An open letter to teenage girls NOT watching Thirteen Reasons Why

For those of you who have not watched...

I know that it's hard to refrain from doing things that it feels like EVERYBODY around you is doing. Especially when 'everybody' includes most of your friends and classmates. I know it's hard when all of your friends are talking about something you haven't seen, so you can't join the conversation. I know it's painful to feel like an outsider when you're at school, and it feels impossible to stand up for things you feel strongly about when eyes are rolled and people tell you not to make such a big deal out of it... "it's not a big deal, calm down."

And I know the lines you've drawn can start to blur and zigzag a bit... maybe they're right... maybe if you just watch the first episode, then you can decide if it's really that big of a deal or not...

Girls, first, let me applaud your wisdom and maturity! I am so grateful you have listened to your heart telling you to keep this series far from it. Continue to stand your ground. There is a reason your heart has told you not to watch this series.

And it IS a big deal. The content of the show is a big deal, the way it is portrayed is a big deal, and your decision to spare your heart the potential trauma of watching it is a very. big. deal.

Keep these things in mind when you begin to waver:

  • You won't lose true friendships over a trendy TV show. 
  • There are traumatic scenes and experiences in this show that your heart and mind will never un-see or un-hear and may not be prepared to process in a healthy way.
  • This show has failed at it's goal, and your understanding of suicide, relationships, and mental health is SO much stronger being spared from these failures.

As you solidify and defend your decision to protect your heart, it's important that you understand where this show has failed at its intended goal, and how it has been quite successful at a hopefully unintended agenda:

  • It has triggered self-harm and suicidal-thoughts in young people who have struggled with those things and with various mental illnesses. If you are somebody who has experience with any of this, you have learned the importance of healthy boundaries and how to protect your heart from further trauma, and you are exercising those boundaries in this decision. I hope you are proud of where you are and of the wisdom you've shown in knowing what you should and shouldn’t expose your heart to! 
  • It has pointed fingers and created causes for suicide that are inaccurate at best. Perhaps bullying and sexual assault are risk factors that may trigger mental illness or substance abuse, but a risk factor and a cause are not the same thing. It is crucial to know the difference and understand that other people do not cause suicide. You may have questions about some of these things. In fact, I hope you do because it's incredibly important... Let's talk about it, bring your questions and let's learn together, outside of the influence of fiction.
  • It has shown that friendships are untrustworthy and possibly even too risky to pursue, while neglecting the importance of building healthy relationships with trustworthy people who want to hear about your struggles and walk through your pain with you. Make a list today of those people in your life who you can call upon when you're hurting, lonely, scared.
  • It has not taken advantage of an opportunity to shine light on the true causes of suicide and the help that is available, and instead made it look like a reasonable end to bullying, and a successful act of revenge. You have chosen not to support something that makes light of something so very serious, and that is an incredibly mature decision.
  • It has made silence look like an acceptable approach to high school bullying, sexual assault and suicidal thoughts. It has made it seem as if nobody would care if you shared these things, that help cannot be attained, and that is simply not true. Keep your list of trustworthy adults and friends at hand, you know the truth.
  • It has told its audience what not to do in order to "prevent suicide", but has offered no suggestions of what to do. There is no hope in this series, only vengeful blaming and hopelessness. Your decision has allowed you to remember and retain HOPE.
  • It has sparked widespread concern regarding suicide contagion, or copycat suicide.
  • It has caused people to defend suicide as an act of revenge and to criticize people who this series has affected in negative ways, calling it a "knee jerk reaction" and claiming that such a series wasn't meant to be educational, but only entertaining. These fans of the series have entirely missed the point that its critics are making. Whether it was intended to be educational or entertaining actually matters very little, because one in five of you are dealing with mental illness, suicide is the third leading cause of death in your age group and this series is affecting people just like you in extremely negative ways. You have kept your heart free so far, and I pray you will hold fast to your decision not to watch.

I spent some time yesterday reading some comments on a couple of blogs about this topic, and I want to share some of the things that real people are saying about how this series has affected them... I'm not going to directly quote them or link to the blogs because I believe some of the comments could be terribly damaging, but here is the gist of what so many are saying: 

The extremely graphic suicide scene made one young girl miss self-harming, and another was having thoughts of self-harm after so many years of freedom, but the show was too addictive to stop watching, despite these disturbing thoughts. Many people shared that they began having flashbacks to extremely traumatizing times in their lives. One young girl compared herself to the main character, and realized her life isn't nearly that terrible. This made her feel guilty for being depressed when others have it so much worse, and in turn furthered her depression. Many people shared that their depression was deepening since watching. Some talked about a mental hangover weeks after watching the series. Some people felt jealous of the main character for being free from pain. Some talked about panic attacks, nightmares, and dark suicidal thoughts, and others talked about not being able to get the images they saw on the show out of their head.

I hope you can see the wisdom in your decision to keep your heart far from the trauma and darkness in this series. I hope you are proud of your decision, and advocating for your position when others are wavering. 

But if your lines are blurring, and you're on the fence, wavering, considering taking a peek just to see what all the talk is about...

