I wrote a recent blog about children’s fear of dying. In response to that entry, a reader wrote me about the specific way school shootings play into that fear. She wrote: I think if a child asks a parent about dying these days, it is likely to be a fear of dying at school, shot to death by someone with a gun. The Columbine massacre occurred in 1999 – the year [my twin grandsons] were born – which means there are kids who have grown from infants to legal adulthood never knowing a world where school shootings don’t happen. It might be helpful to do another blog post addressing this distressing issue.
Here is that post.
From a spiritual perspective, a children’s fear of dying a violent death may center on two issues:
- I can’t count on God to protect me.
- How do I manage my fear and anxiety?
Issue #1 — I can’t count on God to protect me.
Yes… and no.
God is powerful and he (or she) could make people stop the violence. He could make people do what’s right. Yes, he could, if he wanted to control people’s lives. He would have to eliminate choice so that no one ever chose to do wrong or make trouble again.
What kind of world would this be if God forced people to do right? Or insisted that they feel happy all the time? Wouldn’t God become the dictator of the whole world? What kind of person would you be? Your freedom would be gone. You could not make choices.
Violence is here to stay, and with it, people’s right to think their own kind or cruel thoughts, feel their own hate or love, do good or bad. God upholds humanity’s freedom, even when humanity doesn’t like the results.
… and no.
God does provide protection for you, but God — being invisible – often acts in hidden ways or unexplained paradoxes. You might not recognize God’s presence.
For example, God’s voice of protection is heard when courageous people speak up and report danger signs, thwarting violence. God is also protecting you when good people spread love and kindness in their community, especially toward those who are difficult to love. Sometimes when “prickly” people are offered a sense of belonging and dignity, they drop their plans to do harm, and we have been protected.
God does provide protection for you, but God neither guarantees us a long life nor a trouble-free life. It’s an unexplained paradox flowing from the loving heart of this supreme being.
Stay away from simplistic answers
So whatever you do as an adult, stay away from simplistic answers, such as, “It was God’s will that those people died and these people didn’t,” or, “Those who died were being punished. If you do what God wants, that won’t happen to you.” Answers like these are not only simplistic but can be extremely damaging to children’s evolving and developing views of God.
The truth is that none of us knows why bad things happen.
And we don’t know why they happen to some people and not others. This world containing evil is not the world we were created for and designed for, and there are no easy answers or guarantees. So how do we help kids manage their fear and anxiety over the unknowns?
Read Part 2– on helping children manage their fear and anxiety– next week.
Tweetable: A spiritual perspective on school shootings. It may be a useful piece for some children as they cope with their fears and anxiety around violence. Read more. Click to Tweet