My thoughts have been turned toward the victims and survivors of the recent tragedy. It is so sad and baffling to me. Those children in that elementary school were good. Those teachers and administrators that sacrificed and did their best to protect those little ones were good as well.
But what about the shooter? Was there any scrap of goodness in him?
We will never know, since we aren’t God and can’t know all the experiences, weaknesses, troubles, and emotional drama of his life. I believe it is not our place to cast final judgment on anyone—even those who act as monsters.
Yes, we can judge barbarous acts as evil. That shooter took innocent lives that weren’t his to take. And that was wrong and sinful. But can we cast a final judgment on him? I think not. Only God can.
God has asked us to love and to forgive.
When bad things happen to us or those we love (or little ones we might not even know) love and forgiveness are usually far from our minds. Forgiveness is not just for the perpetrator of a crime though, but for the victims. It has healing power.
When we harbor hate for anyone (even when they deserve it), we commit an act of crime upon ourselves. We chain our heart and soul down to bitterness. Our wounds fester and poison us…and we cannot be happy.
I have read many WWII accounts from survivors. One of my favorites is Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. The love she showed while in a concentration camp was astonishing, yet that was the tool that helped her survive and heal. She forgave her enemies, and was set free.
A book I read this week by Lorissa Wilfong Holt, a Ukranian girl of 8 who was captured along with her Mom by the Nazis, showed this same principle. When she was a teen, she made herself forgive the Nazis, and felt free.
She said: “Forgiveness tends to benefit the forgiver more than the forgiven. I could not change my past, but forgiving the Nazis was a gift of relief I gave to myself.”
Her mother, on the other hand, never forgave her persecutors. Lorissa said of her: “I believe that hate is like a lizard eating its own tail. That is how it was with Mother—she had been so scarred by her experiences during the war that she found it impossible to forgive. And so, bit-by-bit, hate grew in her heart until it destroyed every relationship and everything in her life.”
In the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, it says: “The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when they make their tormentors suffer.”
Should we mourn for what happened last week? Definitely. We have much to mourn for…but I mourn not only for the children and adults killed, but for the man who was so troubled that he could take their lives and his own. I mourn that anyone can reach that sad point, and pray that there may be an outpouring of more love in this world to prevent such acts from happening again.
There is an outcry against guns, intense discussions about making schools more secure, combating mental illness, and so on. But those won’t solve the problem. Those are like putting band-aids on a life-threatening bullet wound. Love of God and forgiveness are the only powers strong enough to overcome and defeat evil. And it starts at home.
Love your children. Raise them, instead of letting violent video games or movies do that. (TV and X-box are lousy babysitters and friends). Talk with your kids, know them, play with your families, have fun, serve others and teach youth how to have fun being kind to others. Help them not be self-absorbed in their own problems, but empathetic to others. That is how to be happy.
Call me naive, but I think kindness and love go a long way. Their power is exponential. You might not think you’re making a difference when you do something nice, but someday God will open our eyes and show us how much power our smiles and thoughtful acts had upon others for good.
My favorite Christmas movie—It’s a Wonderful Life—depicts this. One man’s goodness affected countless others. Think of what our world would be like if we all made a more concerted effort to be more charitable.
I grieve for those families who lost loved ones in this horrendous massacre. I grieve for our whole nation that these things EVER happen. But I am engaging in this war against evil. My weapons are more powerful than guns—prayer, love, forgiveness. I will train up new soldiers—my children and other youth—to be honest and kind. All parents want their children to be brilliant, beautiful, or talented…but I would feel I’d truly succeeded if my children were only kind.
I will forgive those who trespass against me, and teach my kids not to harbor bitterness for anyone. Hate is a seed that leads to cruelty and sin against oneself and others. Nothing good comes from it. May God help us all to fight the tide of evil in this world. Let us be kinder to our families, our neighbors, and even our enemies (they need it most).