Have you heard the latest news about the “Miss America Pageant?” According to the reports, it will now be identified as a competition rather than a pageant and they will no longer have the swimsuit competition.1 The new board of directors want to make it a competition that is open to all women of shapes and sizes with an emphasis on their accomplishments and goals as the next Miss America. This new concept makes sense because they give millions of dollars worth of scholarships to their contestants for education and community projects. The focus of the competition will no longer be on outside beauty and physique but have more emphasis on their mind and heart. This beauty pageant began as a swimsuit competition almost 100 years ago so I wonder how these changes will affect the dynamic of the competition and its popularity.
This week there have been two examples of how we judge people according to what we think we know about them. Tragically Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain; two very well known celebrities who have struggled with depression, took their own lives. You likely will hear someone say that they did not look depressed or unhappy, which may be true based on the media or what Kate and Anthony wanted their fans to know about them. Basically this was not a real or complete picture of who they really were. I will confess that in the past I have been judgmental about people who commit suicide, thinking that it was a very selfish thing to do for those who are left behind. I was wrong. One of the things I have learned is that a depressed person suffers horrible and deep pain and killing themselves is a way to stop their pain. Also most believe the world will be a better place without them. I cannot imagine the depth of their pain and how it affects their whole life every hour, minute and second of day and night.
This never-ending pain is hidden from even the closest friends and family. Sometimes there are recognizable signs and yet I have heard that 30% of people give no warning signs. That is what makes these deaths so tragic. Like most people, I want to take away their pain and fix their situation. We can’t fix them. However we can be with them through it and give them support and love in their darkness. We can also hold their space until they are able to come out into the light. Just because someone looks successful doesn’t mean they aren’t lonely, depressed, struggling with life or medical issues. We just don’t know enough to judge!
This week I was reminded of a Bible story about a young boy who would be chosen to be a king. The Prophet Samuel was tasked to identify God’s chosen king from the seven sons of Jesse. Some were tall and handsome, yet none of them were chosen. When Samuel questioned why one of these brothers were not chosen, this is the response he got, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” 1 Sam 16:7. There certainly is nothing wrong with being pretty or handsome or rich, however the heart is most important. As God told Samuel, we need to look beyond what can be seen and what we might be comfortable with and search for the core of a person.
I am hopeful that the Miss America competition is wildly successful because they will be highlighting the contestant’s goals, achievements, skill and knowledge rather than their swimsuit clad bodies. I also pray for the families whose lives are touched by the pain of depression or suicide. I am committed to curbing my instinct to judge people and to be kind instead. I want to treat others, as I desire to be treated. We can all do a better job of looking beyond our lives and make a difference in the lives of others.
- If you need assistance please call: 1-800-273-8255 or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/