coupleI recently returned to the States from 10 days in Africa to read that yet another act of shocking violence had taken place in an American high school. This time a 16-year-old student stabbed 21 fellow students and a security guard with a knife. Thankfully none were killed.

Once again, the American public faced itself in the mirror and had to ask, “What is going on here?!” “How does this keep happening?”

I was then stunned to read a quote related to this story in my local newspaper. One commentator said, “The one common characteristic in all of these cases is they are committed by students on the fringe.”

In my opinion that conclusion was wrong on two accounts:

1.     It turns out this student was not on the fringe. He was a good student; he had a handful of friends; he has a stable home life and loving parents. Those who commit these crimes are, indeed, often on the fringe, but not this one.

2.     The above conclusion ignores what I believe is an even more prevalent characteristic of these kinds of random attackers and serial killers. They are males. Boys and men. Almost without exception.

In recent years we have agonized over multiple senseless killings in a variety of locations, with multiple weapons, and for a list of grievances. But to me, the common denominator is males who have lost, or never had, an understanding of who they are, why they matter, and what they can contribute, in a positive way, to resolve problems in our society.

I’m reminded once again of the African proverb shared with me by a wise man from Kenya: “The boys in the village must be initiated into manhood, or they will burn down the village, just to feel the heat.”

We don’t know when, where or with what kind of weapon the next awful incident will take place. But there is an almost ironclad guarantee of the one characteristic it will share with most acts of violence like it: it will be committed by a male.

As I’ve written before, when girls “go bad,” they tend to harm themselves (drugs, prostitution, promiscuity, abortion, eating disorders.) When boys go bad, they harm others. They burn down the village.

It’s one of the reasons I believe so strongly in communicating the message to men— young and old— “you matter,” for good or bad, glory or ruin, blessing or destruction.

Men, the world needs you, and the world needs you to bring blessing. Will you?