This is my Pastor’s Ponderings article from our May 2017 newsletter.
Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand. + Isaiah 41:10
This is not an easy article to write, nor will it be an easy one to read. I hope it leads to challenging and uncomfortable discussions, because the cost of silence it too great.
I want to encourage you to think about, engage and discuss the topics of bullying and suicide.
In particular, I’m encouraging you to watch the Netflix TV series, 13 Reasons Why, and/or read the book it was based on Thirteen Reasons Why.
The series and the book tell the story of a young female high school student named Hannah who commits suicide, and leaves a series of tapes for the people who, in her mind, caused her to lose the sense of value for her life, and led her to commit suicide. The 13 hour-long episodes are tough to watch. Included in her story are under-age drinking, strong language, bullying-both personal and online, drug use, violence, sexual acts, rape and ultimately, the character’s suicide.
The issues that the teenagers in this series and book deal with may not be the ones our young people face. Or they may be. Or they may face comparable issues. Bullying is a concern everywhere. I don’t think we can be naïve to think today’s teenagers aren’t being confronted with choices and temptations that adults struggle with. I don’t think we can be naïve to think those things don’t happen here, in some form.
Why would I ask you to watch something like this? Because young people are.
The book was a best seller in the Young Adult and New York Times lists when it came out. Since the series debuted on Netflix at the end of March, it has been near the top of their most viewed lists.
The series has been criticized for not dealing with the mental health issues involved in suicide, not for having provided depictions of alternatives that were available to Hanna. I agree, those would have been useful.
But I think the show (I haven’t read the book, but plan to) does a wonderful job in showing how the actions of the other characters contributed to Hannah’s decent towards seeing ending her life as an option. It causes many of the recipients of the tapes to think and re-examine their actions and behavior.
And that is why I recommend that you watch the series. Then discuss it with other people, to talk about it with your family. I ask you to tackle this because none of us know the issues others are wrestling with inside of their own hearts and minds.
I do this because in watching this series, I was taken back to some of the darkest days of my life. I remembered when I was considering doing the exact same thing that Hannah did in the series. I was taken back to when taking my life was a real consideration.
I made a serious mistake at my work, and I thought it would cost me my job. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I felt totally alone. And the longer I was alone, the worse things got in my mind.
Thankfully, I had friends and loved ones who reached out to me, and shared that they loved me no matter what. I had people who prayed for me and reminded me that I am a beloved Child of God, and forgiven for my sins. I realized that I might have ended my pain, but I would have inflicted untold pain on those who I loved. I didn’t make the choice Hannah made because I knew I was loved.
But I wear a reminder of those dark days. On my left inner forearm, I have a tattoo that reflects a verse from Scripture, but it is also a semi-colon.
A semi-colon is used when the author could have ended the sentence; but chose to keep their story going. It is a mark that shows someone has decided to keep going. I chose to have mine in a more visible place, and it has led to some conversations I never would have otherwise had.
Whether you decide to watch 13 Reasons Why or not, I encourage you to be willing to have some uncomfortable discussions with others about what they are dealing with and what you are dealing with yourself. Be willing to share your concerns with others. Let them know you love them.
You should be willing to talk to your loved ones about tough topics because you may regret not having done so.
Know that you are a beloved Child of God,
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell
If you are concerned about a loved one, or about yourself, please feel free to contact me. Here are some other resources that are available.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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