Guns for Hands

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I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! — Romans 7:17-25

I knew a woman years ago who was a successful artist. All who knew her thought of her as a paragon of success and happiness. But deep within, she struggled with self-loathing and engaged in acts of self-mutilation. It was heartbreaking to watch. The scars left by childhood trauma in her mind and heart were so deep and hardened that she couldn’t receive kind and affirming words from anyone. She would say, “Hear it, don’t believe it.”

I also knew a man who was a successful salesman. He also seemed to those who knew him superficially to be a very happy-go-lucky kinda guy, the life of the party bursting with personality. But deep within he struggled with self-hatred. He found any form of introspection too painful to bear. He admitted to me that his relentless drive to succeed in his job and his seemingly boundless energy poured out into entertaining others was driven by a need to be admired and liked. But when he was alone for any period of time it was torture, as he became painfully aware of how much he despised himself and how empty he felt.

Yet another person I spoke to a time ago expressed this same experience of self-alienation. I mentioned to him as we spoke, “My prayer for you is that you can see you as God sees you,” he broke down and cried.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

In fact, I cannot count the number of people I have gotten to know over the years who have themselves as the object of their fiercest anger, loathing or hate. And I have come to believe that many of the most vitriolic or negative people out there are really self-haters who deflect pain by turning outward their own inward-turned violence.

One of such person shared with me a grace he received in this matter, and he graciously said I could share that grace here. He went to Confession during Lent a few years ago, and after he had finished listing his sins, the priest said, “Son, behind your sins and struggles is something I think you have yet to give to God. Do you know what it is?” The man spontaneously replied, “Self hatred.” The priest said, “Yes. You hurt others in your life because you hate what you see in yourself. You need to give that hate over to God and let Him forgive and heal that hatred so you can forgive yourself and then be free. You live in chains. Let God give you His eyes to see you as He does. Listen, Jesus is saying to you right now in this moment, ‘I love you, my son, without judgment and with mercy and tender love. You are my son. Your Father loves you.'” The man said he broke down and cried and left feeling unchained. “But now the hard part begins,” he added. “I have to rewrite the script my life was based on.”

Those words the priest spoke are the words that God spoke in Christ, once for all, to every human being, personally and individually. “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

The Romans 7 quote above exposes the inner spiritual dynamism of this self-hatred, the drama of an inner torture that each sinful, weak, fragile human being undergoes in coming to terms with the fallen state of their parents, family members, friends, teachers, religious leaders, and themselves. Only in Christ can there be a final resolve to this inner storm. In Christ we discover ourselves to be loved without condition, because we are loved with a love that is mercy. Mercy alone can liberate us from the cycles of guilt and shame and disillusionment. Once we know that we are loved, and are lovable exactly as we are in our broken state, we discover hope and peace as Christ takes into Himself all the venom stored up in our souls and gives us in place of venom the ability to “love much” (Luke 7:47).

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows
by his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

A Twenty One Pilots song comes to mind now, Guns for Hands. It offers a compassionate (“I’m trying to sleep but I can’t”) exploration of the terrible burden borne by those who struggle with self-destructive mindsets and behavior. “Guns for hands” evokes for me images of hands engaged in self-mutilation, cutting, or attempts at suicide. The song offers a simple solution: put the “safety” on your gun by getting help and joining hands with others by not going it alone. Leave behind your shut-in and self-reliant isolation and come join the community of support of those who love you.

Let’s take this a second at a time
Let’s take this one song, this one rhyme
Together, let’s breathe
Together, to the beat
But there’s hope out the window
So that’s where we’ll go
Let’s go outside and all join hands
But until then you’ll never understand

A lovely description of the church: “hope out the window.” Pope Francis:

I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.

I’ll end by quoting the transcript of an interview with Pilots lead-singer Tyler in which he explained the inspiration behind Guns for Hands. Below that I include the video with lyrics below it.

I was playing a show in Cincinnati Ohio, and uh … just this kind of a barn full of kids and after this show, more than usual, it was kind of an unusual number of kids came up to me and felt inclined to share with me what it is they were going through, you know a lot of their struggles, a lot of their, you know, whether that be depression or suicidal thoughts, a lot of stuff along that … along that vein, and I just thought, I was like, ‘Wow, I mean, am I just in a hotbed of kids going through stuff, I mean, is this just kind of just a crazy ratio of everyone struggling with this thing … not too long after that I was in New York and … I saw a magazine that was … this big article about this specific town in New York that also had a lot of kids, you know, high school age, going through a lot of this same stuff, and I realized, you know, this isn’t just an isolated event, this is something that there’s a lot of kids through the entire country, even the world, that are struggling with the questions they have, you know, ‘What’s the point?’, ‘What’s my purpose?’, ‘Why am I here?’, and when you don’t have the answers to those questions, sometimes it can lead you to do something that you ultimately shouldn’t do… ‘Guns for Hands’ is talking about, I wanna tell you that I know you have the ability to hurt yourself … I feel like a lot of the older generation, when they hear about someone struggling with it, their first reaction is like ‘No you’re not, you’re not struggling with that, don’t think about that, you know, think about something else, you know, you’re just trying to get attention’ … but this song really was trying to say I know you have the ability to hurt yourself, I recognize that, but let’s take that energy and let’s point it at something else, let’s divert that, let’s kind of shift momentum and look at something like art, or something like this music specifically or even point it at me, you know, just point it anywhere but just don’t point it at yourself … that song will always be important to me.

I know what you think in the morning,
When the sun shines on the ground,
And shows what you have done,
It shows where your mind has gone,
And you swear to your parents,
That it will never happen again,
I know, I know what that means, I know.

That you all have guns,
And you never put the safety on,
And you all have plans,
To take it, to take it,
Don’t take it, take it, take it.

I’m trying, I’m trying to sleep,
I’m trying, I’m trying to sleep,
But I can’t, but I can’t when you all have,
Guns for hands, yeah

I’m trying, I’m trying to sleep,
I’m trying, I’m trying to sleep,
But I can’t, but I can’t when you all have,
Guns for hands, yeah

Let’s take this a second at a time,
Let’s take this one song, this one rhyme,
Together, let’s breathe,
Together, to the beat,
But there’s hope out the window,
So that’s where we’ll go,
Let’s go outside and all join hands,
But until then you’ll never understand.

That you all have guns,
And you never put the safety on,
And you all have plans,
To take it, to take it,
Don’t take it, take it, take it.

I’m trying, I’m trying to sleep,
I’m trying, I’m trying to sleep,
But I can’t, but I can’t when you all have,
Guns for hands, yeah.

(hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey,
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey,
Hey, hey, hey ,hey, hey, hey,)

(la da da da da)
[4x]

We’ve turned our hands to guns, trade in our thumbs for ammunition,
I must forewarn you, of my disorder, or my condition,
‘Cause when the sun sets, it upsets what’s left of my invested interest,
Interested in putting my fingers to my head,
The solution is, I see a whole room of these mutant kids,
Fused at the wrist, I simply tell them they should shoot at this,
Simply suggest my chest and this confused music,
It’s obviously best for them to turn their guns to a fist.

I’m trying, I’m trying to sleep,
I’m trying, I’m trying to sleep,
But I can’t, but I can’t when you all have,
Guns for hands, yeah.

I’m trying, I’m trying to sleep,
I’m trying, I’m trying to sleep,
But I can’t, but I can’t when you all have,
Guns for hands, yeah.

One comment on “Guns for Hands

  1. nos. says:

    LORD let all those who see only darkness , be shown by those who are close to them and so love them,the beauty of the LIGHT+ + + + + + + ! Amen P.B.W.Y.A.A.

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