“I just felt like something was pressuring me to do it,” John LaDue told his mother after his arrest in 2014.
LaDue had hatched a well thought-out plan, according to CNN. His goal was to carry out the worst school massacre in U.S. history.
Mercifully for his intended victims, the 11th grader’s plot was foiled before it could be put into action.
And it was fortunate for LaDue, too. The plot’s failure meant his sole sentence was for possessing an explosive device, the only offense he could be charged with. He has now completed his jail sentence and has agreed to stay on probation and receive treatment for a fixation on violence.
Sadly, as this case illustrates, it is not only men and women that can feel a “pressure” to harm themselves and others, but also kids and teens.
Is there anything that could help free them from the influence of such malicious mental arm-twisting?
Perhaps spirituality could play a significant role.In her book, The Spiritual Child – The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving, Columbia University psychologist Lisa Miller, PhD, reveals why psychological and neurological researchers have reached the conclusion that spirituality is the way to help children and teens. Evidence reveals that it supplies a protective and healthy advantage to them.
Miller writes, “Spiritual development through the early years prepares the adolescent to grapple more successfully with the predictably difficult and potentially disorienting existential questions that make adolescence so deeply challenging for teens (and their parents.) It also provides a protective health benefit, reducing the risk of depression, substance abuse, aggression, and high-risk behaviors, including physical risk taking.”
As a parent, Sunday School teacher, and Christian Science practitioner, I have observed the benefits a spiritual focus can bring to youngsters. I’ve seen how daily prayer and spiritual studies empower our children to resist harmful influences in the first place or help free them when they are feeling pressured to make wrong choices.
These valuable moments of considering spiritual ideas or divine truths are more than a passive intake of second-hand ideas. They could be thought of as a shepherding of the child’s thought into greener pastures where they feel safer and more loved.
That echoes what we see in an examination of the ancient relationship between a shepherd and his flock. Each day, sheep and goats, individually, approached their shepherd to be called by name, receive a hug, and have their chin rubbed. This daily attention, appreciation, and affection kept them mentally and physically safe. They felt loved and were quick to respond to the shepherd’s wise commands.
Yet, at times, a sheep or goat would become confused, as though under an influence, and would refuse to approach the shepherd. Unwilling to allow this mesmeric state to affect even one of his flock, the shepherd would single out the spellbound one and lift his rod high over its head. Then, with authority, he would swiftly bring the rod down, stopping just a centimeter before striking the animal. This action broke the mesmerism, allowing the sheep or goat to reawaken to its true nature as an obedient and loving member of the flock.
“He restores my soul,” is how such shepherding action is described in the third verse of the 23rd Psalm. David, the Psalmist, had been a shepherd not only of sheep but also of an entire nation, as the king of Israel.
Why does spirituality help children and teens resist the pressure to harm themselves or others? Because spirituality is not a small or insignificant part of their identity. Like all of us, they are first and foremost spiritual beings.
That’s why moments with the Shepherd, God, bring peace and mental dominion to their remembrance. Bible study allows the Shepherd to speak to each child. The following are just some examples of the messages they will hear:
“Do not be afraid… I am your shield.” (Gen 15:1 NRSV)
“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Ex 33:14 NRSV)
“…I know you by name.” (Ex 33:17 NRSV)
When mental pressures come as a suggestion to think, plot, or act violently, unlovingly, immorally, or illegally, it is important that children have such tools at hand to help them quickly resist the harmful influence.
Our children’s best friend during such trials is not human will-power, but instead the divine Mind that is their shepherding God. The human mind is too susceptible to being wrongly influenced. Yielding thought, through prayer, to the Divine enables a child to begin to recognize and express his or her innate spiritual goodness, strength, and control.
The best expresser of this spiritual control was Jesus. He reflected God, the divine Shepherd, completely. His ability to refuse to give in to evil and, ultimately, to give it reality, was masterful. No wonder the Bible describes Jesus as “that great shepherd of the sheep.” (Heb 13:20 NRSV)
Jesus encouraged his followers to watch and pray. It is vital that our children learn to mentally and consistently affirm their identity as God’s spiritual and individual expression. This is a form of prayer. It is also important that they learn to watch — watch their thoughts that no dark suggestion makes them believe evil can have power over them. Persistent spiritual growth gives us all a clearer sense of evil’s essential unreality.
Mary Baker Eddy, Christian author and the founder of the spiritual healing system called Christian Science, learned the importance of spending time with the Shepherd. Through these precious hours with God, Eddy discovered how Jesus utilized divine power and its ability to release oneself and others from evil’s seeming influences.
In 1881, Eddy visited the prison cell of the man who had assassinated President Garfield. The assassin felt his criminal action was justified because Garfield had not chosen him to be an ambassador. He’d carried out what he thought was a just act. When Eddy briefly spoke to him her words had an immediate impact. The spiritual authority behind her words were like that shepherd’s rod to the sheep.
Apparently, sensing for the first time that he had done something wrong, the man sank back in his chair, limp and pale; his flippancy was gone. The jailer thanked Mary Baker Eddy, and said, “Other visitors have brought to him flowers, but you have brought what will do him good.”
Prayer can awaken us all to act like the obedient, healthy, and loving members of society we each inherently desire to be.
The pressure to cause harm can be resisted when we and our children cherish our spirituality and accept another of the Shepherd’s tender promises, “I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Gen 12:2 NRSV)
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and are not necessarily those of World Religion News.
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