Six Steps Away from Mass Shootings & Why It’s Personal

You have more control than you think you do.

The woods. Photo by author.
  • The second step is trying on an old and musty coat that has been left hanging in the back of our grandparents’ closet — the coat of civility.
  • The third step is the uncomfortable experience of face to face interaction.
  • The fourth step is a heaping portion of things we don’t like — the nourishing ingredient of other people’s preferences.
  • The fifth step is kindness.
  • And lastly, the sixth step is noticing (simply noticing) how little we actually need the illusions of the digital world, our group affiliations, and our angry, outraged reactions. Think about what happens if we let go of them.
Branches. Photo by author.

Step1
Self Control Where We Point Our Fingers

We all frequently project unwanted things in ourselves onto other people. When we hit pause on this impulse, we can begin to consider the things we fear in ourselves, and change them.

Step 2
Civility

Stephanie Dowrick said, “Restraint offers a space between intention and action and the opportunity to protect others from actions or reactions that should exist only in your imagination.” I found this beautiful gem of a quote in a book titled, Choosing Civility by P. M. Forni. Watching old movies, we can’t help but notice a kind of restraint that people used to have, which feels a little foreign to us now. Civility is more than the Golden Rule of treating everyone the way we wish to be treated. It is the Golden Rule plus acceptance of differences plus restraint. (Forni points out that if we only treat others as we want to be treated, we ignore their own preferences.)

Step 3:
Face to face interactions

I don’t think this needs much description. I mean it exactly how it sounds. When we go to the super market, we could go through the line where a real person is helping us. When we walk our dogs, we could lift our noses from our phones. When we ride the bus, we could speak to the person beside us. We can try our best to meet each other’s eyes and speak to each other. We should try. This is hard in the world we’ve designed for ourselves (or allowed Amazon, Facebook, and Google to design for us) because we like our little cocoons of self and only self, except for the digital “others” we allow into our eyeballs and ears. But, it seems we become very isolated when we only interact with each other digitally and isolation combined with the digital experiences we are having these days seems very related, to me, to the societal behaviors of both constant outrage and loathing of people with different opinions from our own.

Step 4:
Things we don’t like

As a society, it appears we only eat ice cream and no vegetables. Each of us is surrounded by like-minded opinions, support for our own positions, and documentation of our own “rightness.” We cannot imagine why the “other” that is constantly looming in the far corner of the world we inhabit by ourselves would prefer something else, or have a different opinion.

Step 5:
Kindness

I cannot say enough about kindness and its importance in my own life. It revolutionizes my world when I consistently try to put kindness first. My body, heart, and mind benefit a million times over when I make kindness a fundamental principal. I cannot ever be 100% successful at this. I still find myself slipping into an unkind place. But I emphasis kindness because I have tried to live in both a kind way and a way that does not particularly emphasize kindness as a value, and the way of life where kindness is something precious is beyond anything I ever could have hoped for when I originally began seeking it inside myself, personally.

The American road. Photo by author.

Step 6:
Notice how little we actually need of the culture we have created

We don’t all actually fall so enthusiastically into camps with these loud national political party leaders, even though a look at our social media pages would indicate we do. Perhaps it helps us feel part of a bigger “something important” to attach ourselves to a strong personality on the national stage.

Painting by my son. Used with his permission.

mediator, painter & mother of four boys

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