I want to warn you not to read this post unless you really think about what I am saying. My comments could be misconstrued, but they are meant to instructively challenge each of us toward real growth in our living. In my own life, and especially in the aftermath of tragedy, I have noticed a particular recurring pattern. It often takes a tragedy to surface the human emotion of compassion. While it is refreshing to see someone moved toward compassion, it is indicative when this is where the movement stops. This emotion of compassion illustrates how we all are made in the Image of God (though that image has been marred and clouded by sin).
In our American culture, which often lends itself toward narcissism, compassion is elevated as the answer to dealing with tragedy. Experiencing a strong emotion of compassion can actually ensnare us if we fail to realize that this then must lead to some action. It is only through compassionate action that we can learn and grow through the trials, temptations, and tragedies of life. This is part of what I will discuss in my book’s chapter on lessons for communities and reflected in #7 of the “Top Ten” Lessons (the first tab above): “Serve One Another.”
Virginia Tech’s motto is “Ut Prosim,” Latin for, “That I may serve.” The emphasis on serving others is one thing that helps make this campus greater than many other institutions. The example of many in the Virginia Tech community in the aftermath of the 04/16/07 Tragedy is one that should be emulated. One can also see how the worldwide outpouring of support for Virginia Tech demonstrates that many others as well understand something of the importance of this lesson.
Not everyone understands this, though, or understands it as fully as they should. We each can evaluate how much we have grown when we observe the action we take that springs from our response of compassion. We also must learn that an important part of truly prevailing through tragedy is to Serve One Another. Seung-Hui Cho was not thinking this way through the difficulties in his own life. Those whose lives were changed that dark day, had best not continue to grieve to the point of defeat or depression, but overcome their own tragedy by growing and prevailing through service.