A Difficult Ethical Question
July 12, 2020 at 12:01 pm #116095The Inkspiller@the-inkspiller
Before you read on, I want to be clear about the topic:
I have a character who struggles deeply with sin nature, guilt, and temptation of suicide. So, this is a rather dark subject, and uncomfortable for me as well, who has struggled similarly. But I would appreciate second and third eyes on the subject to help me write ethically, not just intensely.
I want to start with the preface that I know suicide is sinful – it is mistrusting the power and sovereignty of God over our situation and His sufficient grace to carry us through our trials. Whether or not it is one of those “mortal sins” as labeled by the Catholic Church (i.e., unforgivable) – that is not my place to say. This story does take place in the 15th century of medieval Europe, so Catholic thoughts and theology predominate, and to a great extent I must balance my modern sensibilities with historical realities, while still prioritizing faithfulness to the Gospel above all things.
The character in question is a girl / young woman of a supernatural bent who, suffice it to say, has a monstrous past. She is something of a poster child for “sin nature” – a demonic presence (i.e., a Wormwood type) follows her wherever she goes, constantly tempting her towards evil, and up to the point which she enters the story, she has been readily following his advice: theft, fraud, promiscuity and adultery, and murder. However, even after grace enters her life, guilt haunts her continuously. At her point of repentance, and even times afterwards as she finds herself slipping back into sin, she finds herself seduced by the temptation of suicide, framing it in her mind as a “righteous” act – a worldly means of atoning for all the evil that she’s done by putting it to an end.
I know that she’s wrong. Suicide is not the answer, even for the most wicked of pasts. However, I need to answer that paradigm in a Godly manner which can challenge the worldly wisdom that suggests that such an evil person can only atone by ending their life or otherwise preventing themselves from ever harming another person again. One thought comes to mind – the image of a serial killer who tells the judge to lock him away because he knows if he ever goes free he will kill again. I’m straining to figure out a way in which she can be realistically redeemed, repenting fully of her past crimes / iniquities, and accepting the proper judgment for the evil that she has done. Wisdom tells me she can’t get off scot-free, and I know that the salvation of the Gospel transcends this mortal life, so that doesn’t necessarily protect her against temporal punishment – but I desperately want for her to have a happy ending.
So, yeah. Heavy stuff.
@deeprun NO THIS IS NOT SPOILERS FOR MYRRHA. DON’T PANIC.
Non nobis Domine, sed nomini, Tuo da gloriam.July 12, 2020 at 5:45 pm #116116DeepRun@deeprun
Pardon as I raise a skeptical eyebrow.
This made me wonder, what is the one thing the character holds as sacrosanct (without fretting overly about the character identity)? It seems the one thing held up that can’t be lost or is the non-negotiable, is often what’s asked of us. A tangible proof of our faith. The rich young ruler. Abraham. Not to be cliche, but if our tightly gripped little claws can be pried off this “precious”, our hands lie open to receive more. In abundant disproportion to what we deserve.
So, that might be a way to show genuine change of heart with atonement. Maybe…
You do not have a soul. You have a body.
You are a soul. - C.S. LewisJuly 13, 2020 at 11:17 am #116142Crazywriter@crazywriter
I would say that while suicide is a sin God’s mercy supersedes our sin. My mom knew a very sweet, saved lady who committed suicide. I believe it’s like with peter on the water. He lost sight of christ, and started sinking.
When christians committed suicide, they loose sight of christ, but Jesus lifts us up from our sin. I mean, is there really any sin that cant be forgiven?
Just my thoughtsJuly 18, 2020 at 10:05 pm #116321PenSword@pensword
These are just my thoughts, take them if they’re helpful.
In this situation, I don’t think suicide really “atones” for anything. Not the way she might think, not when you break it down. If she does kill herself, the only thing it’s doing is erasing the possibility of her hurting anyone else. But it doesn’t change or “make up for” anything she’s done in the past. She can only do that herself, if she is still alive. Suicide is “the easy way out” the people who were hurt by her actions aren’t going to be unhurt.
And maybe she can’t help them living either. But she can do other things. Try to help others, others who may not receive help if not for her, vulnerable people, people who may be struggling with the same issues she had and probably still is to some extent. Some of the most powerful help people can give is when someone has been through the same thing and come out of it, and can encourage their fellows in what actually worked and helped for them. At least in my experience.
