I have never heard so much about suicide until moving to Korea. Sure, there were the occasional suicide stories in the news back in Canada and in Hollywood, but to so frequently read the names of celebrities, political leaders, and high-profile individuals in the headlines in apposition with the deadly words, “suicide,” was unfathomable.
“South Korean Ex-President Kills Himself” is one of the major headlines in the news today. Even if one were to survey this past year’s news, one would frequently come across stories of celebrities committing suicide in Korea. Committing suicide in Korea is really not an occasional occurrence.
But why? Is it that the preciousness of life isn’t valued any more? Is it a decision of the whim? Why am I coming across so many stories of suicide in this shame-based-Confucianistic culture of Korea?
I believe that my last question holds the key to scratching the surface in regards to the driving force of suicide in Korea.
It’s the Power of Shame.
Shame (n): a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
In this Confucianistic-Buddhist-Asian culture of Korea, one’s consciounsess of wrong isn’t personal, like it is in Western-highly-individualistic-cultures, but it’s collective. As a result, when one commits a wrongdoing, one feels humiliation and distress from everyone – not merely from one’s own conscience. In psychological terms, it’s called the “invisible audience” phenomenon. Albeit, all individuals experience the “invisible audience” phenomenon from adolescence onwards, I wonder if it is stronger in Asian cultures because of the emphasis on collectivity?
Thus I believe that it is the power of shame that overtakes one’s own reason and well-being, and leads one to ponder the option of suicide. One cannot merely reconcile the wrongdoing easily. It is no longer a wrongdoing against oneself, but it is one that has been exposed to the world. To reconcile the wrongdoing with the world seems to be too big of a task, and without God, it surely is. As a result, suicide seems to be the best option for most people.
Now do I agree with my hypothesis? In a humanistic sense, I do. But in light of who God is, and the power of spiritual warfare in this world, my argument above is merely one point of view.
Sure, the power of shame is a huge force that drives people to suicide, but behind that, I believe there is an insatiable craving and longing in everyone’s soul for God. Now when humans try to fill that longing for God with money, power, sex, and fame, it always comes up short.
“Why is there this emptiness in my soul?”
“Why is there this emptiness in my soul??”
“Why is there this emptiness in my soul???”
“Why is there this emptiness in my soul????”
To not find the answer to this question, and to give up the search, signifies the beginning of death.
As a result, when individuals commit suicide, are they already dead? Have they already given up searching for the One that our souls long for?
These are my reflections…what are yours?