3 Unexpected Safety Lessons from the Covenant School ShootingApr 05, 2023
Experiencing a tragedy like the recent Covenant School shooting in Nashville is incredibly difficult and overwhelming. Even those of us who did not have direct ties to anyone involved are moved by a profound sense of loss. The staggering amount of media attention focused on Nashville, the school, transgender issues, and gun control has been intense. Like a lot of people, I read and watched everything I could find to try to make sense of what happened.
I'm not going to pretend that that I figured anything out, but I do want to share some observations with you to see if we can have a conversation. Not a shouting match like we are seeing way too many people have, but a real grown-up conversation that might actually have a positive impact. You wouldn't know it by what we are seeing from extremist on both sides of the issues, but I believe that most people are tired of trying to just be the loudest voice in the room. Being heard isn't as good as being listened to.
These three lessons aren't going to be like my standard safety tips. Plenty of those kind of tips have been shared by others in the wake of this and that's awesome. Following the steps below can change hearts, and changed hearts can change the world.
1.Take a beat before you stake out a position.
Social media lit up as the first reports of the shooting started coming out. It didn't take long for people to start throwing blame around like a toddler throws a tantrum. But in the early hours of any tragedy, we don't know all of the facts, and some of what we hear will turn out to be wrong
Proverbs 19:2 in the NIrV says "Getting excited about something without knowledge isn’t good. It’s even worse to be in a hurry and miss the way." Did you notice how many people were in such a rush to use what they thought they knew about the situation to "prove" that their political positions were right? Courses of action were shouted from the online rooftops, often in rather colorful language. Having opinions is great. I have them every day. I'll bet you do, too. We need to remember that problems can happen when we haven't based those opinions on facts.
What if, instead of working so hard to prove ourselves right and the other people wrong, we just served someone? If a tragedy happens near you, help the victims or their families. If you find out about a far-off tragedy, donate to a reputable organization like the Red Cross who has boots on the ground to render aid. After you've taken time to be a helper, or as I like to say a Person of Impact, then share THAT story on social media to encourage others to do the same. That's WAAAYYY better than doing the Tide Pod challenge.
2. Pump the brakes on blaming and shaming.
"It's the fault of the people who are pro-gun rights. If the shooter hadn't had access to guns this wouldn't have happened."
"It's the fault of the people who are pro-gun control. If all of the teachers had been armed, this wouldn't have happened."
No matter which of those statements resonates the most with you (and I honestly don't care which does), can we agree that this tragedy has a lot of complex facets to it? That maybe if the shooter had appropriate mental health care for a long enough period of time, the urge to kill might have been made manageable? That maybe if each one of us lets people know that they can share their burdens with us and not be shamed, the urge to express dark feelings in horrific ways might be muted? That maybe we ALL have an unknowing hand in the tragedies that unfold around us?
When Peter wrote his first epistle, he shared from personal experience what it was like to watch as Christ showed that there is hope no matter what our circumstances are. Are we reflecting that to the hurting people we know? Had that been shown to the Covenant shooter? Sometimes we make things too hard. We could make a lot of progress against darkness just by living out the words of 1st Peter 4:9 (CSB); "Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins." My sins, and your sins.
3. Circulate in your community.
Before all of the introverts of the world stop reading right here, let me make a confession. I'm an introvert, too, bordering on being hermit-like at times! Diving into a great big pool of people is intimidating because, well...people are so people-y. Until I reminded that I'm one of those people-y people, too. I'm not loved any less, or any more for that matter, than God loves any of us.
The Bible has a lot to saying about people being built for community, not isolation. I love children's Bible translations. They use simple, easy to understand words. This is how the International Children's Bible translates Proverbs 27:17; "Iron can sharpen iron. In the same way, people can help each other." For iron to sharpen iron, the pieces have to be in contact and create friction. We have to have contact with others, sometimes uncomfortable contact, in order to help them.
I'm certainly not advocating unsafe contact. I'm talking about having those uncomfortable conversations that we would rather avoid. I'm talking about being willing to challenge our own assumptions about people. I'm talking about taking responsibility when our actions have made things worse rather than better. I'm talking about simply talking. Introverts might not thrive there, but we can do it if we try.
We live in a broken and messed up world, but for people of faith now is not the time to retreat. It's time to get out of the audience and into the action. Who started universities? We did. Who were among the first to build hospitals? We were! Now we have an incredible opportunity to lead with love and compassion so we can earn the right to share about the man who is the way, the truth, and the life. It starts with the heart.
Can we have a conversation about that?
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