It is an interesting question to ponder. I have a character who’s in a similar situation, except for the setting. Because of her personality, she swore she wouldn’t destroy herself, but would use the abilities that she had to save people who would otherwise be left to die, instead of hurting anyone or taking her own life. She had not found Grace at the point in which she made that resolution, but it was something that worked for her until she did. It’s still an idea of somehow “repaying” for her crimes, instead of finding Grace that covers, but it was the thing that kept her alive to that point.
And it sounds like the contrast you’re working with here is guilt vs. Grace. It’s definitely a struggle, but finding that Grace should be a thing she can cling to, even when the darkness seems oppressive. (Please note I’m not trying to say she shouldn’t ever feel suicidal again because Grace covers all. Depression and suicide is something even believers can still struggle with, and I’ve had personal experience with that. But it is something that can be clung to, through the difficulty.)
Also, as far as a happy ending goes, it depends on how you define that. If the character is at peace with their punishment, even that can be a happy ending of sorts. (Spoilers, but see Crime and Punishment for proof of that.) It depends on how you do it, but it is possible to be happy, even with an ending that is the main character being punished for their pre-Grace past.
Not sure if any of that is helpful, but hopefully there’s something in there you can use.July 27, 2020 at 3:44 pm #116786Sarah Inkdragon@sarah-inkdragon
I think a good clarifying point to come to would be that she must realize that absolutely nothing she can do will atone for her sins. There is no work, no toil, no sacrifice that can make up for our sins. Our only option is grace and salvation through Christ, and that is that.
Many people will try to “make up” for their sins once they accept Christ and become saved. But the problem with that is we’re attempting to justify ourselves, through means that could never attempt to cleanse us. Only Christ can do that, we’re just trying to build the Tower of Babel again but this time with good works. James would be a good place to go, as it is a book that tells us:
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
This is one of those more confusing snippets of scripture, but broken down we can begin to understand that James is essentially saying, “You show me you faith without works, I will show you my faith by my works.” Believing that there is some “greater power” or even believing in God is… critically speaking, the easy part. Even demons believe in God, but that doesn’t mean they fear or obey or love Him. We must therefore show our faith through our actions, by holding ourselves to a higher standard than what we were without faith. Translating that to your character, she must realize she cannot atone herself, that only God can do that, but she can live a better life and help people by showing her faith through works of good and obeying and seeking after God. The important part is that works alone cannot justify us, as James says, Abraham was justified because his faith and works were working together to perfect his faith. They go together, they are not separate.
Suicide is indeed, the easy way out for someone to lie to themselves that they can attempt to justify their own sinful nature without Christ. And it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it must be done or the character is merely deceiving themselves with a nice lie that they can kill themselves and somehow “make up” for what they’ve done. But all they are doing is taking away any chance that they could do any real good in the world and help others.
"A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."
- C. S. LewisAugust 23, 2020 at 11:10 am #118627Livi Ryddle@anne_the_noob14
@the-inkspiller Not sure why I didn’t get a notification that you tagged me…
Um, so thoughts…
Prefacing this with the statement that I’m not 100% comfortable giving someone advice/suggestions of this nature because I’m not completely confident in my understanding of God’s word yet.
NOT that I’m not confident in what I believe. That’s not what I mean. I’m just not sure I’m versed enough quite yet.
Someone mentioned that they wondered if there’s any sin that can’t be forgiven. The sin of blasphemy (making God in his holiness equal to Satan in his evil) is one. As far as I know and believe, it’s the only one that can’t be forgiven. (Really, we shouldn’t be using the word “can’t”, because God can do anything, but that’s a little bit beside the point.)
If I’m correct in believing that blasphemy is the only sin that won’t receive forgiveness, then the sin of suicide is one than can receive forgiveness. However, I also believe that to be forgiven of a sin, one must pray to God, confess the sin, truly be sorry, and try one’s very best not to ever make that sin again. When one commits suicide, it’s not possible for them to pray to God for forgiveness. Because they’re dead. So, I think (and I could be wrong; I readily admit that) that your character should realize that if she commits suicide, she won’t be forgiven of that, even though “technically” (using quotation marks because that’s not quite the right use of the word) the only sin that can’t receive forgiveness is that of blasphemy.
~Sir Nicholas Beauvallet
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