“I am so tired of waiting.
for the world to become good
and beautiful and kind?
Let us take a knife
and cut the world in two —
and see what worms are eating
at the rind.”
— Langston Hughes
It was April 1999 when two young men, overwhelmed by the weight of their own broken hearts and compelled by wicked intentions, brought modern warfare to Columbine High School. They killed 13 people. Since that day, 23 years ago, the specter of school violence has loomed large for every student in the United States. And every few months, it seems, that specter finds a new host, takes on flesh, and goes on a terrifying rampage.
On Tuesday, it happened again, in Uvalde, Texas.
On the weeks these school shootings happen, the adults tend to circle up their political wagons. They feel emotional about what’s happened, and want to feel like they’re fighting back. The problem with fighting evil, though, is that you actually have to come close to it. Nobody likes to do that. So the grownups might post something on social media that feels like it takes the moral high ground. Maybe they even get on TV and appeal to the like-minded.
While adults may hunker down and try to create a fortress of words against evil, our kids face it, in person, alone. From the kindergarten classroom to the high school cafeteria, that sense of security has been stolen away. The bullied and broken become suspects, possible vessels for perpetrating violence, with whispers following angsty outbursts. Would he…? Eight-year-olds listen gravely as they are instructed, during lockdown drills, how best to hide.
Something is deeply, deeply wrong. When we lose half a classroom of fourth graders and their heroic teachers in Texas, we grieve for their lost futures as well as for the fact that we live in a culture that desecrates the innocent, the powerless, and the precious.
Paul wrote, in Ephesians 6:12, that we are battling not against humans and their foibles, but against dark spiritual leaders in heavenly places. Our earthly enemies serve as avatars for wickedness that rages in an unseen world. Nowhere is that more apparent than in these school shootings. But Paul also wrote that we are not sitting ducks—at least, not spiritually.
In Romans 12:21, we are told “not to be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good.” Evil does and should feel frightening. But that doesn’t mean we flee from what we fear. It means we tap into the courage God provides; a courage that comes from believing God’s promises to us, even on the darkest of days.
We also have to offer teens a way to express their anxieties and talk to us. It’s not cowardly or silly to find school scary the week after a massacre at an elementary school. Most of what they’ll hear from the world outside will involve changes to legislation and calls for political action. If our kids want to talk to us about that, we should let them—even if we disagree with their conclusions. Remember that this world is theirs to inherit next, and that means their opinions are valid. If conversation gets too heated, dial it back to a starting point: you know and agree that your teen shouldn’t have to live this way, and you don’t find it acceptable, either.
Finally, we should strive to be families that are not reactive to current events, but are proactively having conversations to understand where kids are at. Here’s an early release of our Parent’s Guide to Violence for help navigating this topic, as well as a few questions to get the conversation started:
- How are you feeling after Uvalde?
- What do you think it takes for someone to get to a place where they want to hurt others like that?
- What do you think it would require to truly “overcome evil with good” in this case, like the Bible talks about?