Elliot Rodger: Lessons to Be Learned From Tragedy

After another tragic killing spree, people wonder why? What causes a person like Elliot Rodger to commit mass murder, and can such tragedies be prevented?

On May 23, 2014, a 22-year-old man named Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree near the University of California, Santa Barbara. His targets included female students who attended school there.

The videos that Elliot Rodger posted prior to killing six people reveal important information about him. They help us understand what shaped his thinking and why he committed his heinous acts of murder. 

Watching his videos leads to the following observations:

When tragedies like this happen, we should look at the causes and see what lessons we can learn for ourselves, children and societies. Sense of entitlement and selfishness

Elliot Rodger had a strong sense of entitlement and a clearly inflated ego. He made a point of referring to his BMW, his Giorgio Armani sunglasses and designer clothing while striking a pose and stating, “Look at how fabulous I look.” He saw himself as “sophisticated … magnificent … the ultimate gentleman” but was confused by why he was repeatedly rejected by girls.

Elliot Rodger was obsessed with his desire for “beautiful blond girls.” He fixated on the fact that he’d never been on a date, never been kissed and was still a virgin at the age of 22. One might be tempted to sympathize with his loneliness and pain, if it weren’t for the chilling undertones: He believed he deserved attention. He was angry that girls would want other guys who were “slobs” and “losers” and was insulted by their rejection of him. He fantasized about the sex lives of others and what he was missing.

Elliot Rodger demonstrated no concern for the girls he desired—his focus was only on himself and what he felt they owed him.

Addiction to fantasy and gaming

People like Elliot Rodger are most often diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. This disorder, sometimes referred to as being a sociopath or a psychopath, is characterized by a lack of empathy or remorse toward others. It is often accompanied by an inflated ego and grandiose thinking. Other mental health concerns, such as depression and anxiety, can be an issue. 

In some cases, these antisocial tendencies are made worse by an active fantasy life. Several sources indicate that Elliot Rodger experienced rejection and bullying early on and that he turned inward and found solace in video games. Many of these MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) are based on a medieval fantasy world and contain strong sorcery elements. Participation in such games also allows players to interact globally with millions of other players; connections, even relationships, can be formed through the game platform. These relationships, however, exclude the ability to interact with others face-to-face.

Consider the two 12-year-old girls who were recently charged with stabbing their friend 19 times as part of an attempt to “impress” a fictitious character, Slender Man, found on horror fantasy websites. One of the girls told police “she sees Slender Man in her dreams. She said he watches her and can read her mind and teleport.” According to reports, these girls lost touch with reality to the extent that they believed killing the girl would lead to their being accepted to live at Slender Man’s mansion. Of course, Slender Man and his mansion are nonexistent.

Lessons to consider

When tragedies like this happen (and they seem to be happening with more frequency in recent years), we should look at the causes and see what lessons we can learn for ourselves, children and societies.

Evil exists—it is not a game. There is an unseen force in the world, referred to in the Bible as Satan the devil and his fallen angels or demons (Revelation 12:9). The Bible makes reference in several places to sorcery, necromancy, witchcraft and wizardry as being evil and things human beings should avoid (Ephesians 5:11). Games, literature and entertainment about horror and unrestrained violence are bad for individuals and society as a whole.

There is no substitute for love. Children need love and attention, not designer clothing. They need to know that they have value and worth. They need to have time spent with them, teaching them what really matters in life. Parents who expose their children to wealth and privilege without responsibility are in danger of raising narcissists. Children need to be raised understanding their value and potential according to God’s Word, as opposed to being raised with a lavish material wealth and a sense of entitlement.

Face-to-face time is essential. Parents need to make sure their children have healthy and proper social interaction with others. A lack of face-to-face socialization can lead to isolation and loneliness and can inhibit the areas of our brain that develop compassion and empathy. Living for hours at a time in an online fantasy world (especially a violent one) distorts a person’s reality of themselves and the real world around them. It is essential that parents are vigilant in making sure that online games, fantasy and even social media and texting are not their children’s primary form of communicating with others.

God must be in the picture

To truly combat the evils of this world, we must understand that we are fighting a spiritual battle, and it takes spiritual weaponry to “fight” the power of darkness that we face (Ephesians 6:12-18).

Why did Elliot Rodger kill six innocent people and injure 13 others? We can’t possibly know all the factors that went into shaping him, but we can certainly see aspects of his life that may have influenced and altered his thinking and his reality. There is no way to identify and prevent every “Elliot Rodger,” but we can make sure that those within our sphere of influence—ourselves, our family members and especially our children—are not subject to the same destructive influences.

To read our past coverage on tragedies such as this, see:

About the Author

Debbie Caudle

Debbie Caudle

From Canada to California and then Wyoming to Texas, Debbie Caudle’s journey has taken a lot of twists and turns, but through it all she’s had a lifelong desire to help others improve their lives. She has worked over 25 rewarding years as a licensed counselor, working with individuals, couples, children and families. This experience has taught her a lot about the challenges people face in conquering their worst fears and hurdling their toughest obstacles. 

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