The terrible killings at a San Bernardino social services office was frightening on many levels. A home-grown terrorist. An immigrant wife. A nice kid with a baby and a career. A suburban government office having a holiday party.
Everyone liked the killer. He was a good employee who showed up and did his work. With a new wife and a a baby and a government job, his friends said he was “living the American dream.”
What demons lurked? What seething hatred did he have against the staff that only tried to help developmentally challenged kids. Why did he hate the dream so much that he sought to take it out on his coworkers?
The week prior to that incident was the attack in Colorado Springs at the Planned Parenthood clinic. And it doesn’t take too many clicks of the computer and you can see all the incidences of workplace violence over the years. Guns, knives, fists, angry shoves. The violence in these workplaces comes in many forms.
It almost makes you want to call in sick.
I was thinking about California and that office complex. The staff had cubicles while the managers were scattered in the outer offices with windows. There was likely a break room and water dispenser. The good ones came in and do their work. And there were a few trouble makers, those who complained about fairness and workload.
With a few variables, this sounds like your workplace.
And that’s what makes this troubling on many levels. With terrorism and general evil, we are suddenly feeling vulnerable.
In the past, it was dark alleys and certain parts of town that crime occurred. We never imagined that our schools, churches and workplaces would be targets.
My workplace has an “active shooter” protocol. It used to be nuclear bombs, tornados and fire drills. Now we have to think about what do if someone is walking doorway to doorway looking for targets. “Run-Hide-Fight” is a three pronged principle.
President Obama had a special address last night from his office. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. Without addressing the root cause of the fear, I almost felt like it was only discouraged those who are genuinely afraid. We have been put down before, accused of being hateful, even prejudice for our fears.
Making fun of people isn’t the most advisable thing to do when they are afraid. They need to be reassured. They want leadership. They want to feel safe. I said this after Paris. “No one wants to hear they are being irrational when every fiber in their body is twitching and their brains are on overload.”
Our fears are being fed by a steady diet of fear from our senior leadership, the media, and nearly every politician.
Let’s face it. Fear sells. It sells both liberal and conservative agendas. It sells ideas. It sells gun. It sells your soul.
And if you are like me, fear is debilitating. It keeps me up at night. It keeps me from living in freedom. It cages me, keeping me from the blessing of a life well lived.
So here are three attitudes I’m going to take to work.
I won’t play into the media hype
It seems like the world has gone crazy, and on many levels it has. But watching too much television and spending too much time on Facebook affects me. It creates broad generalities in my mind and I find myself swept up in hysteria.
The problem is that every workplace homicide is magnified by the news cycle, the Internet and social media. Suddenly, it seems like there are more and more of these incidents. They aren’t. In 1992, there were 1044 homicides in the workplace. Last year, there 403. There’s two times the chance I’ll die from a slip or trip at work than from a homicide.
In 1993, there were seven homicides by firearm for every 100,000 Americans, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 2013, that figure had fallen by nearly half, to 3.6 — a total of 11,208 firearm homicides.
I’m just saying don’t get pulled into the hype of fear.
Jeff Dvoskin, a senior psychologist with the Threat Assessment Group, says, “we tend to over-generalize from things presented to us most vividly.” He also says we are “misled about real versus perceived risks – pretty significantly.”
I won’t start distrusting my coworkers
It seems like every workplace has one. The brooder. The guy who drives a beat up pickup. The one whose whole life is a mystery. He is unkempt, has no close friends at work, and rarely gives a clue to his thoughts or emotions.
I am not about to start treating him like the next one to go off. I’m going to find ways to enage him, to talk to him, to extend him kindness.
And there are those in my workplace, and yours as well, that don’t look like you or act like you. Because someone is different doesn’t mean they are dangerous. I know in many situations I’ve been the guy that people wondered about.
Banning loners, or Christians, or Muslims, or bald guys, or men with beards or Far Right or Far Left people won’t stop evil.
I won’t become a slave to what-if
The bible has some sage advice. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7.
The spirit of fear is something that twists possibilities into realities. I had a grandmother who came up with the most bizarre scenarios and parlayed them into advice. “Don’t eat chicken wings because you might eat a bone and choke on it and die.” “Don’t get gas on the pump next to the street because someone could veer off the road and hit you and blow up the station.” “Don’t go swimming because there have been shark attacks (in Australia.)”
She watched the news and that was her reality. The What-if scenarios are everywhere today. I can’t throw myself into them because then I will be of no good value to either God or this world.
Instead of fear, I’m called to Power, Love, and a Sound Mind. Care to join me?