Obsessed With Cause

You’re probably as sick as I am of hearing what causes school shootings. If we really knew the cause, would they still be happening?


I watch with amazement as other research rolls off the shelves of our Universities and corporate think tanks. Did you know that ovarian cancer comes from a gene in the father? How about the idea that teen fathers are more likely to die early? You can apparently learn about the cause of everything from postpartum depression to school shootings, just by listening to the research.


What does this research really offer us? Someone to blame? Something to avoid? More hate to spew and share? And since when did a victim’s opinion become news to share as the gospel truth?


We often tell ourselves that there is nothing we can do. Someone at school has no friends and is being picked on every day. You expect me to solve the bullying problem all by myself? There’s nothing I can do. You expect me to prevent someone from taking revenge on our school? There’s nothing I can do.


While there are certainly things over which we have little control, we can still take actions toward a solution. Taking action is empowering and preventative at the same time. I don’t feel as vulnerable if I have taken some steps to help, even if they won’t solve the whole problem.


What can I do about the things I’m hearing? What steps could be taken to improve our safety and the atmosphere of fear at our schools?


There isn’t a device or machine that will make us all safe. Neither is there a device or machine that puts everyone in danger. The danger comes from what we think in our minds and how we react as parents, administrators, teachers and friends.


One common thread in school shootings is loneliness. Whether it comes from bullying or isolation or the internal depression of the student doesn’t matter. What can we do? Offer a kind word and enough interaction that includes rather than isolates. We hesitate because we don’t want to be a lonely person’s only friend. But if everyone befriended and everyone interacted that wouldn’t be a problem. Rather than saying there’s nothing I can do, I can initiate that kind interaction.


Another common thread is the failure to see what we see. Have you wondered how someone could walk into a high school in a gas mask without activating someone’s defenses? Experts tell us that our mind tries to give us a reasonable excuse for someone out of the ordinary. My first thought after seeing the glow of the flames of fire behind our house was to think my wife had left the light on when she got up in the night. We want everything to be normal so badly that we create a normal reason for the abnormal things we observe.


Rather than being obsessed with finding the cause, let’s invest some effort in specific actions that will address real solutions. Writing our legislators won’t make our schools safer. Removing the guns that existed long before there were school shootings won’t change our hearts. Interacting with more consideration and kindness will make a far greater dent in our problem that obsessing about its cause.


Talk to your children about this kind of interaction today. Let’s be part of the prevention. Only face to face intervention will bring a permanent solution.

Dr. Matt Crain writes weekly for the Sunday newspaper from his Connecting Fathers and Families ministry.