I gotta tell you this amazing story true story that has had a huge impact on how I think about the world. One day, a mother called me up and told me that her 14-year-old son had attempted suicide and was placed in the state hospital for 48-hour observation. I knew that hospital, and I knew the place was dangerous. I thought this poor kid must be scared out of his wits and must be desperate for company, so I went as soon as I could.
But when I got there, i went into his room and saw him lying back on in his bed reading a comic book, completely relaxed. Even when he heard the screaming from the other patients it didn’t seem to bother him. So i tried to make some conversation with him, but he was not interested at all, he didn’t even look up. I said “your mother asked me to come see you, she’s worried about you, what should i tell her?” but he completely ignored me. I kept trying to start a conversation but he just kept shrugging me off. Finally, he looked up and said rather rudely “why don’t you go home? The chaplain has already been here!”
I said “What did the chaplain say?”
“Something stupid” he said.
Now I was curious. “What did the chaplain say that was stupid?” I asked.
He said “The chaplain said i shouldn’t kill myself because god loves me.”
“That’s stupid?” I asked.
He said “Yes.”
I said “I agree! I can’t imagine god loves you, you’re not very pleasant to be around.
Now he looked up.
“What’s your point?” he asked, clearly curious.
I said “God created you, so obviously he needs you. There must be something you can do for him that nobody else can, otherwise he wouldn’t have created you. So i think he’s stuck with you whether he likes you or not.”
He said “well, what if i don’t want to do what he created me for!”
So I told him that that’s called freedom of choice. That’s the choice we all need to make.
The conversation didn’t go much further than that, but i learned something really amazing that day. The chaplain’s answer was stupid for a very simple reason: This kid tried to kill himself. What message does that send? It means that he saying to the world that he doesn’t feel like he’s necessary. Now the chaplain comes and says “no, no don’t kill yourself, god loves you! ”But what the kid heard the chaplain saying was “fine, you’re right, you’re not necessary, but don’t kill yourself because god loves you.” When he hears that he thinks “wait a minute. If i’m not necessary, but you love me, that’s why i should live? What am I, your pet?”
For a gerbil that would work. Nobody needs a gerbil, but they’re cute. But that’s what the chaplain seemed to be saying to him. “You’re not necessary, but god finds you cute so hang around for his entertainment.”
That’s not a good deal for a human being
For me, the lesson of the story was: We need to be needed much more than we need love. I need to be important to you more than i need you to take care of me. Because if you need me, then i have a purpose. If you’re just taking care of me, all you’re going to give me is an existence and that’s depressing.