In the Face of Violence, Answering THE Question

Six days after the school shooting in Florida it came.  The question I’ve been waiting to be asked.  The question I can’t fully answer myself.  I knew one of my children would ask it.  I knew I’d have to find a way to explain the unexplainable.  And, here it came.  Driving through town, my daughter spotted the lowered “sad flags” and asked: “Why would somebody do that, mom?  Why would somebody go into a school and kill so many people?”

Isn’t this the question we’ve all been trying to answer for decades?  Regardless of where you fall on all the hot topics and debates, when we boil it down, we’re all just wondering why someone would do it.

I make absolutely no claims to know the reasons or to understand the inner complexities of making such a choice.  I make no claims to understand all the societal complexities that enable such horrifying choices to be made.

What I do know, is that how I answered my KBear’s question sets the foundation for her worldview, for her understanding of other people, for how she will find comfort and security, for how she will treat people, and how she will understand why horrible things happen.

I also know that our kids don’t want to just be placated or for us to shy away from the complexities innate in these traumas.  They want truth, and they want to feel reassured that they will most likely be safe and okay.

I also know that mental illness rarely equates to violence.  I know that owning a gun doesn’t equate to murder.  I know that most people who play violent video games or watch violent movies or listen to violent lyrics do not plot a terrorist murder spree. 

And I know that happy, contented, and well people do not commit violent acts.  I know that people who feel connected and in community do not murder.

I know that all too often, children are seen through the filters of their behaviors.  I know that underneath troublesome behavior is some type of pain or fear or isolation or shame or trauma.  I know that suspending and expelling children does not effectively alter their behavior.  I know that children who need the most loving usually act in the most unlovable of ways.  I know that writing a child off as evil, a monster, or a bad kid does not heal or transform or prevent future misbehaviors.

I know we need more compassion.  I know that love trumps hate.  I know that darkness cannot drive out darkness, and I know that we need to be the change.

I believe that with early intervention and seeing the vulnerable child beneath the defiant preschooler, or the traumatized child beneath the meltdowns, or the lonely isolated child beneath the middle school defiance and opposition, we can transform pain and violence into healing and peace.

So, how did I answer my child’s question?

“I don’t really know, sweetie.  But, I know he must have been very lonely and sad or angry and instead of getting help, he made an awful and really hurtful choice.”

I know we need compassion.  Always compassion.  Especially compassion when it’s the most difficult.