“If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you?” We’ve all heard this before. You may have even said this before. The point, we all understand, is to show kids that they don’t have to do or be like others around them. However, take a look at popular trends and you’ll notice that indeed, everyone does do exactly what their friend does. What are the new styles in clothing and music? That’s what is going to be everywhere. We can’t help it: advertising does work. Don’t believe me? I could list for you a number of stupid things that I have bought throughout my life because it looked so good in the commercial but it turned out to be nothing other than cheap garbage.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about the very difficult subject of suicide. In this brief series of articles, my aim has not been to deal with the very nuanced reasons an individual might have for taking their own life. Rather, I’ve been trying to point at a bigger (and I believe foundational) culprit in the landscape of the suicide issue; namely, that our popular culture has such a disdain for life that suicide has become merely a choice among others.
I’m not trying to trivialize suicide or those who have struggled with these thoughts, I’m trying to point out that we are all products of our environment and perhaps we live in an environment and culture that has nurtured a disdain for life to the point that we’ve normalized this saddening act. In fact, it seems to me that we not only have normalized that act of suicide, but by our jokes and romanticizing, we make light of suicide.
How many times have you heard someone say, “Uh… I just want to kill myself.” Why? “Because the ice cream machine was broken at McDonalds.” Now, we all know that person doesn’t really want to commit suicide because they can’t get a dipped cone, but why this choice of language? Why do we think that it’s ok to express frustration in terms of ending one’s own life? We take something trivial, like ice cream, and we raise the stakes by making it a life or death situation. I’m not saying that people kill themselves because we make jokes about suicide. What I’m trying to point to is how we have made such a serious topic into something as common as talking about the weather. Also, I have to wonder how much the idea of seeking a permanent solution (suicide) to temporary problems has infiltrated the minds of people, if only in part, by this type of jesting.
Secondly, we’ve romanticized suicide to the point that we’ve made it seem that there is something larger-than-life or even beautiful involved in the act. This is especially true when we hear of celebrities who have taken their own life. “Musicians and actors are such great artists so they must know something about life that us common folk do not.” Celebrities are cementing their legacy when they take their own life. “Now they will always remember me.” This all seems attractive in some way to many people. So much so that after a celebrity commits suicide you can be sure that the number of suicides and attempted suicides will rise. According to CNN, there was a 10% increase (nearly 2,000 deaths) in the suicide rate following the suicide of actor and comedian Robin Williams in 2014, most of them enacted in the same way as Williams. “If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you?”
Again, this is a very sad and difficult topic. We don’t want to simply turn these horrible deaths into statistics. At the same time, we need to recognize that, as a culture, we will reap what we sow. Because we’ve treated suicide in such a loose fashion for so long, we can’t act surprised when these type of deaths happen. Life is precious. Why can’t we pass that on to the culture? I pray we can stop treating life as expendable and cheap. We must not continue the atrocities at abortion clinics, we must move forward with laws that prevent doctors ending people’s lives, and finally, we must stop this easy attitude we have with suicide. Life is a gift from God, it’s time we start acting like it.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