He made some really dumb choices and did some really bad things to some really good people. I hate to even try and put into words the things that happened because I don’t think that there are words enough to describe the pain that is left behind. As time passes however, I am constantly shocked at how many people have been affected. I find myself shocked at the scale and the magnitude of the lives that this one person’s actions have reached. There are direct victims, there are relatives, and close friends of the victims. There are even acquaintances of the victims that this pain has reached. There are family and friends of the “he” mentioned earlier that wrestle with themselves because they feel like they might have missed some warning signs. There are co-workers, mentors, and roommates that have hurt and ached over these things.
The pain is massive and the destruction has been unbearable for most. I by no means want to downplay these things because trust me, they cannot be downplayed. However, all of these people being affected makes sense in my head. His actions do not make sense. They never will. But, these people being hurt (and again I don’t feel like this is even a fair word because the magnitude is much greater than a pain that one word can describe) by what he did is not a shock. It makes sense that their lives would be so greatly affected.
There is so much from the entire situation that I still cannot wrap my head around. There is a lot that I know I never will be able too. One thing though that I can’t stop thinking about is how many people have been impacted. There are the people mentioned above. There are people he has NEVER spoken with and people he has never had any contact with at all. Some of these people are the people who will never step foot into a church because his actions confirmed that the church is simply an evil place. They are children who will never go to a sleep over because their parents have lost faith in their ability to determine an individual’s character. They are the therapists spending countless hours listening to the hurt and the pain. They are generations later that will be impacted by changed parenting styles. They are in multiple states, cities, churches, homes. They are the moms who are afraid to leave their children in a church nursery or the dads who read a news article and decide that maybe traveling on that friend’s family vacation isn’t such a good idea. They are the youth ministers and pastors who find themselves a little more on edge and watching closer to the interactions of their staff and volunteers. They are broken friendships, torn churches, anxious parents, hurt children, and unfortunately, I could go on and on.
As I have sat in this and wrestled through my personal pain, hurts, doubts, and fears, I keep going back to the thought that one person, ONE single person made such a huge impact. He didn’t do it as a group. He didn’t do it over the radio or the television. He did it by himself. I also find myself thinking “what kind of impact could have been made had he used that influence to do GOOD things?” The sad thing is, he didn’t and unfortunately none of us can change that.
What we can do though is recognize the power of influence that one single person can have. One person who could maybe make a difference and impact multiple cities, states, homes, churches, friendships, children, etc. We can recognize the ripple effect of a choice and use that to impact future generations. We can step back and think to ourselves, “What have I done today to make a positive difference, to change someone’s life for the better?” Maybe you already do that. I know I sure don’t do it enough. You could even take things a step further and consider that this is not just a YOU or an I question. What if WE collectively made that choice? How would people’s lives change then? What if we made as big of an impact as he did, but instead of such a negative one, we made a positive one? What would our world look like then?
Fortunately, I know some people who have taken time to step back and recognize that they can leave a huge and positive influence. They are living each day making choices that will bring joy, peace, and compassion to those around them. For those people I am grateful. However, for those of us who only spend our time ensuring we don’t leave a negative impact, we have to ask ourselves, is that really enough? In the world that we live in, a neutral stance is not enough. We have to instead recognize the power of one person’s influence and think daily, “What if I we could make as big of an impact as he did?”