Many of us just learned a few hours ago of a mass shooting that took place at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, near San Antonio. At this time, more than 20 are dead and about as many wounded.
Following this mass shooting, the same thing happens, especially on social media, that happens after every other mass shooting or event leading to mass casualties. People rush to post some version of what mainly includes the phrase, “THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS.”
Considering this title, it may surprise you to know that I am an extremely imperfect, Christian man. Now let me get to the point and explain why I feel “THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS” is incredibly selfish.
“Thoughts and prayers” didn’t stop the last mass shooting. It didn’t stop this one and sadly, it won’t stop the next one. So what is your specific reason for continuing to say it? What is the goal? To repeat it over and over? Until when? At what point would you realize or feel that it has actually worked? During the times no mass shootings have taken place? So in other words, as long as mass shootings aren’t happening, that means this is working?
I know, I know…”trust in God.” I got that. But what about in the meantime, as people continue to die in mass shootings? The purpose of praying is to stop them, correct? No? So why are you doing it then?
The reason is simple.
You’re doing it for yourself.
Just like so much else in life, people rush to follow trends. Half the time, they don’t know what they’re following or even why. They just see others doing it and that’s all they need.
I don’t know about you, but damned if I’m going to say or do something over and over again upon realizing that it isn’t working. That’s the very definition of insanity.
But how can I say this is selfish?
For starters, how many of you are actually getting down on your knees to pray for the victims and their families? I know this will be the time everyone and their grandmother will say that’s what you’re doing, but it simply isn’t true. How do I know? Because I’m not stupid. You can raise up on me all you want, but you know whether or not you’re actually carrying this out. And I know you don’t have to actually get down on your knees to pray, but that’s the way most do it. The same would apply to praying without having to do this.
The truth is that for many people out there, posting it on social media is at far as it will ever go. There’s no need for everything else, because you’ve moved on just as quickly as you posted it, with the exception of periodically checking back to see if anyone has “liked” or shared it. That’s validation for many these days. I can’t tell you how many times someone has used the number of “likes” they’ve received on a comment or post as an “argument” against me: “Well, x people liked mine and only x liked yours, so…” and that’s it.
Guess you got me there. You win the internet.
Next, how exactly do your “thoughts and prayers” help the families of the victims of these mass shootings? When have you specifically spoken to any of them to know that this would help? Have you attempted to contact them? Do you tag any of them in your posts/comments? So how is posting it “helping” them? Oh, that whole “power in numbers” thing. So a random thing is said by a bunch of people and somehow it “helps.” You think that maybe one of the family members may stumble onto your post to see it.
Nah. Again…I doubt you’ve thought that far into it.
Another reply I’ve received from people is that this helps them to cope. Not the families of the victims, but the ones saying it.
Wait…so these family members lost loved ones to mass shootings…
…and you’re the one who needs to cope?
I get it. It is rough on all of us. I completely understand. But I think it’s safe to say that the families of these loved ones they lost are hurting just a little more than the rest of us. So you do what helps you cope while indirectly saying “thoughts and prayers” to other people?
That’s called being SELFISH.
You’re doing something primarily to make yourself feel better. You likely don’t care one bit if what you say reaches these families or not. Otherwise, you would make more of an effort to reach them, and other than posting on social media and rolling the dice.
Also, you say “Thoughts and prayers” because of what you believe in. So what about the families? What do they believe? How do you know this is even something that will matter to them?
I know what you’re going to say. “But Robert…this was done at a church. So DUH…of course they would all be okay with folks praying for them.”
Not everyone who goes to church or is religious is comfortable with others praying for them. I’ve come across many people like this. Not to mention, even believing in prayer, many folks (especially me) look for more than prayers, but physical action when something happens. Prayers may be appreciated, but when something can physically be done, that’s what many of us would prefer.
What if the person isn’t religious? Let’s say it was the Las Vegas incident or any other mass shooting that did not happen at a church. How do you know that everyone who suffered is religious or even believes in God at all? What does “Thoughts and prayers” mean to someone who doesn’t believe in a Higher Being?
Let’s say I’m walking down the street and I see that your house is on fire. Then I went somewhere and brought a cake back to your house. Unless you specifically asked for that, how exactly does that cake help you? That’s what “Thoughts and prayers” means to someone who doesn’t believe in God. It doesn’t mean anything.
