Bullying And Suicide

Is the question of suicide missing a deeper issue? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night I finished readingĀ Holy Sexuality and the Gospel. There are some books I don’t review because those are schoolbooks and I will likely need to write deep reviews of them later on so I just choose not to. The author, Christopher Yuan, is someone himself who has same-sex attraction.

At one point, he talked about the idea of disagreeing with same-sex attraction being okay leads to suicide. This is also something we have heard from the transgender movement where even doctors tell parents that if they don’t do this, their child will kill themselves. It’s hardly a good position to put anyone else in.

Now perhaps I am just old school in my thinking, but I have this idea that the person responsible for what any person does is the person themselves. If a politician, left or right, says something hard about the other side and someone else goes shooting, the person responsible is the person who did the shooting.

So it is that when it comes to suicide, who is responsible? It is the person who does it. Suppose that as depressed as I was, and sometimes still am, after my wife left me, that I had killed myself. Who was responsible for that? I would be. Not her. Now we could say she was an activating factor and perhaps that is so, but the final decision comes down to me. I bear the responsibility.

So as I was reading this part of the book I was thinking that we are missing something in this. We are saying we must not do XYZ or else X will kill themselves. Instead, wouldn’t a better question be, “What has got us to the point in our culture where so many people think the best option is to kill themselves?”

Suicide is always to some degree a tragedy. I say to some degree because someone could say “Well, didn’t Hitler kill himself?” He did, and yet is it not still a tragedy to see not only the evil that he did with his life, but in the end he wasted it and ultimately turned his evil on himself? That’s still tragic. He could have done so much good with his abilities of persuasion, but he let darkness rule over him instead.

I have never been a supporter of the anti-bullying crusades. Is it because I favor bullying? Not at all. It is because I think they are wrongheaded. We are trying to deal with the problem on the end that we have less control over, the people who don’t care about right and wrong. Why not go and help the people who are likely to be victims and build them up?

We often tell our children such lies as “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We all know that’s a lie. We know it because words have been hurtful to us. I wager that everyone reading this blog can think back to some painful words that have been said to you, even words by total strangers. I have had hurtful words said to me by strangers in Final Fantasy XIV even.

Now we can say those words only hurt if you give them power. Yes. That’s true. We can say such people should not have power over you. Yes. That’s true. However, it does take a lot of work to get to a healthy place with that and those words do sting.

Somehow, I wonder if it is because of the self-esteem movement. Perhaps if it has not been done, if someone were to look and see the rate of suicides going up in the world and especially in the West where self-esteem has been the rage, to see if there is a correlation.

We have come to this idea that it is bizarre if not everyone loves us. Well, why should they? Picture any famous person you greatly admire. Are they loved by everyone? No. Not a bit. That even includes Jesus Christ, who was so loved by His people when He walked the Earth that they crucified Him. If you’re a Christian, it’s extremely prideful to say you’ll do better than the Son of God.

Now is it a problem when people in the LGBT community commit suicide? Of course. However, what is a deeper problem is this idea of “If you do not affirm me every way I want to be affirmed, I will kill myself.” Why have we raised people to let the opinions of others hold such sway over them to that extent? We have a society that constantly needs approval from everyone else.

If someone is in a position of saying “If you do not do what I want, I will kill myself” that whole attitude is a problem. Imagine if I had said to my ex before she left, “If you don’t stay with me, I will kill myself.” That would be a major problem. That would indicate a great flaw in me that needed to be fixed. She could stay with me out of mercy and/or guilt, but what would still be there? The underlying problem that led to that need that would remain unfixed.

So you could go and affirm someone’s relationship or you could give them surgery to transform their bodies, but what is the same still? The underlying issue. If anything, you have just put a bandage on it. Not only that, if they get what they want and they are still unhappy, they are likely in a far worse place because then they will be much more prone to think there is no hope for them.

The problem is that I don’t see anyone talking about that issue. We’re talking about making people happy, which is subjective and fleeting by our definition of it, but we’re not talking about why they are unhappy in the first place. What is missing in their lives? What is missing in the lives of so many people today that they feel such hopelessness?

This is a deep issue and it won’t go away with one blog post or be answered with one. This is something for the sociologists and psychologists to study. However, when confronted with someone who says that if you do not do X, they will kill themselves, the best thing to do would likely be to walk along side them and ask them why they feel that way. Why is it that what you say or do means so much to them?

We live in a society of what is said to be empty selves. As a Christian apologist, I conclude it is because we have moved away from God and nothing else can fulfill to that extent in our society. If you disagree, then you really need to point to what can fulfill and what makes life worth living overall. Why do we not want people to kill themselves? Why should they not want to.

These are deep questions and even if you disagree, a pat answer won’t help. If you do agree, just saying God isn’t enough either. We need more about why He is the answer and who He is and so much more.

Simple? No. Reality rarely is though.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/1/2018: Allie Peters

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Life is a beautiful and sacred gift, but sometimes it doesn’t seem like that. We all have times where suffering enters into our lives. Christians aren’t immune. Unfortunately, even Christians can be tempted to make awful choices when that happens. Even Christians can be tempted to throw in the towel. Even Christians can actually attempt to give up, and sadly some will succeed.

Some will not. Some will live on to tell the tale. Life can still be a battle for them, but they will tell the tale about what happened. They can talk about the impact they saw on the people around them and how it affected them. They can talk about what they have learned.

