Attention All Motivational Speakers and Self Help Gurus
Preach always. Use words when necessary. – St. Francis of Assisi.
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Is suicide ever justified?
Most people would agree that terminally ill people should have the right to end their lives particularly if the quality of their lives is absent.
But what about the rest of us?
How about the person who feels totally guilty of a crime/sin that he has committed that brings so much shame? One religious writer once wrote that some killers won’t find peace until after they die. How sad!
How about the person suffering from mental illness – depression/addiction, etc? If he is incompetent to due to mental illness to make such a decision, is he also incompetent to stand trial for any criminal activity due to that same mental illness?
Or how about the person who becomes disabled and his quality of life has been taken away?
Or what about the person who cannot find meaning to his life? He sees everything futile like the author of Ecclesiastes from the Old Testament says. The author says the cure is finding a woman and a job to love. What happens if you cannot find either?
If we are to condemn suicide, then, are people who indulge in excessive behavior – i.e. drink too much, overeat, smoke, etc., committing a slow form of suicide? Is a person committing suicide if he has terminally illness and refuses treatment?
Must a person be terminally ill to decide?
We are all dying according to the second law of bio thermodynamics. Everything in this world is slowly decaying away.
Especially us humans. We are all slowly wasting away. As we age, we become more vulnerable to diseases. Its spiritual values such as love, hope, faith, a sense of purpose that reverse this process.
What if the quality of life has left him? What if the person has lost his will to live? It may not be a sign of mental illness. What if he’s like the author of Ecclesiastes and sees the futility of life?
There is a real world out there. There are thousands of people who cannot get it together and no fault of their own.
They cannot wrestle negative feelings to the ground and beat them into submission. Pain is real. Frustration, hopelessness are real feelings. Not all problems are solvable. What are they to do?
If they could suppress their negative emotions like self-help books advocate, we could shut down mental hospitals, prisoners, solve the homeless crisis, etc.
They need the help of others to become whole.
For starters, the hurting are looking for meaning, love, acceptance. Spiritual values that make life meaningful. It goes beyond just changing one’s attitude. Only things that others can give.
Do the suicidal have a responsibility to life regardless of the obstacles?
Who has it worse? A terminally ill person with no hope of a cure or a person who can not find success or his calling because the support from others is not present?
I’ve always wondered how many self-help authors have contemplated, even attempted suicide.
If we want to stop suicides, let’s give the suicidal individual a reason to live. We know the “how” to sustain life. We need to address the “why.” Once we establish the “why”, the how becomes second nature.
I believe we have a duty to help each other.
I do believe that we are all connected. And I believe we suffer when one does not reach his full potential and we refuse to help out. But that is based on faith.
I believe in the words of poet John Donne wrote: “No man is island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. Any man’s death diminishes me because I’m involved in mankind.”
But if we are to help out, become involved in another person’s life, we must be more loving. And in order to do that, one must practice humility. We have much to learn from the hurting.
And what we call loving by some is often more about control. It is often based on fear such as the religious zealots who want to control us with their value system. Or those who want to push their views down our throats by playing “rescuer.” We give them what we think they need, because it has worked for us, not what they actually need. One man’s medicine is another man’s poison.
As Thomas Merton wrote: ”the beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves and not twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
We have a duty to love. Dr. Leo Buscaglia writes: “man has no choice but to love. For when he does not, he finds his alternatives lie in loneliness, destruction and despair.”
We complain about the violence in our society. But don’t we inflict pain by doing nothing to those who need our help. We allow our fellow person to continue suffering.
We wouldn’t walk away from someone drowning or being assaulted. But we do the same when we refuse to help someone out, when we say no in helping someone find their path, their calling.
If we are not helping, are we not hurting that person?
There are criminals we call psychopaths who have no feelings for the harm they cause their victims. Aren’t we just as guilty of the same mindset when we are not aware that our silence may be hurting someone?
To help someone who cannot get it together, we must become involved in that person’s life. It involves action. And it must be on the sufferer’s terms without giving up our self-respect. As St. Francis of Assisi said “preach always. If necessary, use words.”
Paraphrasing St. Francis, if one is a teacher: teach always. If necessary, use words. If one is a motivation speaker, motive always. If necessary, use words. Etc., etc., etc.
If we are not going to be our brother/sister’s keeper, does he not have a right to end his life?