The Parable of the Mass Shooting That Didn’t Happen

The gun sits on the car seat beside him.

He watches the people lined up outside the club. People? More like swine. Robotic pigs, programmed to get into lines, to work and to sweat all day and then, at night, to rub their sweaty bodies together on a dance floor.

The gun sits on the car seat beside him.

But it’s not just a weapon; it’s a promise that will finally be kept.

No one has ever kept their promises to him.

mass shootings

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His parents always told him they were interested in him, but when he tried to talk to them, he could see the faraway-glassy look in their eyes. And they told him they’d love him no matter what. But he overheard what they condemned in everyone else. Would they really love him if they knew the things he really thought, the things he really did, and the things he really wanted to do? He thought not.

The gun isn’t a weapon; it’s a promise that will finally be kept.

His girlfriend had promised him forever. In return, he’d promised her everything. Then, after all that promising, she’d had the nerve to tell him her feelings had “changed.” That she no longer loved him. That it was over. One more promise broken.

The gun isn’t a weapon; it’s a promise that will finally be kept.

The politicians promised prosperity. They said there was a formula to things: honest work, blood, sweat, tears, a house, a marriage, kids, and retirement accounts were supposed to add up to the American dream. But his father had worked like a slave for the company, and then the company abandoned him for cheap, overseas labor. The banks had robbed people blind on bad mortgages, and now his parents’ house was worth nothing. His parents weren’t dreaming; they were scraping by.

The gun isn’t a weapon; it’s a promise that will finally be kept.

The church promised him peace. They’d told him if he went every Sunday, gave his energy to their programs, his money to their building, and his heart to their Jesus, then he could be assured of eternity. But his problem wasn’t fear of the afterlife; his problem was despair about this life. He’d hoped the church would open the trap door, showing him the way to a deeper, more meaningful level of this life. Instead, they’d just kept making empty promises about the next one.

The gun isn’t a weapon; it’s a promise that will finally be kept.

So, as it sits on the car seat beside him, he wonders, why am I hesitating?

Why am I sitting instead of shooting?

Yet, he knows the answer. The man.

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A Dad’s Letter to His Kids (About the Perfect Father’s Day Gift)

Dear Little Ones,

The Kohl’s catalogue arrived in the mail again.

Another Father’s Day, another 20% off coupon, and another volume of masculine-looking gifts: lots of sports stuff, grilling stuff, and gadgety stuff. But I’m not writing to tell you about the gift I want you to give me.

I’m writing to tell you about the gifts you’ve already given me.

Father's Day gift

Photo Credit: Bigstock (altanaka)

You’ve helped me give up control.

From the moment I found out you were in your momma’s belly, the most important thing in my life was also the thing over which I had the least control. For thirteen years now—through birth and growth and temper tantrums and increasing independence—I’ve had to learn how to be caring without being controlling. As you know, I’m still learning, but the lesson is one of the most valuable gifts a man can receive.

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A Post About Marriage and What We’ve All Longed for Since the Crib

I’m in the garage working, when my daughter runs in breathless.

“Come, Daddy, fast!” she exclaims. I ask her what’s wrong, and she looks at me quizzically. “Just come, Daddy!”

Okay.

We walk around the garage to the backyard, where she climbs onto the trampoline and starts bouncing. I wait. She bounces. And bounces. Finally, I ask her what she wants me to see. To which she replies,

“Me, Daddy. I just want you to see me.”

I know, Sweetie, it’s what we all want.

In fact, it’s probably the reason so many of us get married…

marriage

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of marriage books.

Most authors mean well, but, oftentimes, the subtle or not-so-subtle message is that if you find a good marriage, then you will finally find the good life. If you get your marriage right, then you will finally feel right. If you are satisfied with your marriage, you will finally be satisfied with your self.

And no marriage can deliver on such promises.

However, I just read an early version of a marriage book that may have restored my hope for the genre. It’s entitled, Very Married, by Katherine Willis Pershey. The only problem was, after finishing it, I couldn’t quite get my head around what had touched me so deeply.

Then my daughter bounced.

And another little girl squealed…

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The Simple (But Not Easy) Choice That Will Define All of Us

resilience

I’m standing in my daughter’s room, and she’s showing me her new pen.

The body of it is thick and filled with glittering liquid, and it’s still wrapped in the original cellophane. I’m oohing-and-ahhing when her older brother walks in. Probably feeling left out of the attention and the interest, he decides to rain on the parade.

“That’s stupid. You can’t use it if it’s still in the plastic.”

My daughter explains, “I’m protecting it because I don’t want it to get ruined.”

He decides to play on the fear she’s just revealed, and he taunts her with a devious smile, “Yeah, that’s true, you better not drop it or it will be broken forever.”

Then, my daughter pauses. Something new comes into her eyes. It’s fire. She stands up straighter. She looks directly at him. She holds out the pen at shoulder height.

And she lets it go…

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Why You’re Good Enough (No Matter What)

self-worth

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I’m good enough.

I’m smart enough.

And doggone it, people like me.

