Fight Back Against a Culture of Violence: Crank Up the Light!

Like most Americans, I spent Friday alternately weeping, hugging my children, and wanting to kick someone in the ribs.

I have nothing to say about this tragedy right now. So I won’t.

I do, however, want to say something about the “kick someone in the ribs” reflex.

When tragedy strikes, we naturally want to find a way to stop it, to keep it from ever happening again, to fight back. Conversations about gun control, violence in the media, and a whole host of other things go into full swing.

And that’s great. Because those conversations need to happen.

But here’s what struck me. As important as those issues are, none of them are going to solve the ultimate problem: the brokenness of the human heart.

Don’t get me wrong–we need to address the societal issues. But really, we could do everything humanly possible to keep everyone as safe as we can, and there are still going to be crazed, broken boy-men who hurt people as a form of release.

And sometimes, I think focusing on policy issues, on things that one individual truly can’t do much to change, is a Big. Fat. Cop-out.

Since I can’t personally do much to influence gun control laws or video game makers, focusing solely on those issues means I’m off the hook. All I have to do is post something on Facebook and sign a petition, and I’ve won the right to rage against someone else’s stupid, nefarious agenda, to blame something outside myself for the mess humanity is in.

It’s their fault. Not mine. Don’t look at me, and the way my personal habits may be contributing to the underlying problem.

As Christians, I believe that “fighting back” against the darkness is part of our calling. But truly, “fighting darkness” is an exercise in futility. The only way to overcome darkness is to crank up the light.

And can I just be honest? As the mother of four boys, one of whom is a teenager, I can see where some of those societal problems begin. I can see where some of my personal policies need reform. Yes, my babies are great kids who would never ever. But the goal is not to raise children who will not be murderers (or alcoholics, or slackers, or cyber-bullies, or whatever). The goal is to refect the transformative light of Christ to a dark and hurting world, and raise our children to do the same.

Here are some of the ways I am fighting back against the culture of violence threatening to engulf our children:

-No video games more violent than Lego Star Wars are crossing the threshold of my house.

-Yes, I’m exhausted, and the kids just want to watch TV and play Wii. But we’re going to eat together as a family anyway.

-That stress I feel over work, school, deadlines, whatever? That’s my stress, and should not seep out to poison my interactions with my children. If I can’t cope, then I need to call a shrink, or take a quiet time, or whatever, not explode at my kids for being kids.

-Yes, it’s easier to let the cranky teenager hide in his room with the computer. But ultimately, it’s not good for him. Screen time for teens needs to be limited, not just on principle, but for the sake of their mental health.

-Derogatory words are not allowed, about anything or anyone, ever. Even if it’s just a friend making a flippant remark about something being “gay” or “retarded.” Nuh-uh. Smackdown.

How about you? What are some of the ways you are fighting back against a culture of violence?

Monitoring your child’s mobile use?

Choosing to be a stable adult, in an unstable world?

Volunteering at an after school program?

Changing your own language and behavior?

Mentoring a child, teen, or young adult?

Share your ideas! How can each of us do a better job of reflecting the light?

5 Responses to Fight Back Against a Culture of Violence: Crank Up the Light!

  1. Kathy December 15, 2012 at 6:50 am #

    So good – as usual Jenny! Challenged by the “it’s easier to let the cranky teenager hide in his room with the computer”!! Yep…
    I also think making sure we have good conversations with our kids – talk about issues, ask their opinions, respect those opinions and engage with them. As a parent of two teenagers I am realising that they have SO much to teach me and I tell them that!! I don’t have to be the expert all the time and I think this helps them to respect themselves and think more seriously about things.

  2. Lacey December 15, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    I agree with you — I think focusing on gun laws and violent media is inded a cop-out. Ultimately, it is PEOPLE who do these things, and while I don’t like guns or violent video games, I think that we need to heal a lot of broken hearts so that violence doesn’t feel like such a tempting outlet. I also think that we can outlaw guns, ban every violent video game, censor violent movies and books — and we’ll still have people who commit atrocities. I want to know what is it that drives people to commit these acts in the first place, and work on *that*. But that is much bigger and much harder than making some laws.

