10 ‘Somethings’ I Can Do in Response to Tragedy
In the wake of tragic events, it’s tempting to feel hopeless or point fingers at others. Here are some practical ways I can respond now.
My heart breaks every time I hear the news of another mass murder. I grieve with those who have lost loved ones and mourn the sense of security that seems to be slipping further and further away.
An office. A school. A church. A festival. A stadium. A Walmart. All normal places.
As my grief moved beyond shock, I found it morphing into anger. Like many others, I want something to be done. And I want it to be done now!
The problem is, no one can agree on what that “something” should be. In the absence of action, speculations and accusations run wild. We desperately look for someone to blame, someone to point a finger at. We tell ourselves if we can just figure out the right law to write or person to vote in or out of office, then the problem will go away.
But what if we’re pointing our fingers in the wrong direction? What if the problem has been unsolvable because the problem is within us?
No, I alone cannot prevent the next tragedy. But I can do something.
Below are 10 “somethings” I can do now:
1. Recognize we are all evil.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jerimiah 17:9).
While mental health is certainly a component that must be addressed, the reality is we are all “desperately sick.” Our natural bent is toward evil. Above all else, what we really need is a heart transplant. It is only with a new heart that we can respond to offenses in a godly way.
2. Seek God.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
3. Pray for our nation.
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Freedom is a good thing, but too much of a good thing can be a problem. In many ways, the world in which we now find ourselves is the logical conclusion of the very freedoms we hold dear. “Freedom of Religion” has morphed into freedom from religion. Instead of worshiping God, our nation now worships autonomy. If confronted with a truth that challenges our choices, we discredit the source and drown out the dissenting voice with like-minded followers so we can continue to do what we want without regrets.
We have been offered the chance to “be like God,” and we’ve taken it.
People who commit mass murders often see themselves as victims in a hopeless world. They use their actions as a way to take control and strike back at their perceived victimizers. I may not be able to stop the next mass murderer, but I can help someone who is hurting know they are not alone and their situation is not hopeless. It may disrupt my schedule, but for things to change I need to be willing to change.
I pray God helps me to surrender control of my schedule. I pray He opens my eyes to the hurting hearts around me, and I pray He uses me to show them His love.
4. Strengthen my marriage.
One of the best gifts I can give my children is for them to see me loving my wife well. A strong marriage creates stability and security. It tells my children that no matter how crazy the world gets, home will always be a safe place. As a result, they have the confidence to share their fears and struggles.
5. Be a father to my son.
My son is 16 years old. While it’s not always easy, I try to have at least one fun moment with him each day. Statistics prove time and time again, that boys who grow up without fathers are more likely to commit violent crimes.
My son is looking to me to understand what it means to be a man. The more time I spend with him, the more he can see masculinity in action and learn true strength cannot exist without respect and restraint.
Note: Single moms, I know you are doing all you can do. You may want to read “Mom, I Am Their Father.”
6. Eliminate frivolous violence.
I like action/adventure entertainment as much as the next guy. But I try to make sure if there is any violence in our entertainment, it serves a greater purpose. I’ll allow storylines where good battles against evil or the strong protects the weak, but not ones where violence is trivialized.
Movies and video games may not cause violence, but there is nothing to be gained from media that trivializes the death of others or gives you points for murdering innocent people and police officers. I do not allow such “entertainment” in my home.
7. Watch my mouth.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
No matter how upset I get over a situation, I cannot allow my kids to hear me use language that degrades the value of other people. Republicans, Democrats, straight, gay, rich, poor, black, white, and every shade in between have all been made in the image of God. Everyone has value.
I must show my children, through my example, how to disagree with others while still showing them respect. No name-calling and other ad hominem arguments.
8. Teach personal responsibility.
No matter how badly I may have been treated, I can’t let my kids see me blame another group of people for my troubles.
- Should I have gotten the job? Maybe, but what can I do to get the next one?
- Did the guy in front of me stop short and cause the accident? Maybe, but I was driving too close for my speed.
- Is my boss being harder on me than others? Maybe, but how can I grow through this?
- Did I just get racially profiled? Maybe, but how can I show the love of Christ in this situation?
By focusing on my part, I resist the urge to create a “me” versus “them” mentality.
9. Let my children experience natural consequences.
When we shield our kids from experiencing the natural consequences of their behavior, we give them a false expectation of how the world will treat them. It leaves them unprepared to handle future disappointments.
As hard as it has been, I have had to resist the urge to drive to school to deliver my son’s homework when he “forgets” it. Or to provide a monetary bailout when my daughter makes a poor financial decision.
When they experience natural consequences, they are less likely to blame others for their problems.
10. Learn how to defend my family.
Ignoring reality will not make us safer; it will only increase the likelihood that we won’t know what to do in a bad situation. So I recently attended a civilian response to active shooter training. It taught me to pay attention in public places and to always know where the exits are. I learned if I can run, I should run. If I can’t run, I should hide. If I can’t hide, I should fight.
It hasn’t been pleasant relaying this information to my family, but mass murderers are looking for easy targets. I don’t want them to be one.
To see what else I learned about defending my family, read “What the Latest Shooting Taught Me About Protecting My Wife.”
A radical approach to change
When Jesus Christ came into the world over 2,000 years ago, many thought He was going to change their political reality. They looked to Him to overthrow the oppressive Roman government and end their slavery. But He didn’t.
Instead, He offered them new hearts. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
It was not the strategy people wanted. They couldn’t see the value of focusing on one heart at a time, especially when Christians were being crucified and fed to lions. Yet those hearts slowly changed the heart of a nation. And it can happen again.
There is something we can do. We are not helpless.
Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” ( Matthew 28:20).
There is no way to know how many more shootings we will have to endure as a nation while we wait, but Jesus offers to walk with us until then.
And that’s not just “something.” It’s everything.
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