Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The only thing I have to say...

...on the whole Jovan Belcher sad story:

"The only person's behavior over which you have control is your own."

If Belcher were really bent on harming his girlfriend and himself, and he didn't have a gun, he'd find a way. I know someone who was suicidal and as a result gave away his guns. He wound up hanging himself.

You can't bubble-wrap the world to make it safe for everyone. A "safe" world would be one in which none of us would want to (or perhaps even be able) to live.

Yes, it's sad and it's awful (I mainly feel for their families - and for the child who now has no parents). But I don't think stricter gun laws would have prevented this. I don't think a neo-Prohibition (some are blaming it on heavy drinking) would have prevented this. I don't think some governmental agency being able to pluck people deemed to be a "potential danger to themselves" and forcibly medicate or incarcerate them in hospitals would be a solution. (I really do not want a governmental agency deciding who is a "danger" and who is "safe" to be on the "outside").

One thing I've learned in my 20+ years of adulthood: Sad shit happens in life. Sometimes you can't do anything to prevent it.

If that sounds kind of helpless, it's not meant to be. It's an acknowledgement that, as I said, we can't - we shouldn't - bubble wrap the world. Sometimes bad stuff is going to happen and there's nothing much we can do about it. Sad stuff happens, but there's also lots of happy stuff out there, and I think in some ways we appreciate the happy stuff more, knowing that we all will experience sadness.

I don't know that the suicide of the man I mentioned above could have been prevented or not. I do know he had friends and family around him. Granted, no one stayed with him 24/7 - but he would not have wanted that; to effectively tell him, "We think you are a mental invalid and we need to watch over you to protect you." He probably still would have found a way. (And yes: he was getting counseling. And he was taking medication. And he was found with a Bible open on the table near him. So he had been fighting it, hard, for a long time).

I will say I have also known cases of someone who was (apparently) thinking of killing themselves, but who was stopped, because of something someone said to them, or because they went and talked to a religious leader, or because something happened to shake them up and make them go get help. But again - it's hard to know sometimes when the thing you say will really help, and when it will do little. (And it's wrong for families and friends of a suicide to beat themselves up for not being able to prevent it. I've known one or two people who committed suicide in my life and you cannot always stop it, no matter what you say or do.)

Bad stuff happens. Maybe some of that bad stuff can be prevented, but not all of it can.

Ultimately, the only thing we can do is our best: be kind to the ones you love. Embrace them. Help them when they express a need for help. Give them tough love when that seems necessary. But ultimately remember that the only person whose behavior you control is your own.

That sentence - "The only person whose behavior you control is your own" - is one of the hardest lessons I learned as an adult, but it's also been one of the most valuable, and the most saving of my own sanity. I'm a people-pleaser and also sometimes prone to beat myself up if I feel like I didn't do "enough" to help in a situation. (Thank God, I've never been in a position where I felt "maybe I could have prevented that suicide" - the couple people I know who have done it were distant from me at the time). And I'm also prone to get frustrated at simple everyday boneheaded behavior, like the student who loses their license for driving drunk and then can't get to campus, and that fact has a domino effect on other things. But it does help me to take a breath and remind myself that I didn't cause it, I can't prevent it, and the best thing I can do is roll with the consequences and try to keep innocent bystanders from being too adversely affected.

So yeah, people are going to do horrible sad things. Sometimes we can stop them. Sometimes we can't. One of the unfortunate things about having such a connected and plugged-in culture is that we know about all the bad stuff that happens. (150 years ago, some farmer shooting his wife, then himself, out of desperation over something? Only the immediate family and immediate community would likely know. Now, we have the potential to know everything that happens everywhere, and I think that can get a little suffocating.)

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