Peace on Earth

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week’s column addresses the home in light of the horrific events of last week in Connecticut.

I’m not really happy with it. I was upset when I wrote it, which may explain part of it. But I think my answer is inadequate. The fact is this world is filled with brokenness. And I believe it’s getting worse. For years we lived on the residual benefits of our Christian heritage, but now we’ve got barely fumes of it. That’s not enough.

And the problem is that I don’t think you can have true healing from brokenness or pain apart from God. I can’t say that in a secular column, but that’s what’s missing here. There are no answers to the pain in this world except for people coming back to God and letting Him heal the brokenness. We need to pray harder and maybe we will see God work!

The message of the Christmas season is supposed to be “Peace on Earth”, yet there are years when that message seems especially anachronistic. This would be one such year. How can we reconcile the Christmas spirit with the abject horror of a gunman shooting up a class of six and seven-year-olds in Newtown?

My daughter said to me, “at least shootings don’t happen here,” referring to small town Canada. But shootings like this do happen in small towns because they have nothing to do with the crime rate of big cities and much to do with the pain inside the home. This week has brought renewed calls for gun control and increased security, and there very well may be merit in these proposals. But the problem is not primarily a safety one; it’s a heart one. We are creating a society of hurt, angry, warped individuals.

We don’t know all the details about the shooter, but I have yet to hear of a mass murderer who came from an intact, functional family. Even those who are mentally ill rarely act out unless it is combined with deep wounds at home. That does not mean that all people from broken or dysfunctional homes will turn out badly; I’m a child of divorce, and I like to think that I’m quite emotionally well-adjusted, thank you very much. But there is no denying that family instability is the root cause of much childhood emotional trauma. The Longevity Project, which followed thousands of people for decades, found that divorce of parents is harder on a child than the death of a parent.

That’s not polite to say, because we don’t want to make people feel badly. But I am sick of tiptoeing around certain unpleasant realities. Some marriages, of course, can’t be saved. Abusive homes are more damaging than divorced ones. But if a split has happened, let’s work even harder at helping our kids feel cherished and whole. Whether divorced or married, let’s focus on their needs, not our wants.

We are raising a generation of kids who are lost. So many are missing a parent. They spend more time on video games than they do with responsible adults. They live solitary lives on the internet. They’re looking for an outlet for the pain.

But once we’ve caused that pain, it’s either going to be dealt with in a healthy manner or it’s going to be turned inward or outward. When it’s turned outward, no amount of locks or gun control is going to rescue us.

There is no solution other than to start loving each other. Honour your commitments. Think of others first. Be nice.

Above all, do not get so caught up in your own angst that you ignore your kids’ needs. And if your relationship with your children’s other parent is already disrupted, do what you can to live in peace with your ex anyway. Let peace reign.

Dayspring Peace Mug

Peace isn’t something that you can magically find by putting up the right Christmas lights or cooking a great turkey or watching a Christmas special. It’s a matter of the heart. It’s a feeling that you have done the right thing. It’s the relief of making peace with your past. It’s not shoving problems under the rug; it’s acknowledging them, confronting the pain, and then deciding to move forward together.

And so, my readers, I wish you Peace on Earth, and Goodwill to all, in whatever tradition you celebrate. Hug those you love even harder this year. Do the right thing, and love one another, and we, too, can create peace in our homes. Indeed, that is the only way we will ever have peace outside of them.

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