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Ohio School Shooting and The Random Nature of Life

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

The tragedy of the school shooting in Ohio leaves everyone wondering why this type of thing seems to happen from time to time? In asking questions about tragedies like this one, there is the temptation to blame everyone from the parents and family of the shooter, to school officials, television and movies, American society and mankind as a whole. But, what if this kind of thing happens because of the random nature of life and is no one’s fault? Quite a few years ago a book about this very thing was published and the title is, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” While the book has a religious flavor to it, the main theme is that things happen for which there is no explanation.

There is a real danger in placing blame and the danger has to do with how each of us are affected by this. For example, many people are convinced that we are living in a terrible world and that civilization is ending. Then, there are those who are already depressed and look to things like this to support the reason for their depressed feelings. Certainly, by not only listening to the news but dwelling on it, one can become convinced that life is awful. Yet, if you take a moment and look around, you notice that nothing is really wrong. Children are playing, people are well fed and life moves along. This is not to ignore the fact that there are problems. It’s just that there is another side to things, the side that balances out the bad news with the good.

When a shooting like this occurs and when young lives are lost there is a terrible sense of grief. However, it’s important not to allow that grief to so color our views of life that we come to believe that everything is bad.

We can and should search for reasons why this shooting occurred. Perhaps the shooter came from a violent and abusive home. Perhaps he is mentally unstable. Perhaps he lost touch with reality and, perhaps, he always felt like an outsider and was filled with rage. Perhaps there were other motivating factors and, perhaps, we will never know. Whatever the answers may be, we must not allow this type of thing to so color our lives that we become depressed.

It’s all a matter of perception: “Is the glass half full or half empty?” I choose to see the glass as half full. Not everything is great but not everything is bad. There is always a certain amount of randomness in life. Why does one person win the lottery and another person develop cancer? We can get involved in philosophical and religious discussions about these things but only so long as we don’t allow ourselves to get depressed. Remember what Voltaire said in Candide, “This is the best of all possible worlds.” In other words, don’t reject being optimistic but also accept that life has its difficult problems. Another way of looking at it is to say that your garden is worth cultivating you even if it has weeds.

Your comments are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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