MAKING SENSE OF THE SENSELESS
May 31, 2022
Confronted with the extreme we are pushed to the extremities of our emotions.
One week ago today, the extreme happened when 19 children and 2 teachers were slaughtered in their elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
People hurting people push us to the extremes.
As hard as it is to see people suffer in natural disasters, for me, it is nothing like processing a tragedy where one human has harmed another.
When a natural disaster strikes – there’s nothing anyone could do about it. It just is.
In fact, natural disasters often bring us together as human beings. We have a common enemy – the storm, or earthquake, or tornado – against us.
Us against it.
But when one person hurts another, there’s often a pitting against one another that follows. After all, even for the most horrific crimes, there are two sides in every courtroom.
Us against us.
So how are we supposed to cope in times like these? How do we see our way through and out of the dark clouds when faced with the worst and most evil elements of humanity?
I really wish I was writing a post that revealed the secret to easing all of life’s pain and heartache.
I wish I could tell you that following your morning routine, eating right, meditating, keeping a gratitude journal, and exercising consistently – what I call “working the plan” – will make your life free of any struggle or strife.
The truth is, most of the time “working the plan” works. Most of the time. But not last week, not for me at least. (that’s hard to admit for a personal development guy)
Working through our emotions around something as hard as this requires a very uncomfortable conversation.
Because part of the process has to include an honest assessment of ourselves.
I can only speak for myself – but I believe that part of why I struggled so much last week was because I felt/feel a degree of responsibility for what happened.
When one person hurts another – my personal belief – is that we all bear some responsibility. That’s what it means to live in a society. We all assume some responsibility for one another – to protect one another – especially those who cannot protect themselves.
As a society – we failed. We failed everyone involved.
That is a hard pill to swallow.
Instead of looking in the mirror, and accepting the fact that we all bear some responsibility for what happened, human tendency is to blame something outside of ourselves – usually whatever suits our existing set of beliefs. It’s easier that way – it protects our ego.
But progress relies on an honest desire for a different outcome – not a hardening of an existing set of beliefs or political positions.
We have to ask ourselves – is it better to be right? Or to do the right thing?
So what do we do about it?
I look at life through the lens of personal development, so it’s in that spirit that I’ll share three thoughts:
First, we have to take care of ourselves. “Working the plan” (mentioned above) is more important than ever during times like these. It’s not a miracle cure – but it’s part of what is necessary and will prevent us from slipping deeper into despair. And furthermore…
- Stay informed – but take breaks from it.
- Spend as much time out of your head as possible. Get outside, do something physical.
- Allow yourself to release the heartache. Don’t be ashamed to let it out that you’re hurting.
Individually, none of it is enough. And even together, on weeks like last week, it will not bring total relief. But it’s enough to get us to tomorrow. Sometimes just getting through the day has to be enough.
Second, we have to take care of one another.
- Lean on the people you love. Borrow one another’s resilience and strength.
- Know you aren’t alone in your feelings – and let others know they aren’t alone in their feelings.
- Get out of self and into service. Do something for someone else – no matter how small or anonymous.
Third and finally, we have to be better members of society (at least I do).
There’s this optimist inside of me that wants to think that even though my opinion of some politicians is lower than the dog poo on my shoe, deep down, they don’t want kids getting killed at school. I really want to believe that.
But if there are people among us who have the capacity to kill kids and their teachers in an elementary school – then why is it so hard to believe that there are people among us who are willing to allow them to be sacrificed for their own self-serving interests?
Evil exists in this world. In every degree.
And so too does goodness – and the courage to stand up for it.
The degree to which I exercise that courage has been lacking.
That’s the part of me that is feeling that sense of responsibility this week.
I hesitate when it comes time to share my life experience and perspective on contentious issues that matter to me.
Maybe because I want to be polite or just avoid confrontation.
Maybe I don’t want to get shouted down or shamed by the far left or far right.
Maybe because I’m afraid of that kind of vulnerability.
Ultimately, I have to confess that it’s a lack of courage that keeps me quiet.
Goodness exists in this world. But for goodness to prevail, it must be accompanied with equal parts courage.
It’s human nature to search for some kind of meaning and to try to make sense of what happens in our lives and the world.
What happened last week was senseless.
When no sense can be made of what happened, we are left to make sense of our reaction to it.
When I was feeling so low last week I kept asking myself: “What is all this personal development work about if not to get me through tough times like this?”
With reflection and time, I remember that personal development isn’t personal at all – we’re too interconnected for that.
Our personal development is an act of generosity.
When we work on ourselves, it’s not just us who benefit, but also the people around us.
My reaction is making me realize that all this work on myself has to have an outcome that echoes beyond me.
My reaction is a demand to step up to my responsibility to create the future I want to see.
My reaction is to defend those who cannot defend themselves.
May our collective reaction demand action.
May we discover the courage to create change.
May we all live with consequence.
If you have the means, please consider this or any other cause to support the families and victims.