I was watching a movie with friends. The movie we were watching revolved around a highly-oppressed minority group of people living amidst a society filled with extreme violence and chaos. A scene unfolded as a visibly desperate man – who had fought every adversary he met as bravely as he could, whose mind had endured as much emotional suffering as it could possibly bear, and a man whose body had experienced pain it could no longer withstand – walked down a gravel street carrying a canister of gasoline. He stopped suddenly, poured the gasoline over his body and set himself on fire.
A young woman sitting beside me asked, “Why’d he kill himself?”
“Because he’s a coward and that’s what cowards do,” her boyfriend, sitting on the other side of her, replied.
This exchange took place more than a year ago, but I haven’t forgotten it, and probably never will. The tone that young man uttered his incredibly insensitive words lacked any hint of empathy or compassion. He made the ignorant statement unaware of the plight of those around him. He wasn’t close enough friends with every single person in that room to know their struggles, their downfalls, or to witness the quandary of their weakest moment.
He exemplified none of the human values (compassion, kindness, tolerance ) necessary to be a decent loving human being. I remember being angry when that young man said what he had said, but I didn’t say anything because I believe those who boast loudly and talk boldly, do so to hide their own weaknesses. I swallowed my dissent that night, and instead of challenging his words, I looked at the young man with sympathetic pity in my heart because maybe he was struggling a battle so deep and profound that he needed to appear stronger than he felt.
Maybe the young and confident man was putting on an act.
Or, maybe he was just an insensitive jerk.
But that night I chose to give the young man the benefit of the doubt, and I hope he made no one in that room feel like a coward if they were struggling to overcome their own weighted hopelessness.
According to Veterans Today, the annual suicide rate for veterans is 29.5 per 100,000 veterans. This suicide rate is 50% higher compared to people who never served in the military. If this young man knew of this statistic, I wonder if he would still have boldly stated that people who kill themselves were cowards.
I don’t know, but I do know that men and women who serve our country and protect our freedom are not cowards – no matter how their life ends, and the same applies to everyone else who loses their life to suicide.
Be tolerant. Be compassionate. Life is uncertain. Life is unpredictable. Life is uncontrollable.
There’s help for those who need it. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
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