Following the tragic shooting in Las Vegas, many people shared that their thoughts and prayers were with the victims of the shooting and their families. On one hand, I believe thoughts and prayers are important. I know that when I’m going through a difficult time, it helps to know that people are thinking about me and praying for me.
On the other hand, I fear that some people may use thoughts and prayers as a way to give up responsibility for change rather than owning responsibility for change. When we send out our thoughts and prayers, we might feel as if we have “done something already,” and our motivation to advocate for concrete changes that could reduce gun violence in this country could wane.
The Stoics had something to say about this issue. Epictetus, who was born a slave and ended up being one of the greatest teachers and thinkers of his day, said the following:
“We cry to God almighty, how can we escape this agony? Fool, don’t you have hands? Or could it be that God forgot to give you a pair? Sit and pray your nose doesn’t run! Or, rather just wipe your nose and stop seeking a scapegoat.”
When you offer your thoughts and prayers, don’t let this action decrease your personal responsibility for change. Thoughts and prayers shouldn’t decrease personal responsibility for change; they should join with personal responsibility for change. For example, this article lists eight modest safety measures that public health experts think could reduce gun violence by one-third—or more than 10,000 a year.
Offer your thoughts, prayers, AND take responsibility to support concrete steps to reduce gun violence.