Trigger Warning for suicide and death.
I got on my computer to sit down to write toward a novel, then to maybe finally post my response to a writing link-up. But all day, I've been thinking of something else to write, something else to say. There has been a lot going on in the news lately of terrible tragedies--from an accident at a zoo to a rape trial to a beautiful singer being fatally shot to fifty people being murdered in a mass shooting--and other issues our nation and our world are facing, whether it deals with civil rights or presidential elections. I don't know all the details of these stories. I've read tons of opinions and thoughts and maybe-facts online about each. But I'm not here to add my personal opinion of each incident to the growing mountain of cyberspace. Not entirely.
Instead, I've come to realize there's a fundamental problem at the root of recent news headlines. It's present in issues of gender, in the life of a human vs an animal's, in the action of a 20-year-old man, and in the shooting of a musical artist and fifty other people. It's not guns. It's not what's "politically correct." It's not stupid choices or bad parenting or special privilege. The fundamental problem in our society is the value we place on human life.
If people were taught to value their life--to love themselves for who they are--they wouldn't commit suicide because somebody bullied them for feeling or being different, whether they are transgender, mentally handicapped, or simply just marching to the beat of a different drum. "Oh, but you don't understand how I feel." I don't? No, I do. It's never easy to admit this, especially in a public place where my parents, adults who think highly of me, and younger people who look up to me can easily access and read this. But I do understand how you feel.
I'm a Class-A perfectionist. I was the kid who would cry if I got a B on a test or received a mark for not doing my homework. I often compare myself to a mirror because I easily agree with people even if I don't actually agree simply to please them and also keep peace between us. I struggle often to appear perfect on the outside when inside I'm twisted and tangled. I strive to do better than other people, while inside I fight my own thoughts. I also have undiagnosed social anxiety. Everything I do in a public setting puts me on edge and makes me think and overthink and think some more. I'm stuck in my thoughts, which revolve around "I'm not good/pretty/smart/talented/etc. enough" and "Nobody actually wants me around" or "Nobody would notice if I wasn't here." It's a vicious mind to live in, but it's mine. And I've had those "feelings" where I wanted to give up, where I wanted to end the thoughts and the flood of feelings that washed over me in a wave-like cycle by ending my life. I never did anything though. I never cut myself or attempted suicide. I only thought it--but thoughts dig deep and take root anyways.
The reason I never attempted anything is simply because I valued my life more than I wanted to stop living in this world. I was taught from a young age that my life--yes, the one filled with an onslaught of thoughts, mindless time-wasting on the Internet, and reading one too many books--is important. And not just important, but my life has purpose. It has meaning. It has been spoken for. It was created by God for a reason, and it was saved by His grace and mercy through the sacrifice of Jesus. And I cannot fathom ever ending my life because I "feel" too much, because somebody said something that rubbed me the wrong way or made me feel terrible and started me back through the loop of "I'm not good enough." I've had those moments. I've had moments where people treated me like I was a little kid still, despite being graduated from high school for a few years, despite being only a year or less younger. I've had moments where people made fun of me, whether it was what I said or how I said it or what I did, which made my entire internal world clench up and feel very angry, confused, and sad--all at once. I've been made fun of, maybe not entirely on purpose, but there were times I was teased or bullied, but I kept through. I rose above the thoughts of my own mind, the opinions (existent or non-existent) of others, and the standards of the media to learn to love myself as God loves me--the kind of love that goes beyond our human comprehension and feelings.
I value my life because I was taught to value my life. And in turn, I value the lives of every other human being on this planet. It's easy to look at my almost one-year-old nephew and value his life. He's precious and the cutest baby ever. (I'm not biased at all.) But it's harder to look at other people--older, of various sizes, of various lifestyles, of various social statuses,of various personalities, of various races and religions--and to love them, to value their life. But I try. I try to see the beauty in every person, whether they've committed a crime or yelled profanity at me or shared an amazing story or gave me a smile as I passed them by. I value the lives of every single person on this planet because I've been taught that every life matters and every life has meaning and purpose. I may not agree with everything they believe or say or do, but I still value their lives. I think about how they have lived and that everybody has a unique set of memories, tendencies, dreams, and purposes. Everybody is different. Nobody--not twins, not siblings--has the same life. There are things my sister has done that I can only imagine doing. There are things I've done or said that nobody else has. It's amazing to think about that, which makes it easy for me to value their lives because I think of how mindblowing it is that everybody has their own world in their head and every single one--all seven billion--is different than my own.
Which is why, if our society valued the lives of every person, some of these tragedies wouldn't happen. I could never point a gun at someone, no matter how much I might hate them or disagree with them or believe they are wrong, and pull the trigger without thinking about the life I was going to end and about the possibilities and potential of that life. I would never get behind the wheel of a car if I'd been drinking or if I was doing anything else that would hinder my senses and my focus on the road in case someone else was out on the road at the same time. A 20-year-old would never even think to rape any person, unconscious or not, if he valued his or her life enough to realize the consequences of his actions and the effect it would have on that person's life. Thousands of Internet users would never squabble about the inhumanity of shooting an animal in order to save the life of a toddler if they valued the lives of humans. Someone would not bully someone else for being different, and that person would never consider committing suicide as the only escape route. A person would not shoot a young woman with a gun or fifty others--whether the gun was registered or not, legal or not--if he or she valued life, no matter how he or she felt in the moment, no matter what they believe or what they are told to do.
The fundamental problem with our society isn't a political problem. It's not about the legality of guns. It's not about which bathroom you use or whether someone deserves a longer sentence in jail for a crime. It's not about bad parenting or terrorist intentions. The root problem of all of these tragedies and outcries of justice comes back to the simple factor of the state of our hearts. If we valued the lives of every child, man, and woman on this world, there wouldn't be as much tragedy. Yes, adversity, such as natural disasters or disease, would still occur and people would still die. There would still be some affliction, some heartbreak. But the social tragedy caused by relationships and actions from one person to the next would be reduced if we all valued life like I've been taught to value life.
I've been given redemption through the blood of Christ. I've been set free from the vicious cycle of my thoughts and feelings. Yes, it still comes and goes like tides of an ocean. Yes, I still have days or moments where I feel like giving up and not existing. Yes, I still struggle against it. But I continue to fight against it. I continue to pull through and rise above how I feel, how I think, and how I'm treated because I know there is redemption and there is hope and there are far better things I would miss out on in life if I gave up right now. The world is big and great and beautiful and full of impossible things, and I don't want to miss it because I have overwhelming feelings and one too many thoughts clouding my head. The world needs redemption--it needs hope that these catastrophes won't continue and will somehow find healing. I personally believe there is only redemption through Christ and that the world has already been saved. But here and now, it is our duty to keep that salvation and redemption at the forefront of our minds when we experience tragedy. I think the redemption for the world today begins with how we treat our fellow humans. And the only way to prevent such horrible calamities is to value the lives of every human on the planet.
I'm choosing to value life, so those around me can live without another tragedy. I'm choosing to value life so future generations can have some hope and joy in this world. I'm choosing to value life because someone else choose to give me life through His death and resurrection. I'm choosing to value life because to live in a world without value for who we are decreases the love and the joy and the redemption of our world.
"I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life so that you and your children may live." -Deuteronomy 30:19