The missing ingredient of a gunman’s character

Whether it’s an adult in West Virginia shooting his former girlfriend or a teenage boy in Utah planning on doing the same at his high school–both items in today’s news–behind it all is a something missing in their lives:  the inability to handle disappointment.

A few years ago, the Secret Service did a study of school shootings.  The finding was:  Most occurred because of a disappointment.  Somebody was bullied.  Somebody was dumped by a girlfriend.  The school shooting is done almost always by a boy.  Among girls, the sad fact is that when a teenage girl is desperately hurting, she is more likely to take not somebody else’s life–but her own.

For so many young people, the problem is that they are too young to understand life.  It goes in cycles.  There are ups–there are downs.

To be down at one time doesn’t mean, that’s the way life IS.  But they are too young to have the wider view of life:  When the dial lands on “down,” it’s just a normal cycle.  Rather, for them, being down means–that IS life.

Desperation sets in.  Destruction of life follows.

The inability to deal with disappointment!

Some who never grow this character trait as kids–also never learn it as adults.  They can’t take that a girlfriend no longer wants to be with them.  They can’t let the person go.  A restraining order is needed.  Often, however, the restraining order makes no difference.  The ex-boyfriend stalks the woman–shoots her and her new boyfriend.

One thing I’ve found helpful as a minister is to tell someone who is hurting from a break-up:  The world is bigger than HER.  Yes, it hurts.  Yes, rejection is a punch in the gut.  But it isn’t the rest of your life.  The world is bigger than her.  If you obsess over this one person, you are making your world awfully small.

One of the best training grounds for dealing with disappointment is–sports.  Because in any sporting event, the disappointments will occur so many times, you get plenty of opportunity to learn how to cope.

I once heard Pirate reliever Mark Melanchton remark after a loss, “Baseball is built around failure.”  Failure at the plate, failure on the mound, failure to drive in a run…A player gets plenty of opportunity to learn how to cope.  Sports can do that for a person.

I am an official in five sports:  baseball, softball, field hockey, soccer and futsal (a type of indoor soccer).  I have observed many coaches.  I have seen some rise to a level of a life-teacher, helping kids deal with disappointment.  But I’ve also seen coaches act worse than kids.

One time, I was refereeing a soccer match in a tournament–in which a girls’ team beat a boys’ team.  In fact, the boys’ team lost twice to a girls’ team.  The problem was:  The adolescent boys didn’t take the girls seriously.  They got trounced–twice.  Their coach, however, reacted by blaming me, the referee.  He went crying to the tournament director, insisting that I be removed.  The coach acted no better than the adolescent boys.  They didn’t learn anything but how to whine.

Indeed, the younger the players, often the worse the coaches act.  I have a saying when I referee a U10 soccer match:  The kids are nine, the adults are two.

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