what’s inside the head of a 20-something man?

Let me start by acknowledging I’m really not qualified to write this. It’s not because I’m not a boy, as let’s be honest, no one gender, ethnicity, etc. can speak for all others of the same demographic — a point we oft ignore.

I also am not qualified even though I have semi-successfully/semi-not co-parented three solid young men of said age. My experience does not equate to expertise — another oft missed reality.

Perhaps what would most make me qualified to write would be if I were some sort of licensed professional counselor. I work with many… but alas, I am not.

Hence, I write not from a place of omniscience nor even competency. I’m simply sharing an impassioned perspective… dare I suggest, one more framework of sharing we oft fail to disclose. We’re passionate. Reasoned. We have solid opinions, perspective, even conviction. However, we do not know all. No matter how impassioned we may be.

I keep looking at the gun issue… the violence issue… the evil. Actually, I somberly appreciate that there is indeed a collective heartache across the country when it happens. No one wants it to happen. We just don’t know how to stop it.

I thought it again this most recent weekend, as the incident occurred in my high school stomping grounds.

I therefore also appreciate the valiant efforts to make the violence stop. While persons disagree on which gun control efforts are effective — which thoughts and prayers are vital — the reality is that each wants the awfulness to stop. To be clear, there are spaces and places to have that respectful debate; sometimes that’s been here. But today, this is not one of those places. I want to honestly wrestle with a sobering, different question…

Why is it that the profile of the shooter is often a 20-something man? (FYI: According to the FBI’s analysis of active mass shooters in 2021, 98% were male, and 57% were under the age of 35.) Few women mess with mass shootings. We also aren’t seeing many men in even some midlife crisis. In the mass shooting — meaning a minimum of three or four victims of gun violence (not including the shooter) in a public place — why is it typically a young man?

Whether it’s the isolated mass incidents or the weekends of many urban streets, why is the shooter — the perpetrator of violence — most frequently in recent years, a 20-something man?

What’s in that young man’s head that makes him think this is ok?

It makes me ask what we’re teaching the young men in today’s society. What cues from culture are they getting that confuse them so? … that make them think that such an abhorrent activity could be wanted or wise in absolutely any possible way?

You’ll remember I said I wasn’t really qualified to write this. I’m not sure who exactly is. For if we knew what it was and we knew how to control or to at least limit the manifestation of evil, we would do so. So let us ask a few questions of the person whose brain may still be forming…

What do they believe about themselves?

Do they see themselves more highly than they ought?

What’s most important to them?

How do they view other people? Do they respect all others? Believe in serving others?

Why don’t they value all human life?

Have we taught them to hate anyone or any one demographic?

Have we taught them another’s thinking, opposition or even existence matters less?

Are they entitled? Are they lost? Are they too isolated?

Who do they trust?

Where does their value system come from? Have we somehow taught them that whatever they believe is good and right and true?

What do they think it means to be male?

Do they know what it means to be a wise father?

Do they have a faith? Do they find identity in being God’s kid or in something lesser?

Do they have healthy community? Do they know that accountability, respectful submission and authority are good?

And where do they turn for help when they are confused inside? Is it even ok to admit they are confused? … hurting? … that they don’t have life all figured out? … that they each indeed do matter? … always?

Only questions, friends… no judgment. Just trying to understand. Obviously, our culture is knowingly or unknowingly giving cues to our kids that are somehow confusing. I cannot assume to know what nor why nor how all of the above succinctly and specifically applies. I’m not qualified.

But our lack of qualification shouldn’t deter the asking of the complicated question.