Learning to Listen: Beginning to find answers

not_listeningLike the rest of the country, I feel like I’ve been in a state of moderate shock since the events at Sandy Hoook Elementary. Like many of you the tragedy of 20 dead children, about the same ages as my little girls, has me asking so many questions: How did this happen? Were there any warning signs? Could anything have been done? Could this happen at my kids school? At my wife’s school? Could this have been my client? Where is God in this?

When I try to boil down all the questions to what the overarching question I am having it is simply this: What can I do?

As I’ve considered this question the past couple days I’ve realized just how complex it is. It’s easy to read news stories and think it’s all about parenting, or gun control, or mental health, or spirituality or school safety, or bullying…the list goes on. Truth is, it’s about all these things.

One of things I can do is write, I can write about what I know about.  I know something about parenting, mental health and spirituality.

Over the next few days I’m going to post some articles about what I know about.  I already wrote recently about helping teens in crisis, so I will probably avoid going there again.  I look forward to using this format to discuss some of my thoughts and feelings on other related subjects. Before I begin I want to make one thing clear:  I don’t know everything.  I’m trying to get answers, just like everyone. Finding answers requires that we listen to others, not just shout from the rooftops (or twitter) that which we already know.  Likewise, what I do know about is hardly a comprehensive approach to what we can do to stop another tragedy from happening again.

I think one of the biggest mistakes I have seen as I look around facebook, and the media is people who are sure they have the right answer about any of these topics.  People are so mad about gun control, or what parents can do, or what the mental health system should be doing.  They think they know better.

What I ask you to do is this:  Approach the disaster in Connecticut with curiosity and an open mind.  Wonder what happened.  Wonder what we need to change.  Be open to opinions that are different than yours.  If you are conservative, read liberal websites, and vice versa.  If you are a proponent of gun control, or mental health reform, or increased security in schools, or whatever, read articles by those on the other side.

This phenomenon is hardly limited to this tragedy.  We have become such a sound bite/twitter post society that we rarely stop to listen to those with opposing thoughts.  I see it all the time when I do couples counseling or work with teens and parents.  We are so busy trying to prove our own point that we seldom stop to hear the good coming from the other side.

If we are going to stop events like this from being common place we need to talk openly and comprehensively about what we can do differently.  If we don’t begin to talk honestly about what we can do differently we not only insure that this will happen again, we also dishonor the memory of those children and teachers, and of all those who suffer as victims of violent crime in our country every day who go unnoticed.

Thanks for reading.