Yesterday a young man in High School killed himself. Since then I have had numerous conversations with different people about the tragedy. The conversations that follow the expressions of sorrow and grief usually centered on “Why?”, and what could have been done to have prevented it. Over the last 40 years of pastoring I have been in many such conversations with people about tragic events and decisions loved ones have made that have been very sad and have left a ton of questions. After most of the conversations I have often wished that I could have come up with some answers, at least some words that would have helped even a little bit with the confusion that people felt. Even though they are far from profound I have landed on several guidelines that I use for myself, and pass on to others when appropriate.

– It is impossible to understand other people’s motives for doing most of what they do, especially the really radical decisions, and most guesses at what the motive was are just that, guesses, so it would probably be good not even to make a guess, they will just add to the confusion, and tend to grow with conversation about them. It is enough for me to believe that at the time they probably thought they were making the best decision for themselves, even if it wasn’t. Often I don’t know what motivates me to do certain things, but I do believe that given the right set of circumstances I could do just about anything. It appears at times that not even God knows our motives Deuteronomy 8:2 …. “testing you, to know what was in your heart”.

-Because we don’t know what the motive was it is important that we don’t blame ourselves or others for not doing more, better, or different. Blaming ourselves or others for something that we don’t understand always makes our pain, sorrow, and confusion worse, never better, which makes our recovery and healing from the tragedy much longer, and increases substantially the probability that the tragedy is going to cause our relationship with others to suffer.

– Which brings me to my last guideline; don’t assume that your grief, sorrow, sense of loss, and hurt is worse or more intense than others around you. Instead of seeking comfort, give it; instead of wanting to be understood, that is wanting others to know how much you hurt, work at understanding others , and how much they hurt; instead of seeking sympathy, give it. Those who work hard at being a proactive healer of others become healed quickly.

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