Lessons from the Santa Barbara Shootings

Last night (May 23, 2014), a 22-year-old man killed at least six people and injured at least seven during a killing spree in Santa Barbara, California.  A video made by the assailant explaining his motivation is posted on the website of Glenn Beck’s news organization, The Blaze, with attribution to LiveLeak.  (Here is the link.)

In the video, the killer (who has since died) laments that he is a 22-year-old virgin.  He also says that he is lonely and isolated, and that the world needs to pay for his suffering.  (Speaking of “suffering,” The Blaze has photographs from his Facebook page that depict his rather decadent lifestyle.)

Watch his video and you will come away with the distinct impression that this kid felt like he deserved to be worshiped.  And no wonder: Here is a guy who had wealth like few other twenty-somethings have.  As the photographs show, he traveled the world in first class.  He drove expensive cars.  (In fact, his crime was committed from the confines of a BMW.)  He went to movie premieres.  He attended private concerts.  Everything that he wanted he got.

Yet, he was miserable.

We know very little else about this kid, except that his father is a movie director and his step-mother is an attractive French actress.  However, we may infer that he had not yet obtained his degree because he talks in his video of having spent only a few years in college.  If so, it seems reasonable to conclude that he didn’t have a high-paying job–certainly not the kind that would have subsidized his elaborate tastes in clothes, cars, travel, and entertainment.   Thus, the money he spent likely came from his father and not from his own labors.

In point of fact, this kid believed the world revolved around him.  He had the money.  He had access to celebrity.   (I’ll have to ask my wife or my secretary if he had the looks; in the meantime, let’s just concede that point.)  For these reasons, he believed he was better than the “lesser brutes” who got to have sex with the sorority girls.  So why was he still a virgin?  It’s so unfair, he exclaimed.

This doesn’t add up.  As we all know, California is adjacent to Nevada, where prostitution is legal.  If this super wealthy kid had REALLY wanted to have sex, all he had to do was to catch a flight to Vegas.  Or if he didn’t care about legalities, he could have telephoned a local “escort service” and hired an “escort” for an evening.

Now please don’t misunderstand my point.  I do not condone prostitution.  It’s wrong.  But clearly this kid had no comprehension of right and wrong.  (Otherwise, he wouldn’t have shot a dozen people for no reason.)  So if he had truly wanted to say goodbye to his virginity, it was well within his power to do so.  Therefore, in view of his proximity to both legal and illegal forms of prostitution, his lack of sex was not the real issue.

No, the real issue was his lack of control.  This kid could control any THING, but he could not control any BODY–not even himself.

He wanted the sorority girls to worship him because he was, as he put it, “the perfect gentleman.”  But since they refused to honor him, he would destroy them.  As a result, about a dozen families have been torn apart, all because some kid couldn’t have his way.

This guy was a sociopath.  As such, there probably was no way that this could have been prevented. But even if it could have been prevented, he would have needed some serious intervention while he was still a child.  Hence the reason that parents, in particular, should learn some very important lessons from this tragedy:

1.  Children should not be given everything that they want.   I have a friend who comes from a wealthy family.  Yet despite his family’s wealth, he makes peanuts working at his day job.  Why?  Because he has a dream that he wants to accomplish on his own; as such, he doesn’t want his parents to bankroll him.  (Besides, he remembers the days when his parents had to work three jobs to keep the lights on.  He appreciates their efforts, and now he wants his parents to enjoy the fruits of their labors without the added burden of unnecessary demands from him.)

I consider my friend to be a class act.  He understands appreciation.  The same cannot be said for the kid who went target practicing from his BMW.   He had no appreciation for the wealth that he enjoyed.  Instead of being thankful for what he had, he was miserable for what he didn’t have.  He took and took and took, but it was not enough to satisfy his cravings.  Eventually, his sense of entitlement became supreme, fueling his dissatisfaction until he finally had to act.  He was mad as hell and was not going to take it anymore.

A child with a sense of entitlement is as dangerous as gasoline stored near a flame.  The Bible talks of God chastening those whom He loves (Prov. 3:12).  Sometimes the best expression of love is discipline.  As best as I can tell, entitlement and discipline mix like oil with water.

Parents should be advised to nip in the bud any sense of entitlement that their children might have before it blooms into a monstrosity that cannot be controlled.

2. Money magnifies what is already present in a person’s character.   Look, I understand just how important money is. Nobody works for free. We all need money to survive.  However, money in and of itself adds no real value to a person’s life.  It merely accentuates what’s already there.

A person who is loving and compassionate without money will be even more gracious with money. Conversely, the reverse holds for one who is hateful or selfish; give him money and he will be even more hateful.

The guy who killed these innocent bystanders was a narcissist to say the least. His decadent lifestyle compounded his already vaulted sense of superiority, validating his decision to render judgment upon the rest of humanity.  As such, his prodigious wealth magnified his depravity.

Although the following observation has little to do with violent crimes, it is still an important lesson for parents:  If you want to see the true nature of your child’s character, give him a few hundred dollars and watch what he does with it. How your child handles the money will identify which areas of his character need strengthening and which need correcting. By using this experiment as a barometer, you can follow King Solomon’s advice:  “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).

3. Parents, your children are talking. Are you listening?  The kid who caused this pain may have been raised by some decent parents. Maybe they did their absolute best with what they had to work with. We may never know.

What we do know, however, is that this kid had the whole world on his plate, but even that was not enough. He was missing something, and he wanted to tell the world what was on his mind.  Clearly, he thought that no one was listening.

As parents we must do a better job of listening to our children. If we don’t listen to them, we won’t be able to identify their pain–much less walk with them through it.  As this situation demonstrates, untreated pain will spread like the worst cancer, metastasizing over broad segments of our society.

Without casting aspersions or laying any blame upon this guy’s parents–as they, too, are going though a terrible loss–I encourage all parents (myself included) to make a special effort to listen to our children.  Because one day they may stop talking to us and start talking on YouTube for the rest of the world to hear.

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In the final analysis, the killings in Santa Barbara were senseless.  There is no justification for such a horrific event. Ultimately, the shooter is solely responsible for this action (unless, of course, he was part of a broader conspiracy, which seems doubtful).  May God bless and keep the victims, their families, and all others who were involved.

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