“Suicide is the greatest of human freedoms, underwriting all the others, for it gives us the possibility of defying every thing and every one there is. The possibility of suicide is what makes life voluntary and each new day an act of will. No wonder the faith community gnash their teeth at suicide. God Himself, if He existed, would gnash His teeth at suicide: the supreme act of defiance, the final rasberry. The knowledge that I’m here by choice, that every breath I take I take by choice, injects into my soul a transcendent joy” (Matthew Parris)
If I choose to kill myself, then isn’t that my right? Who can tell me to keep going; especially if every day seems meaningless and worse, actively painful?
Here’s one response:
‘You are not allowed to kill yourself. When a person kills himself, he does wrenching damage to the community. One of the best predictors of suicide is knowing a suicide. That means suicide is also delayed homicide. You have to stay.’
So wrote Jennifer Hecht, following the suicide of two friends, both within the space of a year.
Over the past 45 years, suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. In 2010 alone, a US veteran killed himself every 65 minutes. (source Reuters). Culturally, we see suicide as a choice. But as Hecht observes, it hasn’t always been that way. In her book, ‘Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It‘, she charts how we’ve moved from seeing self-killing as morally wrong, to an extension of the rights of the individual. In the process, she argues, we’ve lost our shared intellectual and moral arguments against suicide.
Hecht is not a Christian. But she is devastated and she is angry. Angry at the two friends who left her behind and took, not only their lives, but part of hers as well.
She recognises that life can be overwhelmingly hard. But she argues that ‘human beings contribute just by continuing to persist in life and rejecting suicide, despite anguish’.
‘When we cannot see our own worth and are tempted to leave life, we are doing a shining service to our community and to our future selves when we choose to stay.’
We are part of a community. And, Christian or no, when we sever that link, the whole comes apart.