The Next Sandy Hook

The next Sandy Hook, Columbine, or Fort Hood incident is just around the corner.  I don't know when or where, and I hope that I'm wrong, but I bring this up for a reason.  What will we do about it?

The best opportunity to deal with such a crisis is before it happens.  Oh, it's easier in a way to point fingers after the fact; to blame guns, laws, or parents.  But is it effective?  Blame is simply a method of discharging pain or discomfort and I've never seen it solve a problem yet.

In our culture we judge.  How rich is he?  What dress is she wearing?  What kind of athlete is he?  How well does she do in school?  The result is shame and trying to live up to the expectations of others instead of listening to our own voices and realizing our true abilities.  Shame drives some to push themselves at all costs and others to retreat to dark and lonely places.  Neither is healthy.

Judgement is the fuel for shame.  Empathy, understanding, and compassion (not sympathy) are the cure for shame.  The manner in which we interact with our children, neighbors, coworkers, and even strangers has a dramatic impact upon their behaviors.

Although true empathy is difficult, inconvenient, and takes tremendous emotional strength, it is one of our most powerful tools and abilities.  In modern times, where everyday life is fast paced and work is stressful (if you can get it), empathy and understanding are more important than ever.

Are you willing to see the pain in someones eyes and recognize a cry for help?  Are you willing to sacrifice and go out of your way to help someone in need?  Someone you don't even know?  Can you just listen for a moment to another's pain without judgement?  Can you offer a smile when one is needed?

You may even avert the next big shooting or similar tragedy.  You might remove the straw that was going to break the camel's back.  You'll never even know it and that's the beauty of it.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

10 comments:

  1. Hello Dan,

    Thanks for sharing an inspiring post. Some people may think of going the extra mile to make someone happy as an expense. However, what we seldom realize is that when we give we are more likely to get - Not just material things but also other things in life.

    Thanks,
    Anders Hasselstrøm

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    1. Hi Anders,
      Our fearful ego-self distorts many things and often sees only the short term, immediate benefits or costs of our actions. I'm afraid we listen to it far too often.

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  2. More people need to practice empathy and compassion! When I find myself getting upset and angry at people and their behavior, I try to remind myself I have no idea what is going on in their life, and I try to say a prayer for them that they will find peace. (I am guilty of judging. I try to recognize it, and move on.)
    Katie

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    1. Hi Katie,
      Practicing empathy and compassion are often painful experiences. In the short run it is easier to dumb our selves down, in the long run we all pay the price through depression, isolation, aggression, etc...

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  3. I have so many thoughts on this issue, that I could probably write a blog post (or multiple blog posts) about it myself. The day after Sandy Hook was chilling. Not just because so many children had died, but because of the fear and helplessness that everyone felt. Fear has led to steel doors, getting "buzzed in," security guards, etc. And those do nothing, except to add more fear. In giving in to fear, we become blinded.

    Empathy is difficult. It's hard not to personalize, and to really listen. We NEVER know what is going on in someone's mind, and in their life. I try to remind myself that most people around me didn't know that I was miserable for 10 years, or that I was engaging in regular punching matches with myself. I like to think that most other people aren't going through something similar, but I know that many likely are.

    We always need to be kinder than we think we need to be.

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    1. Hi Bethany,

      Fear is powerful. How we use it is important.

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  4. Compassion is a start, but first we need to take our heads out of the sand. There was a school shooting here many years ago when my oldest was in middle school There was plenty of blame to go around, but what bothered me was the attitude of the adults who saw this boy change and simply believed nothing bad would ever happen in our little quiet town. Afterwards they were shocked and had to find a place for the blame so they could go back to believing their town was perfect. The horrors this boy went through before the shooting were horrible, yet no one wanted to see what was right in front of their faces. We all paid the price for that avoidance of reality.

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    1. Hi Lois,

      I think that empathy and blindness to what is going on around us are linked. We don't want to know, it's too much trouble to see and try and understand. It seems much easier just to ignore. We pay in the long run.

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  5. "Judgement is the fuel of shame." I couldn't agree more. Or as a Zen saying has it: If you want to be enlightened then just stop picking and choosing. Non-discrimination. Many ways to say a similar important thing. Thanks for your post.

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    1. Hi Chris,

      I'm a huge fan of Charlotte Joko Beck. One of her favorite points was that we insist on picking and choosing instead of accepting life as it is. It is the source of our suffering.

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