We live in a country where our friends get shot when they go to a concert.
We live in a country divided by race, where our empathy and shared humanity seems to have been forgotten.
We live in a country addicted to our devices, forgetting to look up and connect with another human.
We live in a country where it’s more socially acceptable to hookup with someone than to love them.
We live in a country where half of our country despises our President and half celebrates him.
We live in a country where our women are being raped, our children are being forgotten, and our family units are broken.
Now I’m only 27 years old. But this is the America I know. And this does more than break my heart. This does more to me than wanting to update my status to “thoughts and prayers.” This country we live in moves me to feel the deep problems penetrating our nation.
Our mental health crisis.
The list goes on and on…
Two questions that always arise after mass trauma are “why?” and “how can I help?”
This is my attempt to answer these two questions. Please note, this is an opinion, and there is never one right answer to these questions. We could speculate for hours on why this happened, but sometimes I think hearing one perspective helps us to formulate our own.
So first I’ll tackle the “why” question.
What drives someone to the point of committing mass destruction? Mass destruction is not natural human nature. No one is born a murderer. A human is conditioned to become a murderer through pain and trauma boiling up to the point of “I can’t take it any longer.” I don’t know this man’s pain, trauma, or struggle, but I can guarantee he is an unhealed human. Because humans, naturally, don’t want to kill other humans. Somewhere along the way he was so “wronged” by someone or something, so much so that he began to see humanity as something other than himself. He was an outcast, and he believed that these people deserved to die because they were part of the problem. Because they were part of the collective humanity who had ridiculed and pained him to the point of despair.
In addition to his unhealed trauma, we live in a society where community is no longer valued. What community we do have is fake- it’s based on “keeping up with the Jones’” but really it’s an “every man for himself” community. We hang out with people only as long as they uplevel or maintain our social status. We can be in a community with one another- yet still don’t know the depths of someone’s human experience. Hence, no one noticed he was stockpiling guns or ammo? No one noticed he was disturbed or troubled because they only communicated via text message? Hence, no one said anything. No one was paying attention. We as humans are genetically wired for community; and in our current distracted, divided world community is hard to find.
So, what we can do about it?
Now as healed humans, we can’t fathom what type of pain this man must have experienced to get to the point of mass destruction, but we can understand pain. We all have felt wronged by someone before and that has pushed us to anger, bitterness, and resentment. We know these feelings. And while I’m definitely not asking you to sympathize with the man, I am calling us all to be more present in other humans lives. To ask the hard questions, to sit with people in their pain, to take responsibility for our own healing and to help others heal as well. Let’s put down the news and our phones and let’s look into the eye of another human and remember- we are the same. That we share the human experience, which not only includes joy, but also pain.
I also want to connect this to the other issues plaguing our country that I briefly touched on earlier. All in all, I think we’ve walked away from sitting with each other and sharing our human experiences. We’ve walked away from empathy, compassion, and love for our fellow man. We’ve become a culture so obsessed with appearing perfect, we forget that we are all still humans. So we push the pain aside and ignore others pains because they make us feel uncomfortable. This only exacerbates the problem because no one actually heals.
This is why I’m so passionate about my work to help humans heal from trauma and practice empathy and compassion not only on themselves, but on other people.The level to which we forgive and understand ourselves and our own pain is equal to the level to which we can forgive and understand others and their pain.
So, you may be wondering, what does that practically look like?
I think it looks like facing our pain, sitting with the uncomfortable parts of ourselves, and mindfully becoming aware of the trauma that has affected us. We can only sit with others pain to the extent to which we know our own. Let’s allow ourselves to feel the feelings and actually heal.
I’m deeply sorrowful for the friends and family of those burdened by the trauma of the event from Sunday night. No one can fathom the pain you are experiencing, but I hope you have someone who will sit with you in that pain and love you through it.