Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Heart Topics: Is Suicide Selfish?

Greetings to any and all who stumble upon this blog article.

This is the first in a series. "Heart Topics" are, in short, any blog posts I write on a topic close to my heart - animal rights, depression, LGBTQ rights, womens' rights, pro-life topics, the effects of porn, etc.

As you may be able to guess... these topics and some others are very personal to me. This means they can sometimes trigger negative memories and emotions, or at the very least, cause me considerable pain.

I tell you this so that you know - it takes great effort for me to write on such things. But I will write, for people need to hear about them. All I ask is that you treat any and all of my Heart Topics with respect when commenting on them.

Now that that is out of the way... we move on to my first Heart Topic.

Suicide. Or, rather, whether or not it is selfish.

As with most aspects of life, this is not black or white. There is no clear-cut answer: no 'yes, it is selfish' and no 'of course it isn't'. It is far, far more complex.

Do I believe suicide is selfish?

Well, I believe it is about as much as I believe all apples are rotten.

(Hint: that's not much.)

Just as not all apples are bad apples, not all suicide cases were because of selfish choices. In fact, eight out of ten people who commit suicide do so because of other people. Observe the following thoughts:

"Everyone will be better off without me."

"If I do this, my parents/spouse will have more money for debts and bills."

"At least now my failures in life won't upset Mom and make her cry."

"I won't be able to constantly upset my friends anymore. I could never help them anyway - like this, they have the ability to go find someone else, someone who can help them."

I can promise you that those thoughts and ones just like them are what goes through a person's mind when they consider suicide.


Because I have seriously considered it more than once. I've sent out the goodbye notes and had plans to end everything. I never did succeed.

But I can say with complete certainty that my thoughts were not centered on myself - some of them may have been, but the majority revolved around other people.

How much better their lives would be, how many things that would be set right when I was gone... always other people in my mind.

Was I correct? Probably not, on most counts.

I may have been wrong - but I was not being selfish. The definition of selfish is 'concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself'. Which I was not - I had a few thoughts for myself, of course; one of them being, "The pain will finally be gone". But the rest of my thoughts were excessively about other people.

That means that - if I had succeeded - my choice to commit suicide would not have been considered selfish by the dictionary definition of the word.

Neither would the suicides of any person who had felt and thought the same as I did in my situation.

If a soldier kills himself or allows himself to be killed for the greater good of his comrades and his country, he would be considered a hero for 'doing what he had to do for the sake of all'.

When a person ends their own life, often they are doing the same thing - trying to do what they feel is best for the greater good of those they know.

Are they correct? No. But the pain, the feeling of being lost and drowning, make it so that they believe that ending their life is the best thing to do. They are no more selfish than the soldier is - the only difference is that one's mind is clouded by pain, and they are believing something that isn't true.

It is not logical... but it is definitely not selfish either.

Now... can suicide be selfish in some cases? Yes. Sometimes, a person commits suicide and is only thinking of themselves. How to end their pain, why they deserve death, etc. I do admit that.

But I'm going to give anyone who immediately wants to announce to the world, "That was selfish and wrong!" a quick lesson in something called empathy.

I know how hard it is for those of you who have never been truly depressed to understand. Trust me, I do know. When you've never been that low, never been drowning in the dark and lost, unable to find a meaning to anything...

It is only too hard to understand how it feels and the motives behind what happened. Sometimes, it is impossible to figure out the exact motive.

That never - never - gives you cause to be callous and proclaim to anyone who will listen about how selfish and wrong and disgusting a person is for... simply trying to end the agony in the only way they knew how.

My mother's cat died from kidney disease. In her last weeks, she was in agony. Finally, my mother made the decision to euthanise her - to end her suffering instead of prolonging it.

Elderly folk in many places have a choice - if they are getting sicker, and in a lot of pain, they can ask to be 'put down' in a peaceful manner so that they no longer have to suffer.

Why, then, is it so much more 'selfish' and 'cowardly' for another sufferer to try to end the pain in the only way they can think of? Yes, it is wrong, but one who has been in their shoes cannot blame them for it. We can grieve, but knowing the pain they were in, it is impossible to condemn them for their choice.

They were only doing what animals and the elderly have a legal right to do. It isn't logical, yet it is nearly no different, but for the stigma around it.

Not only that, but you never know who might be reading your posts or listening in on your conversations at the store. A severely depressed person may come across something you said about the horrible wrongness of suicide.

The resulting emotions you give them may have disastrous effects.

When Robin Williams committed suicide, and I found out, I was heartbroken and devastated. I still am - I was crying over it the other day. He was the man who did everything for everyone else, and gave them joy... but was going through so much pain, he could never do the same for himself.

Someone on Facebook spoke harshly against the people mourning the loss of the bright soul who had lit up their lives for so long - implying that those who mourned him were foolish. In the comments, more people started to talk about how selfish a choice it had been, and how Robin Williams would surely end up in Hell.

I saw this. I took part in an attempt to explain things to them, as did several others who understood.

I have depression. It was so much worse at that point, because someone I had looked up to had been struggling for years with the same thoughts and feelings I did - and had, the night before, lost his battle with the agony.

And because those feelings of pain were so much more intense for me at such a time, the words those people spoke were a personal blow. I found myself, yet again, suicidal as well.

I wasn't planning on doing anything - 'being suicidal' means that one wishes to die, and may even entertain thoughts of it - but does not plan on going through with it. And I was wishing for death then.

Why? Because I felt like a disgusting human being - I struggled with depression, and I had so many times thought of suicide... and here, I was seeing implications that that made me a bad person, selfish, horrid, and that if I ever made such a mistake, I would end up in eternal damnation.

Do you know what that does to a hurting soul?

I wept the rest of the night, mainly for Robin, but also because of the pain I was going through.

The point I'm trying to make with that anecdote is... you must be empathetic. You must be loving. You must be gentle, and kind, and understanding.

Because you never know who might hear your words. You never know who might feel your words are validating how they already feel - worthless, horrid, and hopeless. You never know who might make the ultimate decision to end it too, solely because they feel from your words that it's true - they don't deserve life and they are horrible for having a medical condition they cannot change.

The bottom line is - even if suicide is done for selfish reasons, shouting it to the world and acting in such a way (without compassion and understanding), is very wrong. You will dig a knife into the wounds of people already hurting from the loss, and possibly cause pain to others.

When something like this happens, offer condolences and reach out to the family and friends who lost their loved one. Pray. Post comforting words.

Do not condemn or judge or make assumptions about how selfish the person was, when you do not know the whole story.

In conclusion to the question - is suicide selfish? - my answer is that it's complicated. It is not black and white. Sometimes people will commit suicide for themselves and not for the perceived good of others. (Most times, as I said, however, it is for the perceived good of others.)

Even if something does seem selfish, it may not be.

Even if it truly is, being callous and uncaring about the gravity of such a situation... is wrong.

And that's all I really have to say on the matter for now. I may write a follow-up in the future.

God bless,
~ Theodora Ashcraft


  1. "I can promise you that those thoughts and ones just like them are what goes through a person's mind when they consider suicide.


    Because I have seriously considered it more than once. I've sent out the goodbye notes and had plans to end everything. I never did succeed."
    I'm glad you didn't, even that I don't know you I'm still sure everyone around you would really miss you. Good article Theodora, make more of them ^ w ^