one right angle

What’s the right angle?


What’s the right angle to take here? Is there only one?

As the shock-induced fog gives way to the reality that once again, we’re hit smack-dab in the face with the fact that evil exists on this planet, what are we to do? How are we to proceed? What’s the right angle?

Let me first be clear that I am not calling the Vegas shooter “evil.” We don’t know what was in his head or his heart or how mental illness may have played a role; we may never know. But what we do know is that innocent people were murdered. That qualifies as evil to me.

So where do we go with that?

I have quietly observed in recent years how people respond differently to different manifestations of evil — varied examples of when the innocent are killed…

… If it’s a terrorist situation, some immediately demand to call it what it is… “It’s radical Islamic terrorism! What are we going to do?! We need to stop this now!?”… Others say we need to be patient; we need to let the facts unfold. We don’t want to anger an entire people group.

… If it’s one man in his hotel room, shooting at concert goers, some immediately demand to call it what it is… “It’s a man who shouldn’t have a gun in his hands! What are we going to do?! We need to stop this now!”… Still others say we need to be patient; we need to let the facts unfold. We don’t know what laws would be effective in stopping this.

Friends, this is a tough blog. It’s tough because I am well aware that each of us have flirted with at least one of the above responses, and I never intend for any disrespect. I wrestle regularly, so many days, in regard to what is the wisest response.

The reality is we respond to evil differently. While the overwhelming majority of us abhor evil — and wish it didn’t exist on this planet — our individual responses as to how best to extinguish the evil is where the difference lies.

Therein begs the question: is there only one right angle? Is there only one right way to respond?

My sadness has extended beyond the news of Sunday as we see too many people declare only their way is wise. And then in what they most likely, sincerely believe is wisdom, they validate dismissing, mocking, and denigrating the approach of another; sometimes, they denigrate far more than the approach.

Remember the wisdom of Steven R. Covey, in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Habit #5 is this: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Noting that communication is arguably the most important skill in life, Covey states: “If you’re like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely… You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference.”

But other frames of reference exist. Other frames of reference are valid. When we ignore other people, we essentially are saying that only “my” frame of reference is valid. And when we ignore the validity of another’s frame of reference, rarely will that other person want to be and think more like us; we may be doing more harm than good.

The key then is to “use empathic listening to genuinely understand a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.”

Friends, I don’t believe it’s any secret with the conflict in this world today, that we need an atmosphere simply capable of positive problem solving. We need an atmosphere capable of addressing the evil that exists and capable of lessening the potential for any murder of the innocent. But as long as we demand that only one right angle exists, we pierce that atmosphere with nothing short of self-inflicting wounds.

I grieve for the families affected by what just happened in Vegas. As said Tuesday, I have trouble wrapping my heart and head around it.

I grieve, too, for how we disrespect each other so much thereafter. I can’t wrap my heart and head around that one either.

Grief is real. People respond differently. Lord help us in creating an atmosphere in which positive problem solving is simply capable.