In the wake of this horrible tragedy, I want to recommend a really good book that touches on these types of tragedies. That book is The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence. This book was recommended to me over 10 years ago. I had forgotten about it but about two years ago I saw it at a garage sale so I bought it. I put it on the shelf and I recently found it again and finally read it.
The reason it took me so long to read it is because I think I was a little weary of the title. I do not like living in fear and the title just made it seem like living in fear is the message the author would leave you with. However, after reading it, I found out that his message is exactly the opposite. The author teaches the reader how to put aside unfounded fear and instead learn to listen one’s own instinct that manifests itself in an uncontrollable, but useful fear. For example, this would not be the type of fear people have about flying (unfounded) but more the type of fear you get when you see an oncoming train and forces you to react and jump out of the way.
The author also discusses at length what drives an individual to commit horrific acts such as school shootings or workplace violence. More importantly, he demonstrates how an employer, for example, can identify high-risk workers; how schools can identify high risk students; or how a woman can identify a high-risk suitor. And then de Becker gives advice on how to handle those high risk individuals. For that reason, I believe that every teacher, school administrator, employer, pastor, youth group leader, and woman should read this book.
The bottom line is that the people that commit these acts do not do so in a vacuum. They themselves were victims of physical or mental abuse and/or neglect. They all manifest similar signs and early intervention can go a long way in preventing a high risk individual from turning into a monster. And even if they have reached a point where they are beyond help, if we can identify the signs of someone preparing to take it to a violent phase, then we can notify authorities or warn the potential target.
And for my Christian friends and readers, we need to continue to reach out to the neglected and brokenhearted. We need to reach out to that quiet, sad kid who keeps to themselves. We need to show them the love of Christ. As a teenager who was spiraling into a dark abyss, it was the love of one Christian husband and wife who accepted me into their home without judgement that changed my life. They showed me God’s unconditional love. I truly believe that if it had not been for them, I would have eventually taken my own life. Instead, I have become a productive member of society. And so it is with so many kids and young people who suffer neglect or abuse. Even though The Gift of Fear is not a Christian book, de Becker makes it clear that one person (teacher, friend, etc) reaching out to another sometimes makes the difference between one who turns out to be a decent adult and someone that engages in the horrible things that we witnessed yesterday in Connecticut.
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