What makes people not value their own lives and at the same time value it so much that they think others can't live without them?
Last week in California a man killed his family (his five children and his wife) and then shot himself after losing his job. In October there was a similar story, also out of California. I’m sure, unfortunately, that there are other cases that I’m not aware of. I guess the thinking that goes on in the minds of these people must be: my family needs me, if I can’t support them, then no one else can support them and they should all die because they need me, and since I can’t support them, then they should die. Um, I’m thinking that this is more narcissism than anything else.
I’m probably not supposed to be angry at people who are so distraught that they murder their families, but I can’t help it. So what, the world revolves around you and if your orbit goes off-kilter you need to take everyone down with you to prove how vital you are? Or are you so claustrophic in your mind that you can’t see a sliver of possibility for your “loved ones” without you being at the center of their universe?
How does a person become so lost that the most important role in his life is one that he violates so dramatically? Is society still too focused on a man’s worth as being reflected in his “being a good provider” that when there is an obstacle in fulfilling that role the man loses his ability to value himself as a person as separate from his paycheck? I know this is a great simplification, but I love to simplify things, after thinking deeply, of course. But if the straw that breaks the camel’s back is losing a job or losing the house, then there is that implicit link between one’s intrinsic worth as a person and one’s extrinsic worth as a provider.
How to rectify that, especially as we continue to ground into this economic morass? Who knows? I don’t write self-help books or sermons. Okay, I’ll take a shot. If you were to think of the things that bring joy to your children’s faces you could find a clue to who you really are and how you are really valued. Maybe it’s the things you buy, in that case, not much help there. But maybe, really, it’s that your children know you are trying to give them what they want—that you want to make them happy. And if you break that down, it could be grounded thus: they are happy when you try to make them happy.
When I get together with friends we often meet in a restaurant or a coffee shop. Not much money is spent, because that is not the key factor, time together is. We get together simply to spend time with someone we enjoy being with, and we tell stories. We tell stories of past meetings, of things we have done since last meeting, and we talk about aches and dreams, and frustrations and joys. The coffee or salmon salad is not the center of attraction, we are. This can be taken as the advice that time spent together is what counts and not what is done. Who needs fancy parks when it brings more angst to get there when the core of the experience is the being together?
Maybe I’m still simplifying too much or am unable to see into the psyche of a man who only values himself by his paycheck and how he provides and what he can give his kids, but you know what, the mind is a gymnast and can change how it views things. There isn’t yes and no, and have and have not, there is part and there is some. Maybe a part of the problem, too, is that people don’t talk to each other. They don’t tell their spouses about the battering that they are taking just trying to survive, or about the relentless thought of failure that accompanies them throughout the day, or about the longing to walk away from the trials placed in one’s path. If only, if only people, especially men, didn’t realize that sharing is not a sign of weakness or failure, but is a sign that you are not an island.
For goodness sakes, don’t people get married and have a family so that they can share their lives with others? Is sharing about controlling it all? I especially detest the notion that a man or woman would not tell his or her family about problems in order to “protect them.” Protect them from acting on concern? Protect them from knowing that your spouse is considering murder and suicide? Protect them from what—their own lives, the reality of their loved ones’ lives?
While this blog may not be the turn-to source for men contemplating killing themselves and their families, it is my source for thinking about our lives and our society. Trying to be like Atlas holding up the sky so your brood can bask in the sunshine is a pretty tough task even for a Greek God. It seems that the time has really come for the “man as center of the world in his castle” thing to come to an end. Maybe this is sexist, but I can’t help but feeling if these men had just talked to their wives about their FEELINGS they might have come up—together—with a solution that did not involve the end of all their days.
My thoughts go out to all those who are struggling, may they find hope in the future and a place of peace in the present.