Search this blog

My reaction to the school shooting in Newtown, CT last Friday is troubling. I’ve read the reactions on twitter and skimmed reflections on blogs. I’ve read anguish and anger, pleading and politicking. Parents have written of the fresh gratitude they’ve felt at being able to hug their own kids and of a trauma that stretches beyond human powers of empathy. Political hacks have spun the massacre to imagined advantage for their pet political issue–a shameful display of the very lack of empathy others have expressed. Some thoughtful others have written to help people through such trauma and pain. I’m grateful for such pieces.

But I’ve been troubled by my own heart. I’m afraid I haven’t felt deeply enough. It’s not that I’ve been impassible, unmoved, unfeeling. It’s not that I’ve had the wrong kinds of feelings and thoughts, like the political hacks. I just don’t think I’ve felt enough. I’m afraid my emotions were too shallow and too fleeting. Already I’m off to my life, my routine, my Christmas celebrations, my world. When I read the laments of others, the often reported horror (and it is unspeakably horrible!), I’m concerned that as a father of a six year old who would have been in such a class that I’m not more horrified.

Something is not right. I know the world is so relentlessly and consistently twisted and touched by evil that men and women can become too think-skinned in the face of tragedy. I know that’s possible, but I don’t want to settle for that in my own heart. I don’t want to be so tough, calloused, jaded, or whatever that I can easily “move on” from the wicked shooting of twenty children–children!–and their teachers–teachers!

I wonder if I’m alone. I suppose I cannot be alone because for all the horror and grief rightly felt things seem to remain the same. School shootings now dot recent American history, the most prominent of which include names like Columbine, Virginia Tech, and now Sandy Hook. And I’m left wondering why true outrage isn’t felt, why deep mourning is missing, and why sustained indignation unexpressed. What’s wrong with my heart? Why so shallow and worldly and easily distracted? Why does “coping” look so suspiciously like avoiding, forgetting, ignoring, and abdicating?

I understand that human beings can’t cry forever. I fully realize that anger needs to give way to resolve. I know that feelings are a gift from God but we can’t feed upon them unceasingly. But I’m still left feeling I should feel more and asking why I haven’t. What about you?

View Comments


10 thoughts on “Newtown and My Troubled Heart”

  1. Chris Erwin says:

    Hey brother — I’ve felt that very same thing. I have small children of my own (10, 6, and 2), and I even teach at a school. Yet I’ve found over the last few days that, when reading comments about non-involved people who are weeping, mourning, etc., I’ve thought, “Why?”

    Part of it is, as you said, my heart’s calloused, cynical, unloving nature. Part of it is my own decision not to watch any of the live TV reporting, the pictures of the victims, etc., since I know my mind is far more affected by images than words, and I didn’t want to get too wrapped up in it all. I wanted to maintain some sort of distance, partly in order to be able through social media to respond to the posts/blogs of my many non-Christian friends and family in a careful, biblical manner. But yes, it’s also a reflection of the fact that I just don’t love people as I should, as God does, and that I love myself and my life and my circumstances too much. The Lord and I clearly still have much work to do, in my heart and mind.

  2. Garrett Conner says:

    Thanks as always Thabiti,

    You descriptions of our coping were exact. We have a tendency to move on quickly and this often keeps us from mourning longer and embracing the hard facts. I think so many here in the states don’t want to admit that we are as violent as the “other countries.”

    In the Old Testament, there are examples of longer times of grieving and mourning. Of course that reflected a community unable to move quickly past the death of a prophet or the effects of war in the loss of love ones.

    Are we conditioned to escape suffering through our escapism in these things and are we Christians guilty? The answer is yes.

    As a congregation we set aside the Sunday evening service last week to pray over this event. Perhaps we should have more prayer time over this in our congregations for the sake of seeking God and to remind ourselves about those who have lost so much so quickly.

  3. Marshall Johnston says:

    Thank you, Thabiti. I was thinking similar thoughts last night. Have I not allowed myself to feel very deeply about this? Am I callously focused on my own life? Has this become so relatively commonplace that I am numbed to the horror? I’ve not even mentioned it to my congregation, except in passing.

  4. Thank you brother! I admit that I felt pangs of conviction and need after reading your blog. First, I am thankful that Christ fulfilled my duty to be broken-hearted about sin, death and the need of others. Without his fulfillment of the great commandments none of this would matter. Second, I rejoice that the Spirit of God through the Word of God can break my stony heart and make it softer, more caring and burdened about the needs in this world. Thank you for sharing openly!

  5. DragonLady says:

    Thank you. I have been thinking this since Friday, and wondering when and how I got so calloused to such an atrocity that it barely registered. As if it should make a difference that I don’t know any of the victims or survivors.

  6. EJDolce says:

    I confess to feeling much the same way. I have a tendency to excuse myself with the idea that I’m “solution-oriented” but I know deep down that seeking resolution is not inconsistent with real grief and sorrow. But I also know that the culture of distraction has a hold on me. I know I can easily choose to focus on any angle of this situation that I’m comfortable discussing. I’m grateful for this post which has helped me come to terms with this tendency of mine.

  7. Stephen Naglak says:

    Thanks for this honest post, I’ve felt the same way about this event as well as other events, such as tsunamis and monsoons. I hope God will give me more of his heart, not just for those effected by the Sandy Hook tragedy but compassion for those I meet everyday who are walking through the trials of life.

    “When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless like a sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

    I want to have the heart of Jesus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Search this blog


Thabiti Anyabwile photo

Thabiti Anyabwile

Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor for Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

Thabiti Anyabwile's Books