The PA cracked on and the principal began to speak in a raspy, serious and sorrowful tone: “I have a tragic incident to relate to you, and I want you all to listen and think about it. Sara Hughes, a sophomore here, committed suicide yesterday…”
Sara Hughes—the students sat quietly remembering or trying to remember her. Just last Friday some of the students had been listening to the radio and had heard Sara call in. Upon naming the top 10 hits in order, she had been awarded a pizza party for herself and 25 of her friends. But she had not giggled with excitement as most people did when they won. She simply told the DJ, “Thank you—but I don’t have 25 friends.” The DJ had tried to persuade her, but she protested, “No, really, I don’t have any friends,” and with a click she was off the line.
Only a week before she had been alive and now she was dead. Students shivered at the thought and turned their attention back to the scratchy voice of the principal: “Please look around you at your classmates. Is there anyone who is left out all the time, anyone who has no friends? Please tell your teacher if you know of anyone.”
When I heard about this true story, it touched the very core of my being. Why? Because I have been down that road of loneliness myself and I am sure that many of you have too. But, thankfully, I chose to handle it in a different way. The fact is, many of us, young and old alike, may feel left out or that we do not fit in. But most of us get back up and get going again. What happened to Sara that she would take such a drastic action? How could she have dealt with this differently, and how could other students around her have helped her?
Before tattoo on body, tattoo on mind
It all starts with the mind and what we put into our minds about ourselves and others.
Once, walking through the twisted narrow streets of Hong Kong, a man came upon a tattoo studio. In the window were displayed samples of the tattoos available. There were anchors and flags and mermaids. But what struck him with force were three words that could be tattooed on one’s flesh: “Born to lose.”
He entered the shop in astonishment and, pointing to those words, asked, “Does anyone really have that terrible phrase, ‘Born to lose,’ tattooed on his body?” The Chinese tattoo artist replied, “Yes, sometimes.” “But,” the man said, “I just can’t believe that anyone in his right mind would do that.” The Chinese man simply tapped his forehead and said in broken English, “Before tattoo on body, tattoo on mind.”
Be careful what you put in your mind. It’s so easy to tattoo negative things about ourselves in our minds. We think, “I am a loser and no one likes me.” Sara had tattooed in her mind that she was a loser, that she was not worthy to be loved and cared for by friends around her. Because of her own self-image she gave off signals to others that she would not be fun to hang around with, which caused Sara to isolate herself from others even more. Many of us from time to time sink low, and feel this way about ourselves, but we must get back up. Talk to someone who can encourage you like Charles Eliot’s mother encouraged him when he was down.
Charles William Eliot (1834-1926), former president of Harvard University, had a birthmark on his face that bothered him greatly. As a young man, he was told that surgeons could do nothing to remove it. Someone described that moment as “the dark hour of his soul.” Eliot’s mother gave him this helpful advice: “My son, it is not possible for you to get rid of that hardship…. But, it is possible for you, with God’s help, to grow a mind and soul so big that people will forget to look at your face.”
Mind and soul—how do we develop those? By reaching out to others. A proverb says that a man who has many friends must show himself friendly. I remember when I first came to church at the age of 19, I was so painfully shy that I would stand next to the wall and not speak. Then one day my minister said, “Janet, you need to go around and speak to people. Just put out your hand and say hello.” The first time I did it, I thought I was going to faint. But the more I did it, the easier it became. Now I can speak to just about anyone. My minister taught me a valuable lesson about getting my mind off self and onto others. By doing this, my shyness was cured.
God sets an outstanding example for all of us to follow in reaching out and helping others. Psalms 113:5-7 Psalms 113:5-7 5 Who is like to the LORD our God, who dwells on high,
6 Who humbles himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!
7 He raises up the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the dunghill;
American King James Version×says, “Who is like the Lord our God, who dwells on high, who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth? He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap.” It is so nice to know that when we get down and feel as though we are on an ash heap, God is there to reach down to help us.
With constant contact with God, He can live in us and give us the confidence we need to be outgoing and friendly. Sometimes flaws that are so big in our own eyes can be so small to others. A warm and friendly smile and being concerned for others causes people to lose sight of those flaws that seem so big to us. By focusing on others we can become healers.
Become a healer
What is a healer? Webster’s Dictionary says a healer is one that heals or attempts to heal. A healer restores a person to wholeness. We should be in the business of healing.
Everyone wants to be loved. Why not look for those who may be hurting inside, like Sara? If only someone had taken the time to reach out and offer a hand of friendship, this tragic story might not have occurred. It takes so little time to show care for someone else. This act of love, of taking the time, can make a lifelong difference in another’s life.
Being people-centered, instead of self-centered, can make our lives shine to others around us. Reaching out to others will also help turn our own depression (as well as others’) into joy.
Words can kill
Not only can we be guilty of tattooing negative images about ourselves into our own minds, but we can also be responsible for tattooing a negative image onto another person. How? We do this by our hurtful words to others and about others. Have you ever heard the expression, “He’s a loser”? It’s an expression that is used freely today. Do you know how damaging these words can be? What kind of hurtful things have been said to you? How much did it hurt?
Does God look at anyone as a loser? No! It is His will for all to be sons of God in His Kingdom. Be a person who uses words that heal. Use words that build up and encourage, not tear down. Perhaps Sara had hurtful words said to her that caused her to withdraw, pull back and become a loner. Be a healer with your words. Proverbs 16:24 Proverbs 16:24Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
American King James Version×says, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” Choose your words carefully and use them to build up and encourage.
Accept what God is doing in your life
We must accept and work with what God has given us. We may have freckles, red hair, be too short, too tall, too skinny, too fat, have a speech problem or anything else we don’t like about ourselves. Sometimes we are just too hard on others and ourselves.
Look what one girl came to realize after struggling with being too short. Elizabeth Elliot, in her book Let Me Be a Woman , records the story of Gladys Aylward who was unable to accept the looks God had given her. Gladys explained that when she was young she had two great sorrows. One was that, while all her friends had beautiful golden hair, hers was black. The other was that, while her friends were still growing, she had stopped. She was about four feet ten inches tall. But when she moved to Shanghai, China, she immediately noticed something about the people. “Every single one of them,” she said, “had black hair. And every one of them had stopped growing when I did.” She was able to look to God and exclaim, “Lord God, You know what You’re doing!”
Gladys accepted what God was doing in her life. Learn to have the total confidence that God knows what He is doing with you in your life—that you are called for a great purpose! Many things you go through are for a reason that will enable you one day to fulfill God’s great plan for you.
So how could the tragic story at the beginning of the article have had a different ending? Here is some sound advice:
Be careful what you tattoo on your mind and others. Remember, you are a special gift from God. Be careful not to discourage anyone by your words.
Be a healer. Reach out to others. Get your mind off self and onto others and their concerns, which will cause you to have many friends who will love you and appreciate you.
Accept what God is doing in your life. God can use what we think is negative about ourselves to serve Him in an even greater way.
If you feel like taking your life, or know someone who feels that way, get help! Talk to a minister or a trusted friend. But talk to someone. Never take it lightly when someone says that he or she wants to die. And certainly pour out your heart to God about it and ask Him to encourage you. No one should ever end up as Sara Hughes did.
You are not a loser. You were born to succeed! YU