By Carol Chester
In response to the most recent school shooting in Florida, what are we saying? Many are expressing the need for stricter gun control laws, tighter security at schools and training on how to react to gun violence. Yet few are focusing on the need for understanding. How can we address the situation unless we understand the underlying causes?
What brings an individual to resort to gun violence?
Uncontrolled anger leads to harm—either to harm of the angry individual or to harm of others. Anger, a basic human emotion, begins to emerge in a child during the toddler stage.
Many of us have observed the behavior of a toddler having a temper tantrum. During a temper tantrum, the child may kick, scream, yell, fall to the floor, or hold his or her breath. If you were to ask the child why he or she is acting that way, the child will say, “I don’t know.”
Children do not understand human behavior. They do not inherently know that they should think before reacting to an impulse.
Why are we not having more conversations about teaching children ways to control their emotions? Why are we not hearing more about programs that train parents, caregivers and teachers how to equip children with techniques to calm themselves down whenever they feel angry or distressed?
A group of students from Worcester State University traveled to South India last summer where they stayed at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery for three weeks. Nearly every day the students had the opportunity to interact with Buddhist monks and nuns who taught them about basic Buddhist philosophy and traditions.
In particular, Buddhists study the nature of the mind. They learn that the mind is constantly being bombarded with negative thoughts and emotions. Through meditation and prayer, Buddhists learn to calm the mind and focus on the wellness of all sentient beings.
Perhaps we all can garner lessons from Buddhist teachings. Perhaps we can adopt the philosophy of maintaining a calm mind and having compassion for all human beings and all animals. The practice can begin here at Worcester State. We can have conversations about ways to apply the principles of calmness and compassion. We can create programs for students, faculty and staff members. We can also organize programs for children at schools and community centers. Together, we can spread the word that outbursts of anger and destructive behavior lead to harm in the individual and in our community.
We may not be able to stop the tide of violence that is plaguing our schools; however, we can do something to educate the public about ways to promote self-control and to develop compassion for family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.