I need to tell you a personal story about an experience I had about six years ago. I was on a jury, it was an easy verdict, we were in court for a single day. I will not share details of the case or the images the court made us view but I will tell you that it has been six years, and those images are as vivid as if I had seen them this morning. The face of the guilty is burned in my memory, as are the faces of the two jurors who wanted to let him walk. I always assumed they were guilty of the same crimes as the defendant, because they so firmly fought for his freedom. We didn't need their votes in order to declare him guilty, but even still, I wanted to jump across the table and choke them for their assumed indiscretions. Why else would they have fought so hard for this criminal who was guilty far beyond any reasonable doubt? I still think of them often, and wonder how many crimes they have committed since that day they fought to let a dangerous man walk free. I drive by a road sometimes that bears the last name of the guilty, and will often have flashbacks of the images I saw that day. I couldn't sleep for weeks after the case. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw the images and wept. Sometimes I still find myself there. I would do anything to go back to those moments and simply close my eyes, choose not to see them, spare myself years of flashbacks and triggers. Unfortunately, that is something I can't do, I will never be able to unsee the things I saw that day. But you, you still have a choice, a chance to avoid an experience similar to this one! If you have spared your eyes and your ears so far, please, please, do not expose your precious mind and heart to the traumatic scenes this series would place in front of you. You won't know how they will affect your heart until it's too late, they will not easily leave your mind, you will remember them at the strangest times. Your mind and your heart don't need to see the absurdly graphic scenes they will see if you indulge your curiosity in this series.

Friends, Thirteen Reasons Why handles an extremely serious topic extremely recklessly and irresponsibly. 

You have made a decision to protect your hearts, despite what your friends are saying and doing. Your wisdom is so very admirable, as you are living out these words Paul wrote to the Romans:

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2)

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." (Proverbs 4:23)

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

An open letter to teenage girls watching Thirteen Reasons Why - Part Two

**Click here if you missed part one of this letter. 


  • Before I start, I have a bit of homework for you: I want you to think of (and write down) ONE safe and completely trustworthy adult in your life. Don't read on until you have written at least one name.

I have had a lot of conversations with so many of you recently, and one thing I know for sure... school drama and friend issues are not unique to you. These are things that are occurring in every single classmate and friend who you see at school every day. We're talking public school, private school, home school, junior high, senior high. Every. Single. Classmate. Even the punks, the mean girls, and the bullies.

Your teenage years are, in part, just going to be messy. Some more than others and in messier ways than others, but this is a fact of life for every person who has ever lived through these tough years. Mine were messy, your parents’ were, and parts of yours will be too. Don't let Hannah Baker single you out, because she wasn't alone in her torment either. Hannah's problem was that she did not accept the community around her, or share her struggles with the adults who she knew loved her and confirmed her value. She hid her pain, and it came to a point where she believed that it was too much to bear...

I want to take you through just a few truths I want your heart to hear in the wake of this series.

  • Mental illness plays an enormous role in suicide. Suicidal people are often suffering from depression, and depression is not once mentioned in this series. Friends, that is a crucial problem. This series has let you down, it has not shown you the truth about suicide, the real causes behind it, or what to do when those thoughts start creeping in your mind. Yes, Hannah Baker certainly went through trauma that could easily trigger depression... she is a broken person who has been let down and lied to by a world that has hurt her and taken advantage of her at every angle. And I know that some of you are experiencing the very same or very similar traumas that she experienced. Groups of kids at school reducing your worth to how much you resemble them in lifestyle, wealth, fashion, weight, looks, which parties you're invited to and what you do at those parties... to how they can use you best and get the most out of you. Or selfish boys objectifying you, reducing your value to what they can get from your body, both visually and physically.  And I know that this series may have triggered some scary thoughts or memories in your heart and mind, I know that many of you are journeying through depression; I have been there. Please, go to your safe adult or call the suicide lifeline. Share your struggles and your fears, ask for help, ask for HOPE.


  • I have a question for you... answer the poll to the right and please be honest, this is completely anonymous. How many of you have been asked to send a boy a nude or inappropriate photo over text, Snapchat, or Instagram's new disappearing photo feature? How many of you have done it? The statistics say that 22% of teenage girls just like you are experiencing this type of objectification every day. Maybe you're one of them... maybe not, I don't know, however, I do know this, and you need to know it too: you get to make a choice in that moment; you get to say "NO." Will you show your classmates your true God-given value? Or will they assign to you the value they believe will gain them the most? Like Hannah, will you desire for your first kiss to be innocent, but sneak out of your house in the middle of the night to share it with a boy you barely know? Justin assigned Hannah the value he believed she deserved. No boy owns the privilege to assign your value and reduce it to what they believe you deserve; that is not what you deserve, that is never what you deserve! Girls, focus your hearts on building healthy relationships and friendships with people who have earned your trust, people who have your interest at heart above their own, people who genuinely love you, and people who will point you toward Christ when the world would point you only toward its own ungodliness.

  • I want you to value yourself beyond what your peers think, say, or do to you. I want you to see your worth through the eyes of the eternal God, your Father, your Savior, the One Who gave you your worth, the one who made you royalty, gave you a name, made you a daughter of the King, a princess, an heir of His holiness and righteousness... all that is His is YOURS when you trust in Him! He has given you infinite value! (Ephesians 1:3-5, Matthