What A National Tragedy Can Teach About The Power Of Choice

By Tiffany Wright

Last April marked the 20th anniversary for the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado. I know, I’m a bit late when I mention Columbine. However, after feeding my morbid curiosity by researching the lives behind the two school shooters – and their motives – I came to believe we can all learn a lesson about the power of choice. And the importance of the power of choice.

One of the shooters, Eric Harris, started a journal one year before the massacre. I found some excerpts here from Eric’s now-defunct blog where he rants about everything that irks him. If I didn’t know who wrote them, I would’ve passed it for the absurd tirades of a typical hormonal teenager.

His accomplice Dylan Klebold was a more interesting case study. Dylan was less focused on hatred and more focused on personal problems like depression and suicidal tendencies. It was depression that fuelled much of his homicidal intent.

Both Harris and Klebold had been formulating their plans for a full year.

And both recorded themselves talking about how much they hated the world and wanted to destroy it.

Both of their plans originally involved detonating hand-made bombs in the school cafeteria. The bombs would’ve wiped out over 600 people. The two boys would’ve then gunned down fleeing survivors. By the time the reporters and police crew would arrive, the remaining bombs from the boys’ van would wipe them out. Slate sums up their motive perfectly: “they were gunning for devastating infamy on the historical scale of an Attila the Hun.” 2 As it was, the bombs were too shoddily built to work, so instead they stormed the school building and shot 13 people before taking their own lives.

Can you imagine harboring so much hatred that you want to destroy hundreds of people?

Yet, a contempt for our imperfect world is what perpetrates such motives and deepens the cycle of injustice. Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and author of “12 Rules for Life,” says in his book, “People who think such things…appoint themselves supreme adjudicators of reality and find it wanting. They are the ultimate critics”. 3 Harris and Klebold justified their negative feelings by taking revenge on a cruel world. Both chose to act on their anger. This should remind us that we, too, have a choice on
whether we act on our negative feelings or not.

Here is one example where I struggled in choosing to let go of my anger. I was once debating a certain hot-button topic with one particularly confrontational friend, I was on the receiving end of mockery, shame and rudeness because of my opinions. It hurt, and I wanted to bite back.

Another example is my experience with social media. I witnessed a mob mentality against a position that I strongly believed in. And I saw so many cruel comments like,

“I hope your children die.”

“I hope you die.”

“People who believe X are f-ing retarded.”

Again, it hurt, and I wanted to bite back. And, as a sort of unhealthy defence mechanism, I started to think in the exact same hateful manner. The very same words that the mob spewed circulated in my head.

“I hope they die.”

“I hope they never have children.”

“People who believe Y are f-ing retarded.”

“I hate them.”


Then I realised that my thought process mimicked the “I hate everything” rant in Eric Harris’s journal, and I immediately took a step back. I didn’t want to be embroiled in hatred. It was a miserable place. It’s just that the urge to “bite” back was so overwhelming that I didn’t know what to do with those feelings. So I considered: 13 innocent victims died because two angry people lashed out. Am I any better than them if I lash out at those whom I believe wronged me?

In the end, I cut my confrontational friend out of my life, and I haven’t looked back. I cut most social media out of my life too, and now whenever I’m bored, instead of getting fired up over a smug Reddit post, I watch wholesome Japanese dramas to brighten my day.

Let the proles spew their hatred. I choose not to fall into the same emotional traps as they did. I choose to raise myself higher than the haters, for the sake of my emotional health and betterment.

We can choose not to fall into a similar line of thinking as Harris and Klebold. Choose something better. Choose to move on from hate. Think about Harris and Klebold next time you want to say or think something hurtful about someone. Think about them before you press that “reply” button on a heated social media thread. You never know whether a simple act of hate can spiral into something you will regret doing.

I understand. We’re primed to have emotional reactions when the world treats us unfairly or when someone insults us. I understand, and it can be a struggle not to “bite” back. This is why, before I part, I will leave a powerful quote for you to reflect on:

“You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True
power is sitting back and observing everything with logic. If words control you that means that everyone
else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass.” ~ Bruce Lee

Here are some more inspirational quotes that I have composed:

“It’s not your successes that defined you, but the bravery to pick yourself up and try one more time.”

“You haven’t failed enough until you actually succeeded.”

“Life wasn’t made to overcome you. You were made to overcome life.”

Works cited In “What A National Tragedy Can Teach About The Power Of Choice”:

1. CNN, Cable News Network,
2. Cullen, Dave, and Dave Cullen. “At Last We Know Why the Columbine Killers Did It.” Slate
Magazine, Slate, 20 Apr. 2004, slate.com/news-and-politics/2004/04/at-last-we-know-why-the-

3. Peterson, Jordan B. 12 Rules for Life. Penguin Books Ltd., 2019.

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24 thoughts on “What A National Tragedy Can Teach About The Power Of Choice

  1. This read was a brilliant way to bring us all to focus when we want to “bite” back… I have a better understanding of how it is the same behavior of Eric and Dylan, just on a smaller scale.

  2. Some people like to feel like, ” I got him back, ” when they start spewing hate. After the thought of I got him back passes sometimes it relieves the anger valve we’ve allowed to get full. There is a need to get even with people for some reason. Perhaps to prove we are tuff.

    1. I guess it’s how society works sometimes- we always have to be the toughest person in the situation. I think it takes real strength to back away and let something go.

  3. Very nice post. Anger and depression can definitely drive us to perform impulsive acts. That’s why talking to somebody, whether that be friends, family or a psychiatrist is very important! If interested in doing guest posts together, feel free to let me know 🙂

    1. Yeah it’s very important to deal with your emotions in the right way.

      Please email me about the guest post if you are still interested.

  4. In 1975 the high school in our small town of Brampton, Ontario made international news when Michael Slobodian shot up the school, killing two other people before turning the gun on himself. Many others were injured, some critically. Like the young men you write about, he was a very angry young man. He was in a few of my classes and a girl I knew dated him for a long time. Like many stories about such perpetrators, he was a loner. That event is all but forgotten except by those of us who were affected.

    Hate, negativity, and the urge to get even are never healthy attributes, and as you rightly point out, is a poison all human beings are capable of. This is a well written and important post. Thank you for sharing it.

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