Friday, December 14

Pushed Beyond Pain: Shootings, Suicide, Giving Up on Life

There was a school shooting today, in Newtown, Connecticut.
Kindergarteners. First graders. Teachers. 20 children gone. My youngest brothers are 7 and 10, and I have family and cousins all over the country. It could have been in any of their schools. Someone posted a tweet that talked about unopened Christmas presents, and the tears started flowing. I don't have kids of my own, but I'm a teacher. I've sat in classrooms and looked at my kids in the rows of desks or tables... and know how deep that love can be.

My heart goes out to the families, loved ones, and community members there. Losing a family member or friend is... such a personal thing that no words can really describe it. It's a mixture of pain and frustration and shattered dreams, anger and guilt and despair, all mixed into a package of overwhelming reality. What do you do? How can you get up the next morning and make sales calls? How can you fill a hole that no one else can?

There are two parts to this story. When we mourn the loss of the righteous, of the faithful, or of the innocent, we are mourning for ourselves - for our losses and our dreams, our hopes and our quiet conversations. As we come to grips with the love of God, we can know that He is taking care of them... and that through the Atonement all things will be made right.

But when we mourn those who have turned away from light, we are mourning their loss of hope and peace along with our own. And, at least in my case, the mourning feels more real.

In this case, it's the story of a 24-year-old boy who gave up on life and acted out in one last moment of pain. Somehow he believed that he could never find happiness in this life.

And I wonder.

I wonder if he had friends. People he could talk to - not just who listened to him, but helped him find his soul. Not just friends to indulge or echo his thoughts, but who pushed him to be better each passing day, no matter what.

I wonder if he had enemies. People who, from the superficial nature of their lives, were oblivious to what lay beneath the surface. People who said one thing and did another. Who told the rest of the world how much he wasn't worth... with hopes that he would hear it.

I wonder if he had someone who could walk him through his trials and thoughts. If he had someone that he could call in the middle of the night, or the middle of the day, and tell anything and everything without being turned away or accounted less loved.

I wonder who he was. What he loved to do. What happened to begin his pathway towards death. And what I, or someone else, can do to avert this type of disaster in the future.

The reality is that things like this happen far too often. Perhaps not on this scale, involving the deaths of dozens of children, but it's not hard to find less violent but still real evidences that people have been pushed beyond pain.

On a social level, people explode in anger and do things that they would never do in a rational state. Domestic violence, workplace arguments, and bitter disagreements between family or friends exist around the globe.

On a spiritual level, it's even more apparent. Some people who feel stressed spiritually - and are unable to find reconciliation within their faith - leave their beliefs behind but turn against anyone who remains. The few lasting negative responses I've had from people who learn about my life, my loves, my passions, my trials, my blog... have been almost exclusively ex-Mormons. Some lived seemingly happy lives in the gospel, and then something changed. Slowly, quickly, sometimes a bit of both. But in the end, something convinced them that if they can't find happiness in the gospel, no one can.

There's something wrong with our society. Suicide passed car crashes this year as the number 1 cause of mortality from injury in the US, and other industrialized nations are seeing similar results, even with the fact that some suicides are never recorded as suicide. The rate is climbing. Faithful people are losing their testimonies and losing the light and hope in their eyes. Families and friends are losing touch as workplaces, schools, and homes become a more sterile, "safer" place to interact. And today a 24-year-old man destroyed his own life, and the lives of children, because he was pushed beyond pain.

My hope is that I can do my part to change the world back. To help people feel loved even when they look like they don't need it... or even when they say they don't. To push people to find hope and faith in God even when it seems like He hasn't been listening... and when His followers may have said or done horrendous things in the past. And to help people work through the pain that life will inevitably bring.

All of us will be eventually be pushed up against the edge of our ability. And then we'll all be pushed beyond. That's part of mortality and the test that is life. The question then is this: What will I do when I'm pushed beyond pain? Will I turn to God? Will I draw closer to my family? Will I lift the human race? Will I reach out and serve those who need my help?

Or will I give up on life?


  1. I find it amazing how you consider both the shooter and the victims. Maybe if more people had, this tragedy wouldn't have happened.

    Thank you for your thoughts.

  2. David,

    What a heart felt post and a tribute to all the victims of this tragedy. Sometimes I am almost overwhelmed by the pain and sadness in the world. But you are right, we can change the world. Through one person at a time we can make a difference. We can love. We can listen. We can help. Thank you for that reminder. Thank you for changing the world one person at a time.

    And god bless the victims today.

  3. What an insightful view into a terrible situation. I, like many other people, was only seeing his actions today, without taking into account what his life was before. Judging him. None of us will ever fully understand what he did or why. Only our Savior is equipped for that.
    On a different note, as sad as it is, I don't have a lot of hope that things will get a lot better. The End is coming (thank goodness), but it has to get a lot worse than this before it can get better. I know that it WILL get better, but I also know that it WILL get worse first. All we can do is try to be a light in this dark world, and help those whom we can. You do a very good job at being that light for me. Thank you for being you!

  4. I frequently think about the fact that we cannot and won't save the world. As Kirsten said, we already know what the outcome will be for the world. But we can save souls FROM the world. By reaching out in love and understanding, and helping people to feel the love of God in their lives, we can give them hope. By doing so we elevate their view above and beyond the suffering around us, and be able to see the glory that is ahead of us. That glory, made possible by our Savior, is the only hope any of us has. I hope we will all pray tonight for all those impacted by this tragedy, especially for the families of those taken, that they might find hope through Christ. Thanks, David, for reaching out and helping all of us to find that hope in our own lives. If more of us did that, you are right, this kind of thing would not happen. Thanks for your example.

  5. The most moving and beautiful post you've written yet. Thank you.

  6. Serving others! And reaching out to to help those in need in whatever ways we can, with words and/or material things is the heart of Christ's gospel. You, David, help us all with your eloquent and compassionate words!

  7. Maby if we saw having high powered weapons that only intend to kill and harm as a bigger concern than blocking the rights for all to be protected under the law our familys would have been safer on Friday . I can't but agree as all of us are these children to god and cant afford to be neglected or abused as he would be as hurt as we are now.

  8. I feel much pain for the children, for the familys who don't get this to end and the children hurting left behind...I cant imagine, I've been surprized as we ask why we don't wonder what the young man sufferd from and how he snapped? The words crazy or the world is more evil ..isn't the case as the dark ages or the holocaust was something to learn from, really we are so blessed, so much excesses and heath advances. I won't list it all but we really have so much, live longer and its time to not worry about wanting more stuff or just about who's in our church its about caring about all mankind - The Lifes we save may be are own in the end.

  9. This week I was trying to practice charity and see every person as a son or daughter of God. When I heard about the shootings, I had similar thoughts as you. First my heart broke for the children and families. Then my heart broke for the shooter. I wondered how that child of God could have stooped to the point of wanting to take the lives of God's most blessed children. What could have pushed him to that point? What could have been done to keep him from reaching that point? It made me question my ability to make a difference to people around me. That shooter could have been anyone. Now what can you or I or anyone else do to keep someone else from reaching that point of despair. Thanks for writing this post.

  10. This is a heartbreaking story.I appreciate you writing this touching post. I always find it painful when people give up on life, I find this suicide prevention advice page to be useful:

  11. My heart aches for those left behind. The children are assured of life in the Celestial Kingdom.
    In the past year and a half, two of my church friends have lost children to suicide. There was a young man a few days away from his twenty-sixth birthday. His mother is active in church, his dad and brother are not. Another active couple lost their youngest daughter. I will miss both young people, and I hope that they have found the peace that they couldn't seem to find in mortality.


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