It seems like everywhere I look lately, there is violence. There is a thesaurus of words related to violent acts. Words like “shot,” or “shot to death,” or “murdered.” Sometimes, refreshing new expressions like “racially-motivated attack. Any incident involving a gun, though, definitely brings out the worst in people. Take the Bataclan shooting in Paris a little while back, for instance. Not going to go too far into specifics, because that isn’t really what I’m after this morning. Today I’m just amazed that so many are doing the blame-game thing already. Just as they did in Paris, and so many other places.
Making the situation a political talking point. It shouldn’t be that at all. For “either” position.
Blame is apportioned and absolved for violent acts. Guns will be taken away, and people will live. Or guns will be taken away and people will die. It’s radical Islam. It’s gun enthusiasts. It’s Wal-Mart. It’s George W. Bush. Skynet has become self-aware.
I do not believe it’s the fault of the gun, however. Or the knife, or Colonel Mustard and the candlestick. I think somewhere along the way, people forgot the value of a human life, if they ever knew it at all.
Violent things are just…expected in this sad world. It’s “the way things are these days.”
It doesn’t have to be.
I didn’t expect to, but I was flipping through one of Stephen King’s Gunslinger novels, and I found a statement I mostly agreed with regarding gun violence, and violence in general:
I believe our culture in this time has made it commonplace to deny responsibility for our actions, and blame our circumstances instead. Maybe the people we hang out with, or used to.
Except that’s crap, and everyone knows it, whether they admit it or not. Our hearts have become withered things, nearly immune to effect or influence from the death on every side. It’s our hearts, man.
We can’t seem to recognize wrong anymore.
Our circumstances in life can certainly influence our thoughts and opinions, but saying your actions are not a choice–even in a passionate moment–is patently false. We may not be able to affect what happens to us in life to a very large extent, but I believe it is a fundamental truth that we always, always choose our actions.
I grew up in a very blue collar neighborhood in a very blue collar town. Lots of my friends experimented with all kinds of things, and got into all kinds of trouble. You would hear people say things like “he ran with a bad crowd.” Or perhaps, “It’s no wonder that happened. Did you ever see his parents?”
Listen, friend. There are times it may not seem that way, but we really do have the ability to choose our actions, and “I couldn’t help myself” is only as true as you make it. Viktor Frankl wrote that “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
I believe that statement is true. I know it’s true because with adulthood and the advent of Christ in my life, I find myself making much better choices. I think it came with the ability to stop putting myself first so freaking always. It wasn’t necessarily because I hung out with different or better people. It wasn’t because someone dumped a bucket of “smart” over my head.
It was because I started making better choices, and I stopped believing (and doing) the stupid things people told me to do because it was what they thought was best for me, or true about me.
For example, when I was in eighth grade, I had a teacher tell me privately he thought I should stop hanging out with my friends because they were bringing me down, and minimizing my potential. I didn’t think so then, and I don’t think so now.
I didn’t say anything to him then, but I wanted to tell him to screw himself. The friends he was talking about ended up literally saving my life, just a few years later.
I learned a lot about the value of a human life during my teen years, in lots of ways. If you know me at all, you know that story. If you don’t, ask me and I’d be happy to tell you about it. I have links on here somewhere to my Facebook and email accounts.
I wouldn’t change a thing about my life, good or bad.
My life got me here. It was very hard at times, but it was worth it. And I don’t think I began to explore my true potential until I took the offered hand of a carpenter, rough with calluses and scars.
I don’t know if I will ever be able to realize my full potential, because God made us all to be perfect, and sinless. Our very ancient family chose differently.
So I will never be perfect. Neither will you. Practicing social justice might make you a better person, but you’re still going to make mistakes. At the core of you, and the core of me, we may always be the same person. That does not mean we make the same choices.
From an old Everclear song, “I will always be weird, I will always be lame.”
That may be so (it is with me), but with the growth and freedom that Frankl mentions, and with faith, and maturity, and the ability to love comes a little wisdom, along with the ability to choose wisely. And we can begin to work on our heart problems.
So that’s me. And yes, to re-iterate, I think we, as a society, have a heart problem.
And I think we can fix it.
I think the answer lies in what this coming weekend is all about–Easter. It’s not about chocolate, or caramel, or finding eggs. It’s about how a man came, who was really a lot more than just a man. It’s about how he gave his life to fix our heart problem, and came back so we could understand why.
You may know me, and you may not. You don’t owe me anything, but I’d like to ask you for a favor, whoever you are.
Find a house of worship this coming weekend. You will hear a message there that could change your life, and help to fix your heart problem.
Please, give it a chance. Go there, wherever “there” is.
Hear the message, and respond. It will really change your life–maybe even save it.