In September, I had the opportunity to present on The Role of Forgiveness in Suicide Prevention and Recovery. Over the next few weeks I'd like to share some things I learned. Today, I want to look at one of the risk factors for suicide and how forgiveness can help protect us from that risk factor.
One risk factor that has been studied by Joiner, Van Orden and others is the idea of Perceived Burdensomeness. The simplest way to explain this idea is that people begin to believe that the world would be better off without them.
Over my decades on this earth, I have had many conversations with myself about how EVERYONE would be better off if I wasn't here. Sometimes the conversation involves looking back at the people I have hurt and wondering if they would have had better lives if I had never lived. Sometimes it is feeling like I am unfixable: I am broken and I will continue to hurt others and there is no hope in sight. In the past, I have thought about actively killing myself and other days I just wish a tree would fall on me so the world could be better...without me.
One part of the journey of forgiving others is to look at how their choices have effected me. How have the ways I have been hurt changed the way I think about myself and how the world works? If I can recognize that the reason I think I am no good, useless, and a burden goes back to when someone hurt me, then maybe I can at least consider that my thoughts about myself and my place in this world could be wrong. What if that person had not hurt me? What if I had different chances? Is it really ME who is the problem or have I actually survived through some really hard circumstances?
The other consideration is what I believe about self-forgiveness. Do I believe that I have inherent worth? Do I believe I am more than my mistakes? Do I allow myself to see the good I have done? As I begin to forgive myself, I begin to see that I am NOT evil incarnate. I am NOT a destructive tornado ripping through people's lives. I am human. I am not perfect. I have made mistakes-just like EVERYONE else. I deserve forgiveness and understanding and patience, just like everyone else.
You do too.
September was Suicide Prevention Month. If you are wondering if people would be better off without you, take a moment and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. (Quote is from Project Happiness.)