Most of us know someone who has taken his or her own life or who has at least thought about it, which leaves it a topic that cuts close to many of our hearts. Therefore, I want to start the year by addressing an important issue that is often hidden under the rug until it trips us and causes us to come crashing down. To address this topic, I will be looking at three main points… ew, this is starting to sound like a high school essay… Webster’s dictionary defines suicide as… and now it’s officially like a high school essay.
A) Death is Not the Enemy
In regards to suicide, it needs to be understood that death itself is not evil. Death is not the enemy. Death isn’t Hitler; it isn’t Fox News, a Kardashian, or even the Ottawa Senators. And no, I’m not going to just say death is part of life and break into the Lion King: “It’s the Circle of Life/ And it moves us all/ Through despair and hope/ Through faith and love.” Sorry, I guess I did break into song; I just couldn’t resist. Death is part of life, but focusing on that still holds it in a negative light. Our Western society loves to demonize death. It’s like aging; we’ve glorified youth and made getting older something to fear. I believe that there is good in all things… this is definitely not something I suggest saying at a funeral unless you want to be punched: (insensitive jerk) “You just lost your spouse; tell me three good things about it.” Ultimately, there is a positive side to all things even death. In a way, death is a gift… definitely don’t say this at a funeral either: (even bigger insensitive jerk) “I hope you liked your gift; it’s wrapped and packaged in a box you spent several thousand dollars on.” Saying death is a gift is also not a good argument in court: (worst lawyer ever) “Your Honor, my defendant didn’t know what to give the person for his birthday, so he killed the man because, according to a blog he read, death is a gift.” I believe that death is a gift because it reminds us that life is limited and that we need to take advantage of every opportunity we can to love ourselves and others. It reminds us that there is more to life than work. It reminds us that life is too short to hold onto grudges and that we need to seek healing in order to prevent losing people on bad terms. In addition, death makes birth all the more beautiful. If we never had death, we’d have to try to eliminate birth because we couldn’t feed everyone or fit them on the planet. In the end, we need to respect death for what it is, do our best to avoid it, and cherish those around us while we can.
B) Suicide is NOT a Ticket to Hell (this is a bit churchy, but it’s important to address)
Traditionally the Church, especially the Catholic Church, is said to be extremely against suicide to the point it is claimed to be a ticket straight to hell. The truth is, however, it’s not. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, an official document for their beliefs, “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide opportunity for salutary repentance.” (2283) Some Christians, in general, maintain that suicide is murder. Whether this is true or not is a moot point. God’s grace is not limited to human error; He can forgive all sin no matter how grave: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Rom 3:23-24) Murder may be a sin, but according to Christian belief, God is greater than all sin through Jesus Christ.
C) Death Is a Reward We’re Meant to Delay
Yes, the idea that death is a reward is very countercultural, but from a spiritual perspective, death rewards a good life. For instance, if you believe in the Eastern religions, you will be reborn in a higher state… if you lived properly of course, which means death is a reward otherwise it leads to punishment. From my own Christian perspective, it’s hard not to see death as a reward when reading scripture. For instance, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain… I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Phil 1:21, 23-24) Was Paul suicidal? He probably had times where he hoped for death. Besides death being an escape from continually being tortured and being put in prison for his beliefs, death offered heaven: a place of no crying or pain. Fortunately, Paul knew that he needed to live in order to help others. The main problem with suicide is it robs others of the love we can offer. We rob the world of the all the good we’re capable of doing. It also robs us of experiencing all the joys the world has to offer. Life is a gift, but it’s not like an ugly sweater from Walmart; it’s not meant to be returned. After Christopher Reeve had his accident and became a tetraplegic, he asked his wife to help him die. She said yes, but only after he tried to live a few years and see if he changed his mind. After seeing the impact he had on his family and the world at large, Reeve did change his mind and continued to happily live in his new state, which ultimately gave him more power and credibility as a philanthropist than he could have known without it.
If you have suicidal thoughts, I strongly recommend sharing this with a good therapist to address what’s going on. I would also recommend picking one person who loves you and who you love in return (often a family member or tested best friend is best since choosing a partner can be risky when there’s such a high divorce rate) and reminding yourself that ending your life would devastate him or her. I personally believe that if many people who committed suicide knew how much it would hurt others they would reconsider doing it. This is one of the reasons why many people who are suicidal tell themselves that no one will miss them or really care. Suicide is typically more about ending personal suffering than hurting anyone else. It’s the one time when the statement is true: “It’s not you; it’s me.”
Ultimately, I believe that anyone who has committed or attempted suicide should be shown extra love and compassion rather than resentment and rejection. Everyone needs love, especially those who are so broken the best option appears to be to escape this world.
May you never have to face a life that leaves you wanting relief from the pain so desperately that you consider death as a viable option, and may you also never have to lose someone in this manner. Both death and life are a gift, but death is something we’re meant to respect as a reminder of how precious the gift of life is.
Rev Chad David, Emotional Sex, emotional tune up