Have you ever been in a situation when you wish you could hit rewind? Maybe it’s something you said, or something you did that you’d love to retract. Or perhaps you wish you had responded in a different way to what someone else said or did.
Last Friday, I was speaking to a group of high school students in St. Louis. Part of discussion I led included this question: What is one thing that you can do TODAY, right now, to make sure that you will be remembered in a way that reflects your values?
Of the 250 students who breezed through my meeting room during the morning, about 60 at a time, most shared relevant and hopeful remarks. A few said, “I want to be more outgoing.” Others said, “I will trust more.” Another common theme was to “Be more focused.” I was thrilled to hear a few remark that they wanted to “Study more.”
But one girl said something that troubled me. When she volunteered to share what she wanted to change, she replied, “I want to hurt myself less.”
At the same moment she shared these words, 60 new students burst through the door, signaling the end of the session. In the chaos of kids running to their next sessions, I lost track of the girl. I tried to find her in the crowd, but she disappeared. I hung around later after all of the sessions were over, and I scanned the 250 faces to try to find her. But I couldn’t.
I have no idea what she meant by “Hurt myself less.” Perhaps it was her poetic way of saying that she wished be less of her own worse enemy when it came to being a success. I hope to God that’s what she meant. But I can’t shake her comments. The crowd moved so quickly, I couldn’t even give the organizers a description of what she was wearing or what she looked like short of having long hair and a slightly sad face.
I don’t have a rewind button to play back that moment when the girl made that statement. But if I did, I would have found her after the meeting. I would have asked her what she meant. I would have told her that she’s not alone. I would have offered to talk to one of her teachers with her to make sure that she had someone who would follow up with her. I would have encouraged her that there is hope for new beginnings, power for being renewed. I would have told her that her resolve to “hurt herself less”, whatever that might mean, is the start to healing and walking a new path.
A high functioning society is one where all members look out for all other members. If you sense someone around you is losing hope or slipping into the path of despair, don’t hesitate to say something for fear of looking stupid or like you’re meddling. Don’t fumble for a non-existent rewind button while you’re lying awake wishing you had handled things differently. Keep this website and phone number handy: United States National Suicide & Crisis Prevention Hotlines.