Someone I actually sort-of-knew recently died. They were a couple of years younger, and had moved away in the middle of high school, but I'd interacted with them enough that of all the people who have died in my age group from my county, this was the first time it was someone who I'd spent any length of time talking to.
Whereas it appears to have been a drug overdose of some kind, it is unclear whether it was suicide or accidental. When I initially heard about it, the rumors favored suicide, and that's what provoked me to think about the subject. What follows are my thoughts to a friend over text one evening, followed by some further thoughts in response to statements they made in reply.
This is probably going to be very different from anything you've ever read before on the subject, because I don't treat the person who commits suicide as a sympathetic victim. I advise you to think about that before you begin, and while I encourage you to consider my view, I also don't want to unnecessarily offend people who are by nature sensitive and have a hard time dealing with heavy issues in a very straightforward manner. So this is my best effort not to be ham-fisted in how I write. Thanks for reading this before beginning the post proper.
Alert: Read the above introduction before proceeding to digest the body of the post.
Suicide is not the answer. If suicide is the question, NO! is the answer. It’s never an acceptable decision, and if you need convincing just look at how it hurts the people left behind, even if they barely knew them from school. People who commit suicide inflict devastating emotional suffering on the people they were close to. And the effect is cumulative. I have no doubt [someone I know]’s depression was influenced by the fact that so far, 6 classmates have died, from suicide, car wrecks and murder. Suicide is one of the most selfish—and destructive to other people—things a person can do.
You may rightly surmise that my primary emotion toward people who kill themselves is anger. I think often people do it to ‘act out’ and think that they’ll make people feel sorrow. They might be more motivated to do it so they’ll get that satisfaction of hurting others. [here’s where my tendency to be an insensitive a-hole can be a benefit, in giving me a clearer perspective than others, not ruled by emotions of sadness and attempts at sympathy]. Imagine, then, if everyone made it very clear that “you’re an asshole if you kill yourself and will get no sympathy.” If that was society’s public attitude toward it, instead of frenzied, tearful confusion, I think people would be far less motivated to consider suicide. They might even be deterred from it, since it would be so blatantly disincentivized. “If you kill yourself, you’re a jerk. And a coward.” That’s my no-nonsense privately personal opinion on the subject. But I wouldn’t walk into a group of mourners and say this. I’d say it to the jerk himself, if I got to him before he took his life.
I think there’s a culture of tolerance and even acceptance of it. Worse still, expectation. There seems to be a sense of “I’d understand if you killed yourself, your life is bad enough to make it worth it.” This is atrocious, but it’s the logical outcome of devaluing human life. Whereas abortion is both a prime example of a symptom and a driving factor, the underlying drivers are far more subtle and common. When you teach people that there’s nothing after death, and even that death brings a release and an end to suffering, you make it appealing to people in pain. Neither claim is true, either. And when you teach that man is just another animal, you remove the value of human life. “Get rid of spare cats, get rid of spare kids, what’s the difference?” A well known person once said. If you’ll shoot an animal to ‘put it out of its misery,’ why wouldn’t that apply to humans if humans are animals? The logic is far more fundamental. It’s rooted deeeeeeep in society’s thought patterns. The solution’ll require an uprooting and upheaval of that thought.
When I realized there was no way you could ask the question “why?”, because there is no excuse for it, I instead found the question to be “how dare you?” They knew it was wrong, knew it wouldn’t solve their problems, knew it would hurt other people……knew it would hurt other people……they did it out of spite. Their death was the biggest insult to the love of others that they could possibly muster. They chose to inflict that pain, knowing they wouldn’t be there to see the hurt in those people’s lives. They ran away. They chose to be a coward and refuse to face life on equal terms. They chose to “ragequit” and forfeit the opportunity to see how it turns out later on, instead apparently satisfied to see it end in misery and suffering. The more you think about it, the more your anger, hatred even, burns for the abuser—for such emotional anguish is certainly emotional abuse—and you fail to contemplate how in hell you could have any tender feelings for such a terrible person.
Thoughts from a conversation with a friend: don’t you pity or mourn the deceased?
