Friday, April 20, 2007

The Isolated Hokie

A loner; silent; suicidal – these are words that have been used to describe Cho Seung-Hui, (pronounced joh sung-wee) the gunman behind the atrocious massacre at Virginia Tech. In reading over a number of articles about him, it becomes obvious that he was socially inept. In all, it would be safe to assume that relationships were virtually non-existent in his life. Even his roommates were frank regarding his social negligence: no eye contact whatsoever; minimal conversation, if any; strange behavior was the norm.

Am I saying that if he had more relationships that it could have averted this tragedy?

Well, no. But I do believe that the lack of relationships potentially reveals that he was so deeply troubled and insecure concerning his own self-worth that he went to the extreme to avoid any confrontation. In doing so it was a shield to protect his fragile self from further alienation. In a letter written by the gunman, he railed against “rich kids,” women, and religion, specifically Christianity. Essentially it was a “me verse them mentality.” It seems to me that the common denominator among the three elusive things that he couldn’t secure: acceptance. This alleged gap between him (the have not’s) and the rich kids in school could have been a reality in his experience or it could have been his own false perception. By all means this is an unfortunate reality in some situations; yet, I cannot totally dismiss the possibility that this gap was exagerated in his own mind. Or simply a broken record rehashing an earlier experience.

Tied in with his stalking of two specific female students at VT, it is plausible to suggest, again, that acceptance was elusive. As he was running amuck regarding his desire for the opposite sex, it was reinforcing his perception of a lack of acceptance. He fell short. He wasn't wanted. With his advances rejected, he could only look from afar. How does one internalize such circumstances in their mind? This seems to feed into the persona that he exemplified consistently through high school and college.

Then his inconsistency regarding Christianity lends me to believe that his alienation dictated his views of the Christian faith. Interestingly within his ramblings he seems to identify with Christ as one who is a fellow martyr. He could identify with the scorn and hatred heaped upon Christ – however, he failed to see his own doing in crucifying the Son of God.

Again, I am not a doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist – but, I have to ponder the significance of the shortage of acceptance, approval, and affirmationt in this murderer’s life.

Recall Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: (1) physiological – those needs necessary for survival: food, shelter, water, and warmth (2) Safety & Security (3) Belonging & Love – friends, family, spouse, significant relationships (4) Self-esteem - achievement and mastery of skills (5) Self-actualization – engaging and fulfilling a cause greater than oneself.

As each level is mastered, the person is able to go to the next level. Sadly, Seung-Hui never mastered a sense of belongingness or self-acceptance. It doesn’t appear that he had any significant relationships. The evidence of meaningful expressions of acceptance is sorely lacking in this man’s life. When these needs aren’t met, it produces questions within us: What is wrong with me? In turn, these questions - if not addressed and answered - can fuel inner resentment that creates a hell within paradise. It is a heart that rages against the Creator.

Interestingly nothing has been said of his upbringing – namely, the pressures of expectations in a family from an Asian culture. Cultural expectations can create unrealistic expectations that can create deep inner anxiety and resentment. I have known personally Asian males who bore a brunt of deep shame because they couldn't measure up to the cultural and parental expectations that were demanded of them. The VT gunman's older sister was a Princeton graduate who is currently a State Department contractor. Could he measure up to what his sister was able to accomplish? Possibly the issue of acceptance within the home eluded him.

I want to make a statement that is true for anybody regardless of background: If the adversary is able to isolate you, he will then have the power to desolate you. The Apostle Peter writes:

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you konw that your brothers througout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (I Peter 5:8-9)

Our relationship, first and foremost with God, then with others determines how we view ourselves. We must learn to submit ourselves to God, thus believing what His Word declares who we are in Christ. We must humbly receive the reality of who we are in Him instead of allowing the diabolical venom to poison our spirit.

A believer who has become isolated must view their world through a framework that is incomplete. There are things that we can only see when alone before the Lord; yet, it is equally true that we need others to see more fully the biblical reality of life. Others are also enduring trials, temptations, suffering, and hardship. Life is tought. We are not alone in this journey called sanctification. It is dangerous when we start believing that somehow our experiences are so unique that others simply cannot fathom or relate to. Peter's epistle makes it clear that our fellow sojourners in the faith are indeed enduring the "same kind of sufferings." That is why we need both the alone with God and the relationships with other believers.

What about you? Are you in true fellowship with others? Are you taking the time to cultivate important relationships within your sphere? Or do you find yourself in a self-made prison of isolated confinement, thus allowing the enemy to make you an easy target to desolate? Have you constructed a false perception that everybody is somehow against you? You can still be attending church on Sunday and Wednesday and still feel like you are isolated. It takes work to find the right people to connect with in order to cultivate meaningful, biblical relationships. Don’t allow yourself to become isolated. Remember that isolation is the breeding ground for desolation. Biblical relationships allow us to experience the acceptance of the Father’s heart through other believers.

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