The Gift of Darkness

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” – Carl Jung

I came across this quote a couple of days ago and thought, “Yes. This is so true.” Yesterday, I came across this news item from Atlanta, Georgia:

Antoinette Tuff: Meet the Woman Who Prevented a Mass School Shooting Yesterday

The potent part is in watching the interview.

What I take away from this article and interview is this: the experiences in Tuff’s life allowed her to have compassion for this distraught and mentally unstable 20-year-old, ready to end his own life and the lives of so many others. The darkness she endured helped her have the capacity and the wherewithal to relate to someone else in a terrible situation. She stayed with him throughout the majority of the ordeal, even asking him to come back into the room with her, despite his having fired shots in that room with her in it previously. She worked at keeping him calm and reassuring him, telling him about her own life and all the struggles she’s had to go through.

Tuff told Atlanta’s local news station that the 20-year-old gunman was able to pass the school’s security because he followed a parent who had not shut the door. She immediately began speaking with the gunman in an attempt to reason with him. The gunman told her he had nothing to live for before loading his gun. “I just started talking to him … I let him know what was going on with me and that it would be OK,” she said. “I give it all to God, I’m not the hero. I was terrified.”

“Whatever God does, the first outburst is always compassion.”
― Meister Eckhart

When we go through dark places in our lives, it helps us expand our ability to empathize with others in their state of sorrow and grief. Our experiences help us have more compassion for other people, help us have a better understanding of where they’re coming from, even if it’s not exactly the same situation. We’ve been there, in our own way.

It seems very similar to the phenomenon we hear of or have experienced ourselves of many people who are economically impoverished being so utterly generous and heartfelt. They have so little, and yet they give so freely. They know what hardship is like. They pay it forward. They understand more keenly, if not consciously, that we’re all in this together and that it is through generosity of spirit, found in the ways we relate to each other, and through the compassion we have for each other that we are all able to make it through our difficulties.

“Truly, it is in the darkness that one finds the light…”
–Meister Eckhart

I know there is talk of divinity here, but what Antoinette Tuff did was possibly the most human thing she could do.  She saw the humanity in that 20-year old and acted as his life line to it when he was no longer able to do so for himself. We are all the better for what she did.

We are all connected to each other on this spinning blue marble, and every experience we have serves a purpose. The darkness we endure is very real and very terrible at times. Good can always come of it when we remember to let it.

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift. –Mary Oliver