude today, not headline news. But after my morning quiet time, I decided I would share an opinion on more than school shootings without apology. Maybe I can offer a different perspective.
As of last night, there hadn’t been any information released about the student who entered Oxford High School with a gun or about his victims. But today, the names of the four teens who have died were released as Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17. More were injured.
News commentators and Capitol Hill have both begun commentary on the tragedy. Social media has erupted as people offer their points of view. Without a doubt, the issues of gun control and mental health will soon lead the conversation until another news cycle overshadows the story. Then the event will fade away—again.
Before that occurs, I won’t be surprised when the word evil is flippantly floated to describe the 15-year-old perpetrator of the deadly attack. That seems to always be the case. Why? Because it’s easier than going deeper to investigate the real source.
Clearly, this is a complicated matter. And I do not claim to be an expert, but since the 1999 Columbine massacre which I wrote about in my book Alone Sucks, I have continued to study people who determine the answer to their pain is a trigger pull.
Let’s pause for a moment. I don’t care of it’s suicide or homicide. Can you imagine the depth of pain prevalent in a person’s life that drives them to take life? Even as I try to communicate this problem, I’m at a loss for words to describe it adequately.
There’s never been a time in my life even when dealing with my own anxiety, depression, and anger that I’ve contemplated killing someone. There’s never been a time when the pain was so debilitating that I was so desperate to considered suicide.
Though I can’t relate to the irrationality that drives someone to destroy others or self-destruct, I can empathize. Earlier this year, the depression I was suffering from was almost more than I could take. And empty is the only word that begins to describe the depth of my desperation. Unless you’ve been there, you just can’t understand.
There is no excuse for the carnage that occurred yesterday. I’m not offering the assailant an alibi. His actions are reprehensible. But when as a society are we going to get serious about recognizing and addressing the cause of our callousness toward how humans abuse one another until another tragedy transpires—again?
Have we forgotten what it feels like to be verbally berated? Have we failed to remember what being overlooked felt like? Have we lost our sense of sympathy for the pain and emptiness others suffer with? Or have we always been selfish?
Getting beneath the surface of our shared suffering will take courage. Who will lead the charge? Who will pay the price and quit playing in the shallow end of the pool? Politicians? I don’t think so? Pastors? I doubt it? Pundits? When hell freezes over.
Being a square peg in a round hole and living and leading with authenticity in an artificial world is rare. Because it’s risky. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m willing to contribute to the dialogue to help others stand up, stand out, and stand apart.
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I’m afraid that until we get serious, the best we’ll do is continue to point fingers at people who point guns or blame those who build them. Neither of those are solutions.
My heart breaks for every family connected with yesterday’s catastrophe. As I said, there’s no excuse. But perhaps there’s a solution if we’re willing to dig deeper together.
Saying someone is evil is easy. Admitting we’re all a bit empty is hard but a better place to begin. I have no idea what happened in a young man’s mind yesterday. But like you, I’m tired of watching it happen over and over—again.
If you need help with the subject matter of this blog for your personal or professional life, email me to discuss one-on-one consulting options. I will reply personally. —T.
Timothy Eldred is a writer, speaker, and friendly disruptor of the status quo with a mission to end aloneness. He gives leadership and provides strategic support to profit and not-for-profit organizations to develop a sustainable culture of authenticity.