Lessons From the Chardon Shootings

by Dennis Michelson
(Novelty, Ohio)

One Heartbeat

One Heartbeat

Luke 13:1-5


Introduction: For the past several years my main office has been located inside the Geauga County Safety Center in Chardon, Ohio. My office location was not particularly significant until this past Monday morning. Ten shots rang out at the Chardon High School and everything changed. The following are some observations and lessons I have gleaned from the events of this past week.

1. A Psychological/Sociological Lesson

There has been widespread speculation as to "why" the alleged shooter did what he did. Everyone is focused on looking for the "trigger" that set this young man off on his bloody rampage. Suffice it to say that in a broken home there are no whole eggs.

Dr. Aaron Beck - founder of Cognitive Therapy (later Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) - has suggested for years that our automatic thoughts tend to trigger schemas which are informed by core beliefs. Albert Ellis borrowed from ancient philosophy and taught that what happens to us is not nearly as important as how we view it.

Simply stated, the automatic thought or observed trigger is only the "straw that breaks the camel's back." If our schemas (or battery of associated thoughts) are already filled with irrational thoughts and beliefs then we are more likely to go over the edge and resort to maladaptive behaviors. This inclination to "snap" is driven further by any core beliefs or lack therof.

Nature and Nurture combine to equip someone with a predispostion toward violent acts. The home, the church, and the government are given by God to offset the tendency for fallen men and women to do what comes naturally. When there is a breakdown in any one of those institutions (or all three) then tragic results become more likely.

It is my personal belief (theory) that the progressive breakdown in the home has led to the increase in violence and anti-social behavior. Parents who want to stem the tide of tragedies like the one we witnessed this week can do the most ulitmate good by providing a stable, loving, and nurturing environment for their children.

Young people can best learn how to treat one another by observing the way their own mother and father treat each other. Given the exponential increase in divorced and dysfunctional homes, it should not come as a shock when the "chickens come home to roost." Bad parents do not always mean bad kids. However, a plethora of broken homes can only serve to promote a broken society.

2. A Biblical Lesson (Luke 13:15)

I spoke to a young man Monday morning who had just evacuated the cafeteria where the shootings took place. His right ear was a little bloody and he indicated that a bullet had grazed his ear. Standing in the midst of other students from the cafeteria, the young man asked somewhat rhetorically, "I wonder why I made it and the others didn't?"

The local prosecutor has already labeled the shootings as "random" with no clear motive. Jesus Christ provided the answers we need when faced with what appear to be "random" acts of violence and tragedy. Read carefully Luke 13:1-5 and you will see what our response should be (and not be).

a. We Tend to Judge Others (13:1-2)

b. We Tend to Judge God (13:3-4)

c. We Ought to Judge Ourselves (13:5)

3. A Practical Lesson

I was impressed with the professionalism and efficiency displayed by those who quickly responded to this tragedy. As the week unfolded, someone said that what took place on Monday should not define Chardon but Chardon should be defined by what has been done in response to Monday. If this week is any indication then Chardon will be known in the future as a place of Maple Syrup, Snow, and Courage.

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