And we’re not even discussing this “War on Christianity” paranoia. A person who is truly a Christian would not even come close to being offended at someone else exercising their Freedom of Religion. Period. End of story. I’m not interested in arguments or debates about this. Another person NOT believing in God should be no threat to you whatsoever to where you have to pout or try and strong-arm or bully them into doing so. You have a serious problem if you are bothered by this, which by the way, hasn’t changed and won’t change anyone’s mind, no matter how much you “promise” that they will go to hell upon not believing in God.
Again…you’re saying it for yourself. You’re not saying it for them.
Please save all the “Robert, don’t judge” statements. This isn’t judging. This is speaking the truth, whether you want to admit it or not. Many of same ones who peddle “thoughts and prayers” don’t have two kind words to say about racism, sexism, Puerto Rico (yes, they are still fighting now in recovery from Hurricane Irma), called the NFL anthem protesters every name in the book and will cuss each other out over politics all day and night. So I’m really not interested in the hypocrisy.
Lastly, how do you know “Thoughts and prayers” is even what these families are looking for?
Did you bother to ask?
Of course you didn’t. You did your due diligence by posting it on social media.
I’ve been in the Army for the past 20 years. Very often, things are happening that require groups of people to offer physical assistance. So when I go to one of these occurrences, I find out who is in charge and I ask them where I can go to help; how I can be of assistance. It’s commendable to just dive right in, but sometimes, you don’t know if you’re helping or hindering. So I always like to make sure. I’ll say something like, “Where do you need me? How can I help?”
As much as “Thoughts and prayers” may make YOU feel better, it may not help these families at all. In fact, they may need help in other areas. But again, you didn’t even bother to ask. You gave the same “Thoughts and prayers” response as you did with the last mass shooting, and the last one and the one before that. That’s your go-to. So who has time to actually reach out to anyone to make sure that’s what’s needed?
Who even cares?
Why would you just box everyone in like that? So just because you said “Thoughts and prayers” following the last twenty-six mass shootings, it has never once occurred to you to maybe try something different? You seriously believe that everyone or even most people who have lost loved ones to mass shootings would benefit 100% from your posts of “Thoughts and prayers”?
That’s because the bottom line is, as has been repeated in this blog post, that’s not a concern of yours. The same way people all run to social media to boast about how perfect his or her life is, how “tough” they are, how much he or she is a “boss” at life, how much everyone is “stupid” except them and a host of other things, this is for show. Nothing more, nothing less.
Can I prove this?
Let’s be real. The effort it would take to prove this would be far more trouble than it is worth. I would have to secretly follow people around and maybe record them in some fashion to verify. Maybe hook machines up to their brains to get what they’re thinking also.
I’m going to go with instinct on this one and again, the fact that I am not stupid. I know far too many people who respond religiously to something with very little substance to follow.
Don’t get me wrong. As I said above, I am a Christian man. I don’t have a problem with prayer. But what I do have a problem with is people forcing their religion on others. With people assuming that everyone should be okay with “Thoughts and prayers” just because one says it. That a person uses expressions containing these words to make themselves feel better, using the families as scapegoats, of course, thinking that people would be too afraid to do like I’m doing now and speaking up about it. That far too many people out there answer every question with “Praise the Lord!” or “Hallelujah!” or “God Bless!” but offer little substance or even concern of whether the person being spoken to is on the same page with them religiously. Sprinkling it in is fine. But you sound robotic to handle just about every situation in about the same exact manner.
Religion is not supposed to be selfish. It is supposed to help others. But in order to HELP OTHERS, you have to spend more time finding out from THEM what it is they need and not just assume that because the last batch of folks were good with your “Thoughts and prayers” that this group of people and the next group would be also. Not to mention, if social media is as far as you ever go with it, which is the case for most people, that’s not helping the families at all. You’re only looking to help yourself. Once you get enough “likes” and shares, your work is done.
Two hands working can do FAR more than a thousand hands clasped together in prayer. If you continue to go to the prayer “well,” while not doing nearly as much in other manners, then again, the “Thoughts and prayers” were mainly for yourself, especially when you haven’t even attempted to find out how you can help the families of these victims.
That, my friends and fellow Christians, is the VERY definition of SELFISH.