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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 3:05 am 
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Guardian of the Black Room
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I'm sure that most Christians would agree that suicide is wrong; that is, it is a sin to take one's own life. However, we hear stories of people who die saving others' lives (e.g. a fire-fighter who dies from smoke inhalation after saving a family from a house fire, or a soldier who jumps on a grenade to save his friends), and we certainly don't condemn them for committing actions that caused their death.

The question I pose is: where is the line between suicide and selfless sacrifice? The idea popped into my mind recently (my brother introduced me to the Trolley Problem, which is a kinda similar dilemma), and I can't think of a good brightline. I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Some things to consider:
If one is intentionally standing on subway tracks and intentionally doesn't move when they see a train coming, that would be considered suicide, and would be condemned by many people. If, in the same situation, one is not moving because they are lifting a child to safety, they are considered a hero.
If one dies through inaction to preserve their own life (but while preserving other people's lives), how is that different than committing suicide and donating their organs to save other people's lives?

Just thought this was an interesting (albeit disturbing) topic. I believe there should be obvious brightlines separating sins and non-sins, so I'm looking for the brightline here.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 3:18 am 
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One is a selfish act. The other is selfless.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 3:29 am 
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What if I suicide by recklessly sacrificing my life while helping someone?





I'm much more likely to do some life insurance scam with a fake death, but still.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 3:40 am 
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Mr Glasses wrote:
One is a selfish act. The other is selfless.

I think this takes care of most cases. (Like the train track concept.)

But, is it "ok" to request for someone to pull the plug on a metal lung that's keeping you alive, so that a person who desperately needs a heart transplant can receive one? That's the one case that I wasn't able to take care of with the "selfless" act. You're selflessly giving your life, but you're still arranging for your own death.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 5:53 am 
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I feel like this is cliche and not terribly helpful but I'll say it anyway.

The difference is in the motive. If you're intentionally doing it to help another person it's a sacrifice; if not it's a suicide. So I would consider the lung example a sacrifice, unless your motive was to end your pain (not sure that would be a sin either but that's a whole new can of worms).

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 11:16 am 
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Mr Glasses wrote:
One is a selfish act. The other is selfless.

Casting people who commit suicide as "selfish" is Really problematic. That's a horribly uncharitable view of people in terrible pain. You may obviously disagree with them on whether it's a good idea, but conflating their desperation and misery with greediness and inadequate empathy - and shaming those who feel that impulse instead of recognising that they need Care... that's just awful.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 1:03 pm 
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Hyacinthus wrote:
Mr Glasses wrote:
One is a selfish act. The other is selfless.

Casting people who commit suicide as "selfish" is Really problematic. That's a horribly uncharitable view of people in terrible pain. You may obviously disagree with them on whether it's a good idea, but conflating their desperation and misery with greediness and inadequate empathy - and shaming those who feel that impulse instead of recognising that they need Care... that's just awful.

Don't you think that the difference between feeling suicidal and actually committing suicide makes this point moot?

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 1:36 pm 
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Clearly that isn't what I think, given what I said. Rather than asking facetious questions, you could just explain why you think that's a differentiation which renders the point moot.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 2:42 pm 
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Hyacinthus wrote:
Mr Glasses wrote:
One is a selfish act. The other is selfless.

Casting people who commit suicide as "selfish" is Really problematic. That's a horribly uncharitable view of people in terrible pain. You may obviously disagree with them on whether it's a good idea, but conflating their desperation and misery with greediness and inadequate empathy - and shaming those who feel that impulse instead of recognising that they need Care... that's just awful.
This is what has me conflicted, because I do agree with Mr. Glasses, about the actual distinction. but at the same time, many who commit suicide are struggling with mental health issues that do require treatment and care, and will corrupt their ability to make decisions. And all people need love and support instead of shame, even those who we think are the biggest sinners ever.
I guess what I have been telling myself is that I am not the person who decides what a sin is. But sometimes that feels like a cop out.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 9:39 pm 
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I know not this "leverage" of which you speak.
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Hyacinthus wrote:
Casting people who commit suicide as "selfish" is Really problematic. That's a horribly uncharitable view of people in terrible pain. You may obviously disagree with them on whether it's a good idea, but conflating their desperation and misery with greediness and inadequate empathy - and shaming those who feel that impulse instead of recognising that they need Care... that's just awful.


I knew I wouldn't get away with posting a bumper sticker. Touché.

That's not quite what I meant by "selfish." I meant to say that suicide is an entirely inward facing action. It's done primarily for the sake of one's self (often to erase pain), not primarily for the benefit of someone else.

Anorton asked for an abstract distinction between suicide and sacrifice, and I gave him one, but I hope to God that I'd never say something so obscenely trite to someone in the throes of suicide. Trying to fix a suicidal person by saying, "you're being selfish," is one of the cruelest applications of shame I can think of. Shame doesn't eradicate pain, it rubs salt in the wound. Shame doesn't cancel feelings of emptiness, it enlarges the void. We both agree that shame doesn't heal people.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:57 pm 
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Hyacinthus wrote:
Clearly that isn't what I think, given what I said. Rather than asking facetious questions, you could just explain why you think that's a differentiation which renders the point moot.

It wasn't a facetious question. I was looking for an explanation of what appears to be a bad case of equivocation.

1. Mr. Glasses said that suicide was a selfish action (now clarified).

2. You then argued that his claim was bad because he was saying that suicidal impulses are selfish.

3. That's not what he said, but I'm sure you'd make the argument that they're close enough to make the equivocation.

Why?

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2014 2:16 am 
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Okay, maybe a *little* more important than Caleb...
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Hyacinthus wrote:
Mr Glasses wrote:
One is a selfish act. The other is selfless.

Casting people who commit suicide as "selfish" is Really problematic. That's a horribly uncharitable view of people in terrible pain. You may obviously disagree with them on whether it's a good idea, but conflating their desperation and misery with greediness and inadequate empathy - and shaming those who feel that impulse instead of recognising that they need Care... that's just awful.


Pay attention to this. Many people commit suicide because the pain, physical or emotion, is EXTREMELY great. I'm not sure how many people get close to something like this. Sometimes it is misguided thinking or valuing the wrong things that causes the distress, but it is still real, and sometimes it's simply a brain chemistry thing. I think suicide is wrong, since it says we control our (ends of our) life and not God, and it can be done selfishly, where the person is misguided and doesn't consider the negative implications of their actions on others, but only a desperate person will commit suicide. You must have compassion with a desperate person.

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