September is suicide awareness month. It is a time of the year when we try to remember that this is a real problem and it’s still with us. Whenever a celebrity has successfully committed suicide, unfortunately, the suicide rates make a spike after that. Sin breeds sin after all.

My wife is one person who has been affected by this greatly seeing as she is herself a suicide survivor. This is after more than one attempt. Her parents have found her after an attempt and I have found her after an attempt. Both of us were left devastated by such events. Indeed, to this day, I cannot hear the siren of a first responder without thinking about it.

We’ll be talking about Allie’s life some as bullying definitely played an impact on her as she was growing up. We might look at this as “kids will be kids” but it is getting worse and social media isn’t helping. I personally place a lot of blame on the self-esteem movement as I am not convinced we can stop all bullying, but we can certainly equip kids to be better able to respond to bullying.

But how can a Christian ever feel this way or even do this? Doesn’t this contradict what we are told in Scripture? If we really think this, is it proper to talk to someone about their salvation status if they are really considering the choice of suicide?

What about other people out there listening? How should we respond if we think someone around us could be contemplating suicide? Are there any warning signs to look for? What do we do if we think that there is someone around us or even on social media who we think could be suicidal? How should we respond to such a claim?

I hope you’ll be listening. As is no doubt known, my wife is my favorite guest to have on the show and we will be here together to talk about this important topic. September is the month for suicide awareness and if you are considering this awful choice or know someone who is, I really hope you’ll listen and please don’t do this choice. All of life is sacred and that includes you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Cyberbully and self-esteem

What can we learn from the self-esteem movement? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A few days ago my wife and I got Netflix and were just browsing and seeing what was on and came across a movie called Cyberbully. Allie was curious about it so I figured I’d turn it on seeing as I know that’s a subject of interest to her. My wife dealt a lot with bullies when she was in school and there have been people online who have been quite hurtful to her and those people I do not put up with.

The story is about a teenage girl in high school named Taylor who has a mother who lets her use the family computer, but she puts up good restrictions that Taylor thinks are just over the top. Then comes the day that the mother gives Taylor some trust and gives her her own laptop. Unfortunately, what Taylor does immediately with her girlfriends is goes to a social site that her mother and said she shouldn’t get on and immediately the trouble starts ranging from fake profiles wanting to talk to her and then spreading false information to school bullies making embarrassing videos about her and seeing all the comments that are made. At this point, Taylor has a suicide attempt and then finds the help she needs and begins the work to stop cyberbullying. The movie I think is overdramatic at times, though I do agree we have a problem with a lot of young people on the internet.

As I was watching with Allie, I was telling her that I found it incredible that centuries ago, people that age would already be productive members of society and could very well be parents of their own raising children to be productive members. Today, they’re more often just kids who don’t have a clue about the real world and break down based on what their peers say about them. It showed me in fact the utter bankruptcy of our self-esteem movement.

Now does that mean I’m against a positive attitude? No. Does that mean I’m against people feeling good about themselves? No. What I am opposed to is the focus of us being us and that we think our goodness resides in us. Too often in our society we have concepts like goodness just floating around in the air and we don’t even know what they are, but we believe that somehow they apply. We also tell people that they’re good because they’re unique, but then so is everyone else in the world. There will never be another person like you? Of course, and that could be said to everyone else in the world.

Thus, we have a goodness without any foundation and when it is attacked, we crumple over immediately. It’s as if when someone says something to us, we treat it as automatically true. I found myself wondering what would happen if we lived in an honor-shame society. For instance, the fake account that befriends Taylor has the person behind it accusing Taylor of giving them an STD. Immediately, everyone responding to it just agrees immediately. In an honor-shame society, Taylor could have asked for evidence. “Okay. You say that happened? Prove it. Put up a document from a doctor.” She could ask “If we had a date, what did we do? Where did we go? Do you have any receipts?” Instead, the focus immediately goes to how Taylor feels about it instead of asking “Is this true?”

Had that been done and the person been unable to respond, then Taylor would have won the day and the phony would have been seen for a phony. Instead, Taylor just accepts the criticism head on and accepts that everyone just believes it instead of thinking “Wow. My classmates are just really gullible.” When fellow classmates make a stupid video about her and she responds with an attempted suicide, it is in fact a way of saying “Everyone else will believe this, including the people who know me best.” Of course, Christians should try to live in peace with all men, but there are times that we just have to move on.

The self-esteem movement does not work because we have no foundation for our goodness and value then. They’re just concepts floating in the air. In Christianity, our goodness does not come from us. We are good because of who it is that we are in relationship with. God is the source of our goodness. We have taught a generation of children to believe that they are good without any real reason other than that they are who they are and they find it hard to believe when that’s called into question. Ironically, we want them to have the kind of “faith” that skeptics accuse Christians of having in their own goodness.

We can also add in that we have not presented children with the proper thinking skills to analyze claims and see what’s true and what isn’t. It’s fortunate that this girl had a good mother in the house (The father had abandoned them for a younger girl) and that’s also an essential part as parents definitely need to be more careful with their children online, but parents also need to be teaching children where their true value comes from. When parents don’t do this, then they can expect the worst to happen.

One other thing needs to be said. Too often in this we’re making our focus be on the bullies and trying to change them. Instead, let’s work on empowering the victims and the people who are prone to bullying. There will always be people who want to do evil. There will always be bullies among us. Of course, we must use discipline at times, but our focus should be on helping those who are weak among us. Build them up so what bullies say doesn’t matter.

In Christ,
Nick Peters