How I Will Dishonor the Victims of the Boston Bombing

Boston Bombings

Photo Credit: chuddlesworth via Compfight cc

My wife runs marathons, and she finishes them in about four hours. Last October, I stood at the finish line four hours and nine minutes into the Chicago marathon. I know the joy of friends and family cheering on their loved ones.

On Monday afternoon, in Boston, that moment of joy and those people of joy were shattered by violence and lots of hatred and a couple of relatively small bombs.

On Monday afternoon, I guess I felt a little shattered, too.

Shattered, yet grateful my devastation was one of empathy, rather than flesh and bone.

I arrived home late on Monday night. My children were still awake but fading quickly in their beds. I kissed their foreheads and murmured prayers and after their eyes finally closed, I stood looking into the dark of their rooms and I felt grateful for breathing children and legs that work and the momentary safety of home.

As I watched them, I felt a depth of love for my children and my wife that doesn’t happen on a typical Monday night.

You may know the depth of love I’m talking about. I hope you do. It’s Love with a capital “L” and it cracks you open and it connects you to everyone and everything. In the depths of that Love there are no grievances too big for forgiveness, no brokenness too ugly for grace, there are no strangers and no enemies. It’s a love tenderized by pain and it’s a Love with the power to bring us all together.

I think we can honor the victims of this tragedy by giving ourselves over to this deep-love. And by clinging to it. But, over time, we won’t. I won’t.

I will dishonor the victims of Boston.

I will dishonor the victims by swimming up from the depths of that love and living once again in the shallows of my ego and self-interest and humanness.

I will dishonor them when my awareness fades.

I will dishonor them when my gratitude evaporates.

I will dishonor them in a hundred little ways: when I once again take my legs for granted, when the new scratch on the kitchen table is once again more important than the joy that put it there, when the stranger on the street no longer feels like the stranger that might die with me tomorrow, when all the petty endeavors of life become, once again, bigger than my love.

Indeed, I will dishonor them when my love swells and crests and finally recedes.

I will dishonor the victims of Boston because I’m human and because humans forget. But this time I’m resolving to remember a little bit longer than I usually do—a little bit longer than I remembered Sandy Hook.

I’m going to remember with prayer.

I’m not going to pray because it erases the past. And I’m not going to pray because I believe it guarantees healing or restoration for the physically and emotionally wounded. And I’m not going to pray for justice because I think it will ensure the guilty are captured.

I’m going to pray for the victims, because prayer keeps me aware. And as long as I’m aware, I’m loving. And as long as I’m loving, then terror loses.

You see, you can bring criminals to justice with law enforcement, but you can only bring terror to justice with love.

When terror looks upon Boston and sees a city drawn together, terror loses and love wins.

When terror beholds strangers coming to the aid of one another, terror loses and love wins.

When terror sows connection and a sense of belonging rather than fear and division, terror loses and love wins.

When terror plants the seeds of gratitude and gentleness in the heart of a father, terror loses and love wins.

I think the best way to honor the victims in Boston is to bring terror to justice, one loving moment at a time, one prayer at a time.

For as long as I can remember.

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Comments: You can share your thoughts or reactions at the bottom of this post.   

Disclaimer: This post is not professional advice. It should be read as you would read a “self-help” book. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor, who can become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. Counselors can be located through your insurance network or through your state psychological association.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Lisa Bartelt

    This is great, Kelly. Very moving. Prayer makes us aware. And loving brings terror to justice. So well put.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thanks, Lisa. I hope you all are well.

  • Cynthia Neal Kimball

    Thank you, Kelly. Your words give focus and suggest action…helpful and sustainable action. This was a helpful balm during this tumultuous week, a week of anxiously awaiting word from friends on Monday, of painful images of the injured, and of anger midst the tears. Prayer is right on so many levels.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thanks, Cynthia. I thought of you and that you had hoped to be running there. And thanks for your comment and the reminder that prayer is an active, not passive, event.

  • Jennifer Newell

    Thanks Kelly, this is spot on. One should never underestimate the power of prayer. In this case like to many others, we need to keep those that physically effected by this as well as those who emotionally where effected by this in our prayers.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Especially given the unfolding events today. Thanks, Jenn.

  • Cherrie Dudash

    Great, moving post Dr. Kelly. And I will pray, as long as I remember.

  • Laura Flores Kevilus

    Thank you for this.

    • drkellyflanagan

      You’re welcome, Laura.

  • Seah Tiong Hang

    Awesome post.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thank you, Seah.

  • Mark

    I don’t understand the significance behind your post, do you re-post this everytime there is a bombing in the middle east? Does the same thought process cross your mind everytime you hear about Africa? Just weeks after Boston, there was a Texan plant explosion with 5 times the number of deaths, and a mine exploded in China killing 18, I wonder if you felt just as fortunate then.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Mark, I think compassion always begins in the places and situations most familiar to us. in my case, being a marathon spectator. But, if nurtured, it may expand to include “suffering with” the entire cosmos. It has been a week of tremendous suffering across the globe, may our compassion know no bounds.

    • Max

      It’s not about a specific event. It’s about remembering what’s important and understanding the truth about happiness–it’s takes work. It’s quite easy to be sucked into the inertia of frustration and unhappiness. There are little things around us all the time that could easily make us miserable if we’re not constantly working to remember what’s important. Getting upset about a scratched dining room table is very human and very easy. What’s difficult is remembering that the table is just a thing–it doesn’t really matter. What’s difficult is cherishing the fact that your parents are alive, or the fact that every day your children get to use clean water to bathe, or that a friend of yours didn’t have homemade shrapnel projectiled into their abdomen. If we forget how lucky we are, we dishonor those who have suffered.

    • Ellie Gunderson

      Thank you Dr. Flanagan for this beautiful post… I too think that one of prayer’s most powerful effects is what it does in our own hearts.

      Mark, I just wanted to lovingly let you know that your question about “everytime you hear about Africa” comes across very offensively. Bad things happen on the continent of Africa just like they do everywhere else, but to make a blanket statement comparing specific disasters (bombings, explosions) to an entire continent in and of itself rather than a specific event that may have happened there, it saddens me because it seems as though all you associate the continent with is disaster. I live in Johannesburg, South Africa, and for every story of crime or poverty or death here, there are 10 stories of hope and action and love. Just wanted you to be aware. God bless!

  • kevin

    Thank you for taking the time to help me remember a little longer.

    • drkellyflanagan

      You’re welcome, Kevin.