It has started once again. The talk about guns and gun control, and the question about whether it’s guns that kill or people that kill, are the topics that plague us over and over in this country. They’re good questions, necessary questions. But the real question we should all be asking is, WHY? What are we missing? What are we not doing? How are we not meeting the needs of others on such a basic level that they feel their only recourse is to mow down innocent people? What can we do to actually, truly, permanently fix this?
There’s a general feeling of dissatisfaction among Americans that goes so deep, it’s becoming imprinted on our souls.
Listening to Bishop Robert Barron this morning, I was struck by something he said. He talked about how we steer our children to be athletes or musicians or any given state of excellence, and we do anything and everything to get the child moving in that direction. He wasn’t saying this as a criticism but as an example of how we get a person to achieve something or be a certain way.
Why don’t we steer our children toward kindness? Toward loving their neighbors? Toward looking out for one another? If we can create in a child the ability to become a star athlete, then why can’t we create in that same child the ability to care for others?
Living Apart From Reality
I believe this is all part of that general dissatisfaction with life. Everyone thinks the grass is greener on the other side. Everyone thinks someone else has something, does something, is something better than they are. As the Bishop says, “Gnosticism is having a revival right now… by which I mean, the real me is buried somewhere in there… and the body is just there to be manipulated according to the deep down desire… a very tired and dangerous idea.”
We are all living in some alternate reality where we can become something other than what or who we are, and that is creating these great feelings of doubt, guilt, unworthiness, and undesirability. I don’t like the me that I am, so I’m going to change the real me into the “new and improved me.” But what changes on the outside isn’t going to change what’s on the inside.
We tout how far we’ve come in treating mental health, but we fail to recognize when it’s the mental health of our children that needs our attention. Or we throw money and toys and other things at the problem rather than finding a solution. We don’t want to believe that it’s my child who is the problem.
All this leads to the chronic disease that seems to plague our schools in every town and at every social level–bullying.
I’m not good enough; therefore you’re not good enough. I feel inferior, so I’m going to make you feel inferior. You make me feel inferior, so I’m going to go a step beyond and eliminate you, thus eliminating the way you make me feel.
This is a crisis of the greatest magnitude. We are failing our children. We are telling them that there are easy ways to fix their feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt. Just change your name, your identity, your gender, or pretend you don’t have real feelings, and everything will fall into place. Yet for the vast majority of people, what they need is something that goes beyond the physical and beyond mere emotions that are easily fixed.
What’s Really Happening?
Most people don’t want to admit that the real problem facing our young people is not a weapon of steel. It’s a weapon of words and actions. We’re stripping people of their true identities, not the lie that we’re finding the hidden identities inside. We’re not paying attention when they’re mean to each other or when they’re depressed or when they need help.
You can’t talk about a child’s unhealthy habits because you’re shaming them or telling them they’re not good enough.
You can’t tell a child about the beauty of their body or their gender because it’s ignoring their true self.
You can’t reprimand a child for being a bully because they may have something going on at home.
I can tell you all about that last one. Our daughter was bullied and threatened for the entire seven years she was in our local public school. When it escalated to the point of physical harm, we pleaded with the principal to do something. Her response?
“We can’t punish those children because they come from broken homes, and they need to feel safe at school.”
Ken and I looked at her with our mouths hanging open. “They need to feel safe? What about our daughter’s feelings of safety?”
“That’s what she has you for.”
Our hands were tied. Our child, who transferred schools after the very next incident, could not be kept safe because the principal felt it was more important to continue grooming these other children to grow up as bullies, unconstrained by rules, and allowed to behave at the lowest levels of civility.
We have forgotten that children need guidance. They need to know that they do not make the rules. They need boundaries. They need to understand that they were created the way they were for a reason. They need to be taught love and acceptance, of themselves and others. They need to know that sometimes life isn’t fair. You can’t wave a magic wand, or a weapon, or a scalpel and make everything better.
What Went Wrong?
There is no easy fix.
Will gun laws fix some of the problems? Sure. Some of them.
But the problems aren’t skin deep. And they aren’t something that can be solved by throwing insults or turning a blind eye or “cancelling” those you disagree with.