My initial statement was “Eh. Nope, just can’t be sad when people commit suicide. My primary emotion toward the dead is anger. They are not the victim. Their family and friends are their victims.”
“Wouldn’t you be sad that a young person lost his chance at redemption?”
Yes. But that feeling would pass just like shock does. It would go from mourning to practical response, quickly. It’s sad for them that they wasted their life. But now if indeed they are in condemnation, there is no pity for them. God determined that their offense against Him was great enough for infinite hell; why would we sympathize with them?
“[paraphrase: we don’t sympathize with them, but their family and God, who doesn’t want to see His children burn in hell…imagine it is someone you love – do you cease to love them because they are in hell?]”
Technically, and this is important, those in Hell are not children of God. Only those who are adopted in Christ can be called His children. I don’t think love would be the right word to describe the act of mourning a person who died in their sins.
How can you love them, seeing love as acting in their best interest to do what is the greatest good for them? You can do nothing more for them when they’re dead; they are cut off from the land of the living. Whether in heaven or hell, your actions can’t do anything to affect their state. Maybe what you mean is ‘cherish?’ But why, or how can you cherish, hold dear, someone who hates you and your Father and despises what you hold most dear? It doesn’t make sense to me.
“[paraphrase: you’re making assumptions about their motivations. Can’t people be wrong without being ill willed, in your opinion?]”
There’s no spectrum in the context of choosing to murder oneself. My view includes and accounts for what you suggested – they are merely examples of ways that a person can be depressed or grieved or distraught. But the idea that those scenarios would be different would imply, nay, betray the wrong belief, that suicide is acceptable in some circumstances. I refute this. Someone might be brought to despair by diverse troubles, but despair and suicide are not the same. When they contemplate suicide and consciously choose to go through with it, then they have begotten the thought process I describe, whether highly apparent to them or nearly assumed, taken for granted. We wouldn’t make excuse for someone who doesn’t “think through” the ramifications of committing murder. So why for suicide? Therefore, I do not. You are equally guilty no matter how much thought you put into it.
My friend thinks I’m cold and heartless. I think those might be accurate descriptions with regard to this particular issue. I simply do not see where there is room for “heart” in viewing a self-murderer. I don’t mean to say that I feel nothing at all. I think my words display quite a bit of strong feeling. And I can and have grieved very passionately about the injustice and tragedy of the concept of people dying in their sins, which contains suicide as one manner in which that occurs. But to anguish over wrong in the world does not mean sympathizing with the wrongdoer, IN their wrongdoing. I have compassion on those who are alive, and misled. I feel that on a near-daily basis, the ache of wanting people to be saved. But that does not mean that I overlook the fact that they are guilty—as am I—of grave sin that merits a just punishment. If they refuse forgiveness, then when they are dead, what is there to yearn for any more, regarding them? There is no going back. They cannot be saved now. For me to wish that it were otherwise is one thing, that makes sense. But for me to feel an aching hope for them when there is no hope, that would be foolishness. We all feel things. I feel just like others do. But it’s important to think about our feelings and try to find out why we feel them, and what we should interpret them to mean. I think my friend, in saying that we love those who are in hell, is misinterpreting their feelings. Now, I haven’t been talking about the dead who are in heaven, or the dead who we do not know where they are, but about people who it would be very clear that they died unregenerate. It’s not a motivation to pronounce judgment that drives me, but a strong desire not to let feelings interfere with clear thinking. Yes, perhaps it’s cold. But the phrase “the cold, hard facts” implies just that. The determination of what is right and wrong to do or say or think will always be a cold calculation. How we apply our knowledge can take into consideration doing it ‘with warmth,’ such as by speaking kindly to those who might be more responsive to people who connect with them on an emotional level. I don’t dispute the reality or value of that. I just mean to point out that how we connect with others when we talk about the truth has nothing to do with what the truth is. And I would rather be stubbornly ‘cold’ than be misunderstood. That’s a personal inclination. I desire very few things in life more than being understood. What good would cuddly feelings from others do for me if they were given out of misunderstanding? I would be living a lie. And those who choose to die because of irrational emotions rather than thinking about those cold, unfeeling, heartless facts, are choosing to die for a lie.
Choose life. It feels better in the end.
~ Rak Chazak