Am I my brother’s keeper?
We live in world with warped values that would make us doubt our worth. The world counts our value through looks and possessions and what it vainly calls “success.” The world is wrong.
I was sitting in a class on team dynamics when I sneaked a peak at a text that had just come through. My jaw dropped when I read it – along with my heart.
When we debriefed on our day later that evening, Vanessa had received the same text message. A friend texted us to tell us that a mutual acquaintance had been found deceased at his home – he had taken his own life. We were shocked and saddened at the news – he had not shown any overt signs of depression or deep sadness.
But in a moment – in the twinkling of an eye - he was gone.
He left behind a wife who had already been hospitalized with major health issues…such an incredibly tough situation. But sadly, not uncommon.
Suicide is a serious public health problem, and it occurs far more frequently that many might believe. Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, with about one death every 11 minutes. In 2020, 45,979 Americans died by suicide according to the latest full-year-available statistics by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The number of people who think about or attempt suicide is even higher. In 2020, an estimated 12.2 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.2 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.2 million attempted suicide. Keep in mind, those are the ones we know about.
We hear about the suicides of celebrities. Robin Williams, a truly brilliant comic, died by suicide in 2014. His widow. Susan Schneider Williams, said that in the year before his death at age 63, Williams experienced a spike in fear and anxiety, depression and insomnia which included memory loss, paranoia, and delusions. In layman’s terms, there were “signs.” Recently, television personality Stephen “tWitch” Boss took his life at age 40, leaving behind a wife, three children, and so many questions. For him, to public knowledge, there were no signs.
What about the non-celebrities like you and me? What about us and our struggles? The disrespectful question that Cain asked of God thousand of years ago still rings out loudly “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
I believe God has answered that question many times. And the answer is “yes.”
In Philippians 2:3-4, the Apostle Paul admonishes us: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Galatians 6:1 tells us: Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.
Jesus told us to love one another and God’s breath of life in each of us has yielded a soul which will never die. Are we watering one another’s souls?
Do we “check in” often enough with one another? As husband and wife, Vanessa and I make it a practice to gauge one another’s emotional temperatures – how are you feeling? And “okay” is not a satisfactory answer.
No – really – HOW ARE YOU FEELING? We consider ourselves well-adjusted, but we have seen first-hand the relentless ways in which the devil attacks and disarms people – we will do all we can not to allow ourselves or those we love to become pawns in his schemes to steal, to kill, and to destroy.
If you are married, it starts with your spouse, or it should. But who are your closest friends – who are your confidantes? Do you check in with them also? Do they know that in you, they truly do have a “safe space?” We live in a challenging epoch of time – the pandemic set the stage for what many call "The Great Reset” and society is morphing right before our eyes. But through all of this social, economic, and political upheaval, we need each other. Everyone wants to feel loved – everyone should know that they matter to someone else. It is intricately intertwined with what makes us human beings.
With regard to suicide, here are a few things to think about when considering those within your sphere of influence. These are called protective factors, different characteristics that make it less likely an individual will think about, consider or die by suicide. Protective factors include:
- Having access to medical care and support for mental and physical health.
- Building and maintaining important connections and relationships with family and friends. Do you have your own “tribe?”
- Having the ability to successfully work through life challenges and stressors.
Conversely, here are a few signs that someone who is thinking about suicide might say and do. Please note that these are not all-inclusive – there is no predictor that lets you know what is truly in another person’s heart. But spiritual discernment and awareness of these warning signs can help:
- Talking about wanting to die
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
As human beings, we are the unique crown jewel among God’s creation. He made us in His image (Genesis 1:27) and He paid the ultimate sacrifice through Jesus Christ to redeem us to Himself. We live in world with warped values that would make us doubt our worth. The world counts our value through looks and possessions and what it vainly calls “success.” The world is wrong.
God our Father determines our value and to Him, we are priceless. As the children’s song says, “Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His sight.”
Life is a precious gift, and we must honor the gift by cherishing our lives and genuinely respecting and valuing the lives of others. Let’s open our eyes and hearts toward one another.
Suicide is all too real and pervasive in today’s society. Please be aware of those around you and let them know you love and treasure them.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call or text 988 or chat with someone at 988lifeline.org.