Every suicide is a tragedy but some suicides defy comprehension.
The overwhelming sentiment of those who knew the Wales football manager Gary Speed has been shock and disbelief alongside sadness and tears. That someone at the top of their profession, surrounded by a loving family and carrying an outstanding reputation could decide that his life (for what reason we don’t know) was not worth living is beyond comprehension.
It is a blessing that few people make a decision to end their lives in such heartbreaking ways. But Speed’s death highlights a number of painful, but important truths.
1. No one is immune from suicidal thoughts
One friend of Speed’s commented:
That this should happen is just unthinkable because everyone you knew, in any walk of life, in any situation, you would have to say he would have been the last one you might have thought could have done something like this.
2. Not even everything you could want in life, a loving family, material security, success or fame protects you from inner turmoil with is much more about who you are than what you have.
3. It is possible to keep dark feelings completely hidden.
Behind the disbelief is the frightening thought that someone can battle with suicidal thoughts deep within their souls and yet present no suggestion of it in the way they relate to those around them.
Some people prefer to battle these things entirely on their own. They learn to cope with these feelings whilst unable or unwilling to communicate their despair to the world.
James Lawton writing in the Independent noted:
In all his time as a notably undemonstrative, but deeply respected member of his celebrated trade, Gary Speed seldom, if ever, gave a hint of vulnerability.
4. Friends blame themselves that they didn’t see it coming.
The testimony of those close to suicide victims is that it is inevitable that they should look back over previous meetings and conversations and think should I have spotted that something was wrong. Friends and family think they should and could have done more, maybe made themselves more available or offered better support. The sad reality is that so often in such situations there is little that anyone can do to predict the unpredictable.
Alan Shearer said it all when he said of Speed’s death ‘this just doesn’t happen to your best mate’.
5. It is extremely difficult to accept that such a thing can happen.
Howard Wilkinson, his manager when he won the Football League with Leeds United said:
For him – at 42 – to leave us is such a tragic loss. I’ve rarely come across a better balanced, lovely, genuine person. He was a terrific player – not as gifted as some but he made the most of everything he had. Worst of all for me I knew his parents, in particular his dad, his lovely wife and family – I just find it very, very difficult to come to terms with.
Speed’s death came just a day before the announcement yesterday afternoon of the winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award for 2011. It was awarded to Ronald Reng for his biography ‘A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke‘ the German national goalkeeper who committed suicide in 2009.
Theodore Dalrymple is a retired prison-doctor and psychiatrist. When Moors murderer Ian Brady wrote a book The Gates of Janus: Serial Killing and its Analysis, by the “Moors Murderer” Dalrymple was invited to review it for The Sunday Telegraph. The title of the review was ‘Inside the mind of a moral monster’ and in it Dalrymple offers an insight into what ‘moral monsters’ reveal about human nature:
‘I have noticed in the prison in which I work that the more conscienceless the prisoner with regard to his victims, the more prickly he is about wrongs he believes to have been done to him, however slight or trivial they might be. A man who won’t hesitate to stab a complete stranger if he feels like it, will call down anathema on the world if his tabacco ration arrives but 10 minutes late.
And if it were not for the fact that Brady came to his conclusions by torture and killing rather than by reading Derrida and Foucault, he could have found a post in any contemporary university department of literature: ‘Legalities, moralities and ethics are simply questions of geography, passing modes of fashion and taste, shaped and dictated by the prevailing ruling class of whatever country one happens to be in at a certain time.’
It is sometimes said that a psychopath is someone with no moral sense. This is not quite accurate. Even as thoroughgoing a psychopath as Brady sometimes lets slip an almost normal moral judgement that threatens to undermine his stance as a man of iron realism, amoralism and relativism.
Neither is it true that psychopaths such as Brady are unable to think in moral categories. Indeed, his denunciation of almost everyone around him pollutes with such moral categories as corruption and hypocrisy. He presents himself as the only honest man he knows.’
As the Apostle Paul writes in the book of Romans chapter 2:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else…you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them).
The Bible contains surprising verses, even offensive verses, passages of the Bible that seem to be at odds with our understanding of the way the world should work and God behave.
Exodus 20:5 is one such verse;
I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.
If you’re a Christian you probably, like me, find a verse like that a little unsettling. What can such a verse mean?
1. It can’t mean that God actually punishes innocent people for the sins of an earlier generation. After all Deuteronomy 24:16 makes clear that ‘Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers.’
2. Rather through this verse God warns Israel that as Stuart comments;
‘God will indeed punish generation after generation if they keep doing the same sorts of sins that prior generations did. If the children continue to do the sins their parents did, they will receive the same punishments as their parents.’
Ryken notes that;
‘God never condemns the innocent only the guilty. Here it is important to notice something that is often overlooked — namely, how the threat ends. God says that he will punish three or four generations “of those who hate me” (Exod. 20:5). The children hate God as much as their fathers did (which, given the way they were raised, is not surprising).’
