How do we respond to tragic events reported in our newspaper regarding a teacher’s arrest?
This is not your fault. We do not know what all the charges in this case might be. However, please know that in any case of possible child exploitation: it is never the young person’s fault. Do not blame the innocent. Do not way feel complicit or blame yourself.
Speak up. Report abuse! Do not be afraid to share or ask questions. It is state law that we report abuse to law enforcement, but you can begin this process by sharing with a teacher or principle or clergy person. You can call or 1-888-APS-TENN (1-888-277-8366) or the local law enforcement. The Scriptures call us to stand with the victims and hurting.
Make a safe place for sharing and healing by listening. Listening allows a hurting person to unpack what they are feeling. Love listens. You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” (James 1:19-20.) Jesus often asked questions and listened to people’s thoughts. Listeners come alongside people, walking with them. Your presence alone can bring healing. Good listeners do not force conversation. Do not interrogate, blame, or argue with someone’s experience. People who are hurting may send up trial balloons, to see if you are trustworthy. Do ask clarifying questions: What did you hear? How do you feel about…? What are you thinking about…? What are other people saying? What worries you? Who needs support right now? What could we do to help? Owning our feelings, we can create a safe space for others to share: I am feeling…., I think we should…, I am so _______, I could just______.”
Allegations, news-stories, or rumors of possible abuse can trigger painful memories of someone’s past abuse. Listen. Offer compassion.
Pour out your heart, while not lashing out. It is normal to feel upset, sad, angry, confused, hurt, disappointed… Share your feelings with trusted friends, clergy persons, parents and mentors. It is okay to be upset, but be careful what you say, why you say it, and how you say it. The Psalms are filled with laments and Jesus cries out to God, “My God, why have you forsake me?”
In terrible circumstances, sadness is more Christ-like than anger. Anger and retribution seem to be our current cultural defaults, but anger ignores victims’ needs, focusing on the alleged perpetrator. Anger and retribution don’t undo the wrongs done, or bring comfort, healing, justice, and peace. Sadness focuses on being “with” the victims. It is okay to be angry. Anger at times can allow us to escape from bad circumstances (fight or flight), and is at times the first breaking free from some sort of oppressive experience. However, when we allow anger to drive our responses, we usually cause more harm. Jesus weeps over sinfulness: “As Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it, (Luke 19:40) Empathy holds a blessing. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4). It is okay to be angry. Ephesians 4:26 says “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” However, when we allow anger to drive our responses, we usually cause more harm.
Gossip and rumors always make things worse. Let the rumors end with you. Indeed, pointing people to accurate information can dispel rumors. It is easy to forget who might be listening and who might be hurt by our words. Gossip is a sin. (2 Corinthians 12:20). Venting is highly overrated. Course joking can accidentally cause pain. However, be aware that joking can be a method of dispelling icky feelings, dealing with fearful subjects, or airing anxiety. Be prudent in what you post, avoid rash statements and thoughtless comments.
People learn how to react from you. Confess your own emotions, anger, fears and worries. Parents and leaders need to be careful to not work out our issues with our children! Teens know when leaders and parents are rattled so just own it. Teens may be empowered by reassuring you. However, do not project anxieties onto young people! If you get overly worked up, confess that too! Saying, “I blew it and I am sorry” is solid parenting!
Christianity is a redemptive movement. “The Love of Christ urges us on… (Remember) God reconciled the world through Christ, not counting our sins against us, and giving us the message of reconciliation! We are ambassadors of Christ- God is making the appeal through us, therefore we entreat you: be reconciled to God”. ( 2 Corinthians 5:11-21) “Repent” means to turn towards God. God longs to bring wholeness to everyone. Christians are called be people seeking reconciliation not retribution. Redemption/reconciliation is two-fold: restoring one’s place and repenting from hurtful behavior. Punishment does not necessarily seek a restorative goal. Reconciliation’s goal is to restore a person to right relationship within a society. You might punish a liter-bug by giving them a $500 fine or seek to redeem their attitudes by with a roadside liter cleanup. Reconciliation balances justice and love (redemptive goodwill for all) and therefore demands our best thinking.
Justice is part of Christian theology. Jesus (who loves us and is full of mercy) is the final judge. We are commanded not to judge. “For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) Avoiding judgmental-ism does not mean never exercising church discipline or civil law. (Matthew 18:17) Love requires justice. A murderer might be redeemed by time away to ponder life. Victims deserve protection. Not-judging is a deeper spiritual attitude: it tends towards love and seeks redemption for all.
Christians model compassion for all. Try praying a simple prayer for everyone involved. A family prayer may open-up conversation and emotion. A crisis is a difficult but effective time to model the Golden Rule. “Treat all people in the way we want to be treated.” (Matthew 7:12) Our culture veers towards absolute statements and quick judgments. Life is more complicated than villains and super-heroes. One of my childhood coaches was arrested when I was in college. I hated seeing his name in the paper and knowing he made a huge mistake. Today, I find myself remembering life-lessons I learned from that fallen coach, who always rooted for me: “lean in”, “give it all you got”, and “you can”. The good things that someone once did, remain good things, even if that person veers far off the right path. Do not feel tainted by someone’s criminal behavior.
Turn off social media. There is mounting evidence that our need to be “liked” may be harming our inner psyche. We can feel the put down or cruelty of someone we do not even know via social media. People say things on social media they would be embarrassed to say to someone else’s face, at work, at lunch, or in front of a crowd. We should not give undo weight to the opinions of people we don’t share regular meals with, much less those we barely know!
Don’t let the good that has been done be tainted. Our culture veers towards absolute statements and quick judgments. Life is more complicated than villains and super-heroes. One of my childhood coaches was arrested when I was in college. I hated seeing his name in the paper and knowing he made a huge mistake. Today, I find myself remembering the life-lessons I learned from that fallen coach, who deeply rooted for my success at a key juncture in my life. I still hear his voice: “lean in, play hard, you can do this Purdue.” The good things that someone once did, remain good things, even if that person veers far off the right path. Do not feel tainted by someone’s criminal behavior.
Avoid taking the opportunity to teach an object lesson. People connect the dots better when we avoid preaching at them. Allow your child or your friends to explore their values in a safe and loving environment.
Be realistically positive. Parent’s affirm your love for children. Tell them you will always love them and stand with them. Help others imagine realistic scenarios of healing and hope.
Follow up with the hurting. After a crisis slips from the headlines, keep watch over each other in love.
The Band is bigger than one note, one horn, one flag, or one director. Take the field and play on. When the lights went off and the amp was unplugged, the band played on. You are part of a great line, marching on in unbroken step. You remind us that “the flag still waves.” You pump us up with Tuba Cheer. You are the cadence of Friday nights. You send us screaming with delight after you have taken the field and owned it. You are Headliner, Dream On, Asian Sketches, Interstellar Journey, and Into The Woods. You are loved by a bunch of wacky band parents. Children dance and clap when you endure the Christmas parade. You move us to the edges of our seats each concert season with beauty, harmony, precision, dedication, and skill. We will be stunned again on a Sunday afternoon, when we hear the progression from sixth grade to symphonic band. (I would imagine that) you have sent more players to All-State and Mid-State than all the other THS clubs and sports combined. Music is the soundtrack of the soul. We turn to music in the highest highs and lowest lows- it is beyond words. Play on. The world needs your sound. Play on.