I recently attended a memorial service for a business leader in my community. I did not know him very well, but there were many in attendance that did. One after another, people got up
to praise this man and his legacy of community service. His life was described by many as having been “perfect,” and tears were shed as he was remembered. But there was very clearly an elephant in the room. And the elephant was that this man had taken his own life.
It was sad and troubling to me that so many people who said they knew this man so well, and described his life as “perfect” had no idea of the pain he was obviously experiencing. God calls us to be part of a community of people that love and care for each other and who love Him. God calls us into relationships where we are willing to speak the truth to each other (Ephesians 4:15, 25); confess sins to one another (James 5:16); and love each other enough to chase after each other if we are headed for a fall (Matthew 18:10-20; Galatians 6:1-2; James 5:19-20). The question really is this: Who knows you? And deeper than that, who knows you, and cares enough about you to try to prevent you from taking a fall?
I am blessed to have a group of men in my life who know me very well. They have spoken the truth into my life, even when the truth was hard. We are there for each other always. And I came away from the memorial service with the realization that these kinds of relationships are really pretty rare. And that is truly unfortunate.
It is hard for us to be absolutely transparent in our relationships. It is particularly hard for men. But I can tell you that if I were at a point where my despair was so deep that I was contemplating taking my own life, these men would know that, and they would take steps to draw near. We all want to have lives that are “perfect”, at least we think we do. And when things are anything but perfect, we can withdraw, retreat and hide. There are times when we will ask someone we know is hurting if they are “Ok”. We know they are not, but we ask anyway. And when they tell us they are “fine”, we accept the answer and move on, often with a sense of relief that we have done our duty by asking, and it can end there.
It is hard to ask for help, and it can be hard to receive help. Asking for help means that life is not “perfect” for us, and in that moment, we are weak. And offering help can be equally hard. Suggesting that help may be necessary can strain relationships. But God desires for us to be in relationship with him, and with others in our lives. And part of relationship is being willing to reach out, even when it is hard to do so. We were never intended to take this journey alone. It is necessary for the masks we wear to come off. To share our pain with those who care about us. And it is necessary for us to have the courage to help those we care about to take the masks off, and to let them know that the sun will come up tomorrow.