As the tributes and mourning pour out for much-loved comedian Robin Williams, I’ve seen some strange, disturbing and angry reactions to his death. The phenomenon adds to my sadness. I loved Robin Williams’ comedy and acting. At 63, he leaves behind an immense legacy of art, but he died too young.
And then there are the Internet people who seem to breathe Mean. I’m sure they are a minority, but they sure are vocal. Time for some push back.
To the people who are so sure he’s burning in hell for committing suicide: Judge not lest you be judged. If you really want to bring more people to Jesus, do you really think kicking someone so talented and loved is going to sway people to your cause? As a Christian buddy of mine would say, “Y’all need to read your red-letter Jesus talk closer.”
Robin had a good joke about casting the first stone and getting in the heaven club. When angry fundamentalists said he wouldn’t enter the kingdom of heaven, he asked, “Will you be there?”
To the people who associate suicide with cowardice: You don’t understand the problem. I’ve dealt with depression personally. I can tell you, it takes a lot of bravery even to admit you’ve got the problem. Bravery and cowardice, however, are not relevant to treatment. Framing mental illness and addiction that way isn’t helpful to those who suffer the disease.
Perhaps you could feel superior to others in more productive and harmless ways, like getting really kick ass at crochet?
Try looking at depression this way:
If a guy with all of Robin William’s resources couldn’t turn away from suicide, mental illness must be a huge problem. It’s not mere sadness or laziness that makes a person take his life like that.
When people judge others for “taking the easy way out”, not only do they not understand the underlying medical issues involved, they may even contribute to the problem.
Questions to ponder
What example are you setting if you lack compassion? Are you really so sure you’ll always be healthy and so utterly blameless no one will think to condemn your behavior? If life is so precious, why are you making it more miserable for those who suffer illness? Are you really angry at a celebrity you don’t know or are you projecting, angry at mortality and putting expectations on others? No one can know another’s pain or what’s going on in a stranger’s head.
I believe there are correct times for suicide. I believe we’ll have fewer occurrences of suicide with more research in the long-term and more compassion now.
Practice compassion today. Please. Try to see others at their best. If we reduce everyone to the facts of how we die instead of how we live, too many of us will leave this life as failures. Compassion helps save lives. Condemnation can hurry us on to darker options.
Robin Williams was a sensitive, kind and generous person who brought the world laughter. He worked hard at many philanthropic causes to better our world and ease the suffering of others. When he was well and at his best? That is his legacy. That is his example.
What have you done to ease another’s suffering today?