Flags around the USA are still hanging at half-mast today because of last week’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our hearts are truly heavy as the funerals of 20 young children have begun.
And yet, in coming weeks the children and families directly affected by this massacre, as well as individuals far-removed from Newtown, Conn., will have a choice to make in our response. Simply put, we can choose: bitter, or better?
I was so encouraged by dad Robbie Parker’s statement in choosing to let the world know he feels such compassion for the gunman’s family. He set the tone of forgiveness and hope, and I pray the world will follow. NBC News correspondent Ann Curry has already launched a social media campaign motivating simple acts of compassion inspired by the children from Sandy Hook who lost their lives. Using the hashtags #20Acts and #26Acts, thousands of people have taken to Twitter to share their random acts of kindness. This is a good thing.
And yet my hope and prayer is that this type of generous spirit is not short-lived. The children, staff and administrators who survived last Friday’s harrowing attack have ample reason to become angry and resentful. But I hope they will do the tough work of healing. And that is exactly what it is: hard work. Finding and getting into good counseling, opening up about their emotions, and learning healthy ways to cope are all part of dealing with tragic circumstances. This is not easy, and it takes time to process — months and months, if not years.
I often say that a good counselor is like a relational tow-truck who can help us get out of our emotional ruts. If we never make the call, though, we’ll be stuck spinning our wheels.
By the same token, we can’t just preach forgiveness if we don’t put it into practice. And for tragedies of this magnitude, I really don’t believe that’s possible apart from divine power. I can’t say enough about the book, “Total Forgiveness” by R.T. Kendall. The first chapter alone, describing what forgiveness IS and is NOT is worth thousands of dollars in therapy sessions, whether you’re dealing with a minor dispute with your spouse or coping with something far more severe such as abuse or abandonment.
So for today, the choice is ours. Bitter or better. Which is it going to be?