Yesterday evening I saw disheartening news that there was a shooting at UNC Charlotte on their final day of classes. Why? I thought to myself. What causes someone to do such a horrific act? How does it get so bad that we end up with wounded and killed teens and young adults who had so much potential in this world?
It would be very easy to only focus on the what, gun violence. However, we can trim this tree all that we want, but we will never get to the root of the issue, the why. I want to preface that I am not a professional psychologist. This is also not intended to be political, rather I would like to look at three triggers I think aid in the senseless decision to murder others. I do not believe the killer woke up yesterday and decided, “I think I will shoot students today?” I believe people who make these choices hit a breaking point. It begins with a thought, that leads to violence education, to creating their own scenarios, to making an actual plan, and unfortunately acting upon it.
I teach early childhood music education. My company went to the ECMMA conference and I was able to learn under Dr. Stuart Brown, trained in general and internal medicine, psychiatry and clinical research. He explained the importance of play in a child’s life and that he was called upon after mass shootings to investigate the childhoods of the victims. It was very educational that the shooters all had something in common, they did not rough and tumble play. I had always thought of this as fighting since I grew up with a sister. However, especially for boys, this is a healthy place for them to express their emotion of anger. The truth is we all had feelings of anger and from a young age, it is important that we train young people what to do with those emotions.
So now, I am asking why? There are three topics I would like to pose as root issues to school shootings like UNCC, or any other mass shooting.
Mental Health. It cannot be ignored that there are many individuals who struggle in the area of mental health. They genuinely need medical help and/or therapy to work through their genetic make up and emotional struggles from life circumstances. Many individuals suffer from anxiety, depression, etc. Personally, I have struggled with anxiety in my own life. Mental health is a real problem in many lives, but it is those who never seek help that suffer and may end up causing harm to themselves or others. If you see a family member or a friend and see someone falling deeper into a pit, reach out to them, raise awareness, and help them get healing. It can save lives. (Romans 8:6, John 14:27, Jonah 2:5-7)
Exposure to Violence. This might be on a more controversial side, but we notice as violence appears more frequently in video games, social media, movies, music, etc., it somehow has become more of a reality in our world today. What are we doing to monitor our childrens’ minds and our own minds from anything that causes us to think or glorify violence? This may look different for different people, but where is the line for you? Everyone has their own sensitivity level. It is important to set boundaries to protect ourselves. (1 Peter 3:9, Proverbs 3:31, Luke 11:34-36, Mark 4:24)
Value of Life: As we see mass shootings, bombs, and suicides increase, it can only be supposed that the value of human life is decreasing in our society. The fact that we inhale and exhale in this moment is such a gift. The ability to be breathing and living is precious. Somehow those who decide to take lives believe that others are not valuable and I would argue even themselves. It is so imperative that we love well and encourage others that their lives have purpose. We only get one life to live and if we can love well, maybe someone who would have headed down a path of destruction, can see their own potential and use their creativity for good instead of evil. (Psalm 139:13-16, John 10:10)
Flowing out of the value of life, I also believe we need to address the major issue of bullying. Parents, teachers, counselors, and students need to be aware of the mistreatment of others and use their voices to step in when necessary. With social media, bullying has been magnified to new levels from a personal conflict to being accessible to the world. Social media apps should consider placing stronger monitors on bullying, especially among young people. When we teach the next generation the value of life, we in part are teaching that bullying is not an option because that person matters too.
It is never fun to address these topics, but this has been heavy on my heart. I pray we can find the why and unify together in love to help remove the root of evil that has so quickly grown in our world today. Things may not get better because we live in a fallen world, but we can do our part to shine a light in the darkness.
But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18 ESV