Those are the famous words of the Saturday Night Live character, Stuart Smalley, beloved for the humorous way in which he borrowed from any self-help or twelve-step movement in order to feel better about himself. And they sound a lot like words I often use in my clinical practice, in my writing, and in my own mirror. I often talk about the never-good-enough feeling called shame, and the importance of healing it by believing we are already worthy, even beautiful.

Sounds similar.

But Stuart Smalley’s sentiments are actually the opposite of mine. 

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The Antidote to All the Crap in Your Facebook Feed

When I’m procrastinating on writing—due to fear, fatigue, fear, lack of inspiration, did I mention fear?—Facebook is like a magnet.

One day recently, I could feel its pull, so I decided to trick myself into writing by giving into the temptation, going to Facebook, and crafting a blog post entitled, “The Antidote to All the Crap in Your Facebook Feed”—a sort of hopeful, redemptive response to all of the angry, nasty, and cynical news in my Facebook scroll.

The first item in my feed was exactly what I’d predicted.

A New York Times article about the anger at a political rally, replete with divisive comments from both supporters and haters. It confirmed my expectations, and I got ready to write a really good response to all the soul-sucking content.

But then I kept scrolling.

And it was the only article posted in the previous two hours that drained my soul.

The rest of the content nourished my soul.

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What I Want My Daughter to Know About How to Make a Brave Face

lonely

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“Make a scared face.”

It’s bedtime and my wife and I are in the bathroom with our six-year-old, Caitlin. She’s brushing her teeth, and I’m looking on, enjoying the banter, as my wife prompts Caitlin to make faces in the mirror.

Caitlin’s eyes grow wide and her mouth goes agape. “That’s not scared, that’s surprised,” her mother teases her. Caitlin giggles, smiling around the gap where her two front teeth used to be.

“Make a sad face.” Caitlin’s lower lip juts out and she bats her eyelashes repeatedly. “That’s not sad, that’s pouting!” her mother exclaims. Caitlin laughs again, knowing she got caught.

The life of a psychologist’s kid.

They continue to cycle through faces, each one some mixture of emotions and experiences, never quite pure, until I chime in, “Make a lonely face.”

Instantly, without thought, my daughter’s face goes dark, she turns her face not toward the mirror but away from it and from us, and she casts her eyes downward at the ground. My heart leaps into my eyes, where it takes liquid form. My wife’s breath catches in her throat, and a tender, “Oh,” escapes her lips.

Caitlin is six and she knows exactly what loneliness feels like.

And she knows exactly what we all do to make it worse.

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The Secret to Becoming Who You’ve Always Wanted to Be

true self

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I once knew an artist who told me about a sculpture he wanted to carve out of wood. He said he had a vision for it in his mind’s eye. Then a week passed. And then two. And then three. I assumed he was procrastinating.

When I asked him about it, he smiled and said, “Kelly, I can’t create what I want to create in just any block of wood. Every piece of wood has different grains and different textures. If you carve against the grain—try to force it into something it is not—you will crack the wood and ruin the sculpture. The shape of any creation is already in the wood. I just help it to become the shape that it already is.”

It’s true of wood, and it’s true of people.

You already are what you are becoming.

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Why Our Heads Fill Up with Too Many Thoughts and What to Do About It

If it hadn’t been so annoying, it would have been hilarious.

Several months ago, the American Psychological Association Practice Organization (APAPO) started a new listserv. The problem was, they didn’t ask permission; they just automatically added everyone in the organization to the list. Then, several weeks later, they sent out the first email—a relatively innocuous, informational correspondence. Useful to some. Spammy to others.

And the listserv exploded.

mindfulness

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It started with a handful of people asking to be removed from the list. Then, people who weren’t annoyed by the original email got annoyed by the extra emails, and they began demanding to be removed, as well. Next, people who had ignored the first round of complaints got angry at the exponential increase in messages, and they too replied to everyone, lambasting the whole community. My inbox was overflowing, even though the APAPO had only sent a single email.

The problem wasn’t the original email; it was the reaction to it.

This is how our minds work, too.

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Why Trying to Stay Married Forever Could Kill Your Marriage

marriage

Photo Credit: Shutterstock (Kuznetcov_Konstantin)

Before I got married, I was totally insecure.

And I thought getting married would finally absolve me of my torturously low self-esteem. I figured my anxiety would go away, because I’d no longer have to wonder if I was going to be loved forever. And I figured my loneliness would disappear, because we’d tangle our lives together.

I, um, miscalculated.

My fear and loneliness weren’t sacrificed to the marriage gods on our wedding altar. They survived our union. So, I did the only reasonable thing: I tried to guarantee our marriage would live forever, with anxious attention, constant conversation, and a taxing togetherness.

It wasn’t until later I realized: a marriage is like an orchid.

Orchids are a tropical, flowering plant, known for the vibrant color of their petals, their lush fragrances, and the vanilla bean they produce, which flavors our world. And, with the proper care, they are incredibly resilient—in the words of some botanists, “nearly immortal.” But they are most frequently killed by drowning. Anxious caretakers, aware the plant is of tropical origin, assume it must be watered all the time. In their attempt to ensure it will live, they accidentally kill it.

I almost killed my marriage by watering it too much.

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