This is just a rant, so if you were planning on killing yourself today, skip this post because, to be honest, I will not be saving anybody.
I just got caught up in one of those idiotic suicide evangelist posts that started as a chain email, but have also been making the rounds on Tumblr and Facebook. The way the suicide evangelist story goes is basically this: Person A meets Person B, usually by chance. A is genuinely nice to B, even goes out of their way to be decent in most instances of this story. Years later, B approaches A, either in private or in public, and confesses to A that they were going to kill themselves except that the unusual kindness of Person A changed their mind about suicide, saving their lives and allowing them to go on to be whatever kind of amazing success would best compliment the other details of the story.
The moral, of course, is to always be kind to everyone you meet, not because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s just common decency, but because they might be at the end of their rope and in need of saving. They might be the kind of person who changes their mind about major life decisions based on the fleeting influence of a single random stranger, and that stranger could be you! Not only that, you could reap the rewards of your decency years down the line by being able to accept responsibility for the success of another person based solely on the actions of a single day. Help some nerd carry their books and you, sir or ma’am are halfway towards the cure for cancer. Face it: You’re a hero.
This is, of course, complete bullshit. It’s this kind of cheap and shitty Chicken Soup for the Martyr’s Soul ass salad that leads people to think they should get blow jobs in exchange for being nice to girls, or that they should get parenting awards for showing up for their own children. You’re nice to people because you’re supposed to be; because you prefer it when people are nice to you. There is no other reward.
What if we were to take this stunted logic and change one small detail? What if the person we were decent to, who we “saved” from killing themselves turned out to be a kid rapist? What if they turned out to kid rapist our kid? Is that somehow now an argument for being a complete and total shit to everyone we come across? Absolutely not.
You can’t cause good things to happen by being good any more than you can make up for bad things that have happened by being bad. That’s magical thinking. Good and bad things happen to good and bad people without reason or pattern.
As much as kindness is a helpful habit to have, good boundaries are more important. And it is good boundaries that this shitty chain story is actively discouraging. In the suicide evangelist, you don’t just leave people to their own plans and thoughts, letting them figure their shit out as mature, reasonable adults. You get up in their business, and you take responsibility that isn’t yours, probably preventing them from the benefit of dealing with their own struggles. And later, good things happen because you have the kind of power that makes the world better.
Not to say that people can’t make the world better, but it is too heavy a burden to expect people to save one another. Which is what the suicide evangelist purports to do. It’s nice to think that one simple act of kindness could save a life, it’s especially nice to think that it could save a good life. But when that story ends badly, when that person kills themselves anyway, the mindset of the suicide evangelist is exposed as what it really is: sick fucking thinking.
We are not responsible for the lives of others. If someone chooses to end it, that has no reflection on us anymore than if someone chooses to live. Those left behind after a suicide often feel that there was something they could have done to prevent this, which is the tribalist emotional place the suicide evangelist story preys on. A temporary ego boost from the fictional actions of one universal do-gooder is not worth how it reinforces co-dependent thinking. We are not responsible for each other. Our only responsibility is to ourselves. I realize that’s far less exciting than the idea that we could save one another, but that’s not how this works.
Every person deserves the dignity to make their own terrible mistakes. Ultimately, we can prevent those mistakes from being made about as much as we can prevent the tide. The output of energy it would take to turn a truly suicidal person away from their path can only come from inside that person. No individual can protect any other individual from themselves.
Stop posting these childish savior stories. Stop reading them. They’re not helping.