And here is his sobering conclusion
‘As parents plan for the future, they should be more concerned about the second commandment than they are about their financial portfolio. This commandment contains a solemn warning for fathers. When a man refuses to love God passionately and to worship God properly, the consequences of his sin will last for generations.
The guilt of a man who treasures idols in his heart will corrupt his entire family, and in the end they will all be punished.’
The second commandment in action
And then in the news today we find something that seems in every way to be a fulfilment of this warning in our own times. Dr Helen Wright, President of the Girls’ School Association, in a speech to be given tomorrow warns that the consequences of parents not knowing right from wrong are falling on their children.
‘I have a deep worry that some parents have been so deprived in their own lives of education and values, that they no longer know right from wrong and that they are as a result unwittingly ‘indulging’ children in some parallel universe where it is acceptable to let young children wear make-up and provocative clothing.
“If parents can’t see anything wrong in dressing up their children in ‘Future WAG’ T-shirts and letting them wear make-up, high heels and ‘mini-me’ sexy clothing, then something is intensely wrong in our society.’
Cecil B. De Mille the director of the Hollywood blockbuster, The Ten Commandments, described the folly of ignoring God’s 10 commandments in this way – he said ‘It is impossible for us to break laws; we only break ourselves upon them.’
Today’s Telegraph contains a report on a speech given by the Chief Rabbi. Speaking at an interfaith reception, Lord Sacks argued that Steve Jobs has helped create a culture of unhappiness.
‘If you haven’t got a fourth generation iPhone, the consumer society is in fact the most efficient mechanism ever devised for the creation and distribution of unhappiness.’
Since joining the world of twitter and blogging I have to say I have been a little surprised at just how many posts and tweets by church pastors and planters have obsessed with the latest iGadget. Maybe the Chief Rabbi has something to teach us all.
Many of us have never been personally affected by war and we barely stop to think about the sacrifice of our servicemen around the world. This short video, put together by St.Helen’s Church, gives a powerful insight not only into the realities of war but also what Christians should be remembering this Remembrance Day.
On thursday’s Question Time the programme closed with this question;
What is the essential ingredient to GWB ‘General Well-being’?
The answers the panelist gave to what makes us happy were a little depressing with one notable exception.
I’m with 4 others from 2020birmingham and in total 500 church-planters, network leaders and city catalysts from around Europe meeting in Berlin for the next 3 days. Our goal; to consider just how we reach the great cities of Europe with the gospel and how through such a network as this we can work together to see it happen.
Here’s Tim Keller on speaking at CitytoCity Europe
For more details about the conference visit citytocity: europe
“I never thought I would hear myself say as much, but I’m with Mrs Whitehouse on this one. The liberal mood back in the 60s was that sex was pleasurable and wholesome and shouldn’t be seen as dirty and wicked. The Pill allowed women to make choices for themselves. Of course, that meant the risk of making the wrong choice. But we all hoped girls would grow to handle the new freedoms wisely. Then everything came to be about money: so now sex is about money, too. Why else sexualise the clothes of little girls, run TV channels of naked wives, have sex magazines edging out the serious stuff on newsagents’ shelves? It’s money that’s corrupted us and women are being used and are even collaborating
What have the likes of Rowan Atkinson and Ricky Gervais got in common? Fraser Nelson thinks he knows
Fraser Nelson in last weeks Spectator magazine takes issue with the condescending tone of Rowan Atkinson;
Rowan Atkinson, the comedian and actor, this week denounced many of the clerics he has met as being ‘smug’, ‘arrogant’, ‘conceited’, and ‘presumptuous about their position in society’. He shows no mercy to the clergy, and shows no doubts whatsoever about his right to judge the church.
There are smug priests, of course, just as their are smug architects, smug engineers, smug police officers, smug politicians and, whisper it, smug comedians. No member of the priesthood, for instance, would sit behind the wheel of a sports car valued at £2 million, still less prang it, as Mr Atkinson did last month, No ‘clerk in holy orders’, as vicars used to call themselves, would attempt to raze a perfectly good house in Oxfordshire to the ground, and build in its stead a monstrous glass and steel edifice, as Mr Atkinson wants to do, in defiance of the wishes of local people. Some fuddy-duddies might consider this sort of behaviour to be arrogant. His unhappy neighbours might even suggest that Atkinson himself was a touch presumptuous about his own place in society. Perhaps Mr Atkinson is above hypocrisy.
Modern comedians have become a secular priesthood. They have their own customs and rituals, and their own language, which is not always friendly. There is a strict hierarchy among TV comics, and at the top of the profession, an untouchable, cabal, far grander and more self-important than any circle of bishops.
Many comedians like Atkinson are rich beyond their dreams. Most real priests, by contrast, live humbly, and dedicate their ministry to the lives of others without expectation of reward. If Rowan Atkinson is keen to continue his new vocation as a lay preacher, he would do well to learn from their example.
An article in today’s Telegraph
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