    I think the best I can do sometimes is remember to treat everyone I encounter like a human being, someone deserving of dignity, compassion, and respect. I really believe that many of the people who go to these lengths of violence do so because they feel invisible and forgotten, and they’re in desperate need for someone to notice them.

  3. Cathy December 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    I always appreciate your posts. As a single parent of two older teenage girls, I’ve spent lots of years trying to better light up our personal darkness. Years ago, I stopped spanking, then later (finally) stopped yelling. Yet my older (away at college) daughter still experienced more of the exhausted, stressed-out, depressed mom than I would have preferred. I notice she still tends to knee-jerk into yelling like I used to. Recently, she’s commented that I’m more chill; I’ve had to peacefully back out of a few shouting matches with her. Like you, I also put dinner on the table most nights. Screen time issues are in the modeling stage, but when the girls were younger, I made a point of watching TV as a family. Especially when I was concerned about the violence, sexual innuendo, etc they were viewing. And modeled fast-forwarding or muting the TV as needed to minimize exposure.

  4. Tim December 17, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    “The goal is to reflect the transformative light of Christ to a dark and hurting world, and raise our children to do the same.”
    That’s golden, Jen.
    One of the things we did when the kids were young was, like Cathy said, watch TV together. Even if they were watching something I wasn’t interested in, I made the effort to sit with them. Knowing what they are seeing, and them knowing that I know what they are seeing, was one good parenting tool.
    The responsibility to model well hasn’t changed now that they are young adults; it just takes a different shape sometimes.
    Tim
    P.S. Wrote on carrying weapons at my place today. Hope you have time to take a look, Jen.

  5. Bonnie Antonich February 1, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    Having been the single mother of two now grown men and Working with men in a faith based domestic violence class as a facilitator, has challenged my paradigm image of those who commit violence.

    85-95% of violence is done by men.

    I have co-facilitated this class for five years with my husband.

    We began this journey long ago…when my husband himself went through this class through the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project here in Duluth. Some people call it the Duluth Model. This has been a journey towards true freedom, love, empowerment and respect.

    These men have need of the same love and value, dignity and respect that women do.

    Many have not seen a healthy relationship lived out. Some are court ordered,some are volunteers…but they all come ‘under duress’.

    They also need ‘tools’ to navigate differently in their relationships.

    We have so tightly boxed in men and their human emotions, whether through expectations within families, the church, the media, or our culture.

    The accepted norm within our society is for men to be ‘macho’, tough, strong, non-emotional…with the only real acceptable emotion being anger.

    Are our expectations of our children different depending on their gender???

    Do we allow certain behaviors in boys, simply because they’re boys…reasoning that’s normal????
    “You know how boys are???!!!?!?”

    There are many questions we need to be asking ourselves.

    In this industry, one of the biggest deterrents to re-offending is “EMPATHY”. Feeling with people.

    Can we teach our children empathy?

    “Love your neighbor AS you love yourself. ”

    yup. I believe Jesus was right.

    Can we by example raise boys/young men who will not use abusive bullying behavior to obtain power and control over others to get their way?

    Or to punish those with whom they’ve a perceived hurt?

    Can we teach them how valuable they are and listen to their feelings without stifling them?

    Teaching them to love themselves, good communication skills and the value of people beyond themselves…?

    Can we teach them how to watch and pay attention to people’s ‘body language’ …the words they’re not saying?

    Can we raise our daughters to be strong, to dream, to not accept the limitations society and the media may try to place on them?

    To have healthy boundaries ?

    To not accept abusive behavior as a normal right of passage…????

    You see we can limit screen time, tv, violent games, instill strong family values, up the wazoo…

    But if we don’t address these character issues of love and value for ALL within our homes…of Gods value for justice and mercy…will their faith hold out there in the world they’ll try to fit in??

    I applaud this work … These many questions and comments. We need to ask more!!!

    But the greatest deterrent to violence is empathy… Love.

    Interesting that Jesus said it was one of the greatest commands!

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