DEAR READERS: Now is the time for all of us to shore up our spiritual selves. I say this in the wake of recent senseless shootings at a movie theater in Colorado and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Sadly, by the time this column is published, another random act of violence likely will have harmed or even killed someone.
I ask a seemingly rhetorical question: Why?
Although we cannot know for sure why there seems to be a growing epidemic of indiscriminate acts of violence against innocent people, it is clear that many of us are suffering. People are experiencing pain in so many ways -- financial collapse, loss of employment, health challenges, depression, and loss of love or loved ones. When people are in crisis, they sometimes resort to extreme behaviors. Stress can, and too often does, bring out the worst in people.
Mental health professionals recommend that once you realize you are stressed, it is time to reach out for help. One consultant, Pat Ward (www.patwardconsulting.com), notes that when people are living in stress, they often exhibit behaviors that do not serve them well, such as making excuses, rushing to judgment, complaining and being self-righteous. They usually don't even realize they are behaving badly.
Ward recommends working with a consultant who uses the Birkman Method of personality testing (www.birkman.com) to help you identify how you think and how you can address the way you react. This is particularly helpful when you are crippled by stress.
Other experts recommend seeking spiritual counsel that can support you when you are feeling unsteady. Exercise can help as well.
The point is that we have to turn the tide in our behavior and recognize that we are not alone, that help is at the ready, that we can survive the challenges that come our way. Too often, people isolate themselves when they are feeling down. This is not the best course of action, based on all of the research that I have done with consultants, spiritual advisers and fitness counselors.
Families are grieving all over our nation and beyond because of heartless, violent public outbursts. Let's do all that we can to end this behavior. We can choose to take care of ourselves, remain ever mindful of those around us, and actively offer love to those in our midst.