The first step is to reaffirm the sanctity of life. How can anyone see that violence and death are not the answer when our country fights over whom deserves to live or die and how that decision is made? Unless we accept and embrace that all lives matter, born and unborn, we cannot fight the culture of death. No matter the race, the age, the developmental stage, the gender, or the infirmity, life matters.
We need to recognize the importance of human touch. We live in a world where we’ve shut ourselves off from one another. We’ve become a society that hides in our homes, hides behind our phones, hides behind name-calling and shaming.
We need to stop living in fear and stop using fear as an excuse to escape. For two years, we were told that it was better, safer to live in a world apart. Now we live in a world where those who venture out don’t even know if it’s okay to hug or shake hands or stand close to someone. Or we pick and choose what we want to be safe. How many people will cram into the movies this week to see Top Gun (yes, I will be one of them) but won’t step foot inside a church because it’s still not safe?
The pandemic didn’t begin this crisis of self, this crisis of cutting ourselves off from people and from reality. It didn’t create the problem of guns in schools or access to deadly weapons, but it did create this world that allowed hate and intolerance and fear to become the primary emotions for so many. For two years, people relied more on technology than human touch. They relied more on reality TV and Netflix than real personal interactions. They rallied for lives that matter while ignoring those they decided don’t matter at all.
What Can We Do About It?
The only way to solve this problem is to teach people to be kind, to be loving, to be patient, to be tolerant, and to uphold life. We need to find ways to help those who are ostracized or shunned. We must learn to get along, to talk to each other, to hear people out. I’ve written so often of the importance of kindness and of listening to what others have to say; still, nobody gets it. Nobody knows how to talk to each other.
After the 2016 election, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, in a statement to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (“Coming Together as Faithful Citizens for the Common Good,” November 9, 2016) said, “Let us not see each other in the divisive light of Democrat or Republican or any other political party, but rather, let us see the face of Christ in our neighbors, especially the suffering or those with whom we may disagree.”
We need to be there for each other. We need to listen to what people have to say. We need to be willing to be part of a conversation and not an accusatory argument.
We need to teach our children how to love and respect and care for each other.
I am praying for change. I don’t mean change in presidents or change in parties or even change in how we vote for our leaders. I am praying for real change from the ground up, the kind of change that must begin at kitchen tables, by the poolside, at cocktail parties, on nights out with friends, and in classrooms.
We need to see a change in how issues are discussed and debated. We need to see people of all ages making a concerted effort to talk and to listen and to see where other people are coming from. We need to be more tolerant and more accepting of those with views different from our own. We need to shed the mantra of, “Never discuss religion or politics” and engage with each other.
I wrote these words six years ago: We need to find compromises and ways to meet each other halfway. We need to stop with the labels and start seeing people for whom they are, recognizing and understanding what they believe why they believe it. We need to stop talking about how one side is going to make things better and actually work together to find ways to MAKE THINGS BETTER.
We need to work together to fix this.
Before it’s too late. Again.
Come see Amy on one of these dates:
June 4, 2022 – Christ Church 350th Anniversary Fair, Broomes Island, MD
June 12, 2022 – Saints Peter and Paul Women’s Guild Brunch, 1214 South Washington St, Easton, MD, 11:45am
June 15, 2022 – Catch Amy on Delmarva Life on channel 16, Salisbury, MD at 5pm.
June 18, 2022 – SunDial Books, Chincoteague, VA – The Launch of My New Chincoteague Trilogy!
June 18, 2022 – Crisfield Bluegrass Festival, Crisfield, MD, 1:00-7:00pm
August 13, 2022 – Makers Market, St. Michaels Inn, St Michaels Inn, 1228 S Talbot St, St Michaels, MD 9am-3pm
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. The Good Wine, the sequel to Whispering Vines was released in June of 2021. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s chapter book is The Greatest Gift, and her most recent suspense novel is Summer’s Squall.
Amy’s second book in the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, was awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019. Amy’s book, Desert Fire, Mountain Rain begins her new Buffalo Springs series. Book two, Under the Summer Moon, was released in December of 2021.
Amy’s new book, Seeking Tranquility, will be released June 15, 2022. Pre-order your copy now!
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020), The Good Wine (2021), Under the Summer Moon (2021).