In response to the vicious attack in Orlando this weekend a lot of voices have been quick to blame somebody.
Blame Obama. Blame the NRA.
Blame Muslims. Blame “the gays.” Blame Christians.
The common thread is that we all like to blame other people. People unlike us. Those people.
Surely there is some blame to go around and there are things that need to be addressed in the coming days…
The struggle for me is I can spend a whole lot of time blaming other people without ever addressing my complicity. How have I contributed to a world where a young man decides to take this course of action? How I have failed to prevent this behavior from happening?
Have I loved my neighbors as myself?
Have I promoted violence in my words, actions, or ideologies?
Have I contributed to the idea that the LGBT community is somehow less valuable?
Have I neglected the need for sound mental health resources in our country?
Have I refused to learn about people from different worlds or who have differing opinions?
Have I driven a wedge between myself and people of different faiths?
Maybe those things can’t be traced directly to the shooting, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t contributed to the culture that led to this horrendous act.
I contribute to this type of brokenness when I close my mind and heart to others. I contribute when I dig in and draw lines in the sand. I contribute when I spend more time talking (or yelling) than listening.
I am a part of the problem when I let our differences weaken us rather than make us stronger. I’m the problem when I perpetuate “us vs them” thinking. When I reduce complex discussions to simple pat answers.
I’m to blame when I fear other people because they have a different skin color or religious practice or orientation or political opinion or hair cut.
I’m complicit when I misrepresent what other people believe or do. And when I get all my best arguments from memes. And when I allow the loudest voices at the polar ends of the spectrum tell me what to think.
I’m guilty if I only listen to people who tell me I’m right. Or if I take offense to the fact that other people think I’m wrong. Or if I’m ridiculous enough to believe I’ve already learned all there is to know about all the subjects the rest of humanity can’t agree on.
I may never pull a trigger or detonate a bomb or even throw a punch but I know how to be incredibly divisive. I know how to be arrogant and how to exclude and how to belittle others. I know how to be a bully and I know how to run my mouth and I know how to post inflammotary and dismissive things on Facebook.
When I do those things I am contributing to a world hell bent on being right and in control at all cost. A world that becomes divided and exclusive at the expense of others. A world that leaves people feeling unheard, alone, and out of options. A world where shooting people who are different too frequently becomes an option.
And when I do those things I am to blame. It is way easier for me to be part of the problem than to be part of the solution. And it is far too easy for me to point fingers at all those people who are wrong and neglect to examine my own self.
Jesus said before we go about trying to get the speck of dust out of our neighbor’s eye we should remove the wooden plank from our on eye. Maybe before we go around blaming all the other people who are at fault we could stop and ask how we have been adding rancour and discouragement and anger to the world around us. Maybe we need to ask how much of our behavior we justify when it is the very same behavior that the Orlando shooter (and countless others) demonstrated long before they ever killed a person.
Hate doesn’t start with a bullet or a bomb. It starts in the heart. I want no part in that. Not in my heart or yours. So I’m asking myself: am I stoking the fires of division and hate and fear? Or am I working for peace, spreading love, and offering hope? For all peope? Even those people?
That’s the world I want. That’s a world worth working toward.