I was in the 8th grade on April 20, 1999 when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris massacred their fellow students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. We were shocked. Nothing like this had happened in our memory. For my classmates and myself this was our introduction into the violent evil of which the world is capable. Two short years later 9/11 happened, and it seems as if the chaos has not stopped since then. That happens when you become aware of evil.
An interesting thing occurred after the Columbine shooting. The habits and lifestyles of those two boys were dissected and analyzed by the media and given back to us as some sort of warning. They listened to this kind of music. They wore that style of clothing. And on and on.
It seemed as if the media and our parents were trying to find the triggers that led them to such a degree of evil. If we just avoided A, B, and C, we would not be capable of the same. Evil and hate became this idea that we could control and avoid.
Fast forward to today, our country is threatening to lose its ever-loving mind. A sociopathic narcissist is coming closer and closer to the presidential chair. The media would have us believe that predators are suddenly lurking inside every public restroom. Beyonce just dropped an album that exploded the internet and has led to hate-filled arguments about racism and sexuality on just about every Facebook mommy group I’m part of. Hatred and fear rule the day.
Here’s the thing though. It’s easy to look at this hair here: and say that he’s created racism and violence among his supporters. It’s easy to look at those with opposing viewpoints on the Target bathroom issue, or any LGBT issue, and call them names. They are evil. They are wrong. The problem is out there, right?
Here’s the problem, and honestly, it scared me for years as a teenager after Columbine: I am capable of evil. Those people who are outright racist? Those people spewing hate in internet comment threads? Those people who I simply disagree with? They aren’t that different from myself.
These issues don’t create hate, they just reveal it.
This makes me uncomfortable, to be honest. I’d much rather believe that if only I was on the right side of every issue (and of course, my side is always the right side), I would be incapable of evil thoughts and words. But I’m only doing what our parents tried to do in the late 90’s following Columbine, trying to control evil through outward appearances.
This doesn’t work.
There’s a story (probably true, although apparently never actually documented) about the great G.K. Chesterton, where he, along with other famous authors were asked by The Times what was wrong with the world today. He simply responded,
Yours, G.K. Chesterton.”
Chesterton recognized that evil originates in our hearts and the only way to fight against it is through change from within. He also recognized that the only person he was capable of changing was himself.
I can’t change anyone but myself.
In light of this, what if we stopped arguing online? What if we stopped sharing fear-based articles on Facebook? What if we truly loved our neighbors? What if we had face-to-face conversations about these issues with people we care about instead of just filling social media with controversial topics?
What if we committed to change ourselves first, by the grace of God?
I’m making drastic changes in my life, more on that later, due to the amount of crippling anxiety I’ve been experiencing throughout my pregnancy. I’m changing what voices are speaking into my life and heart. I’m done with hate. I’m done with fear.
What’s wrong with the world? I am. And I know the One who can change me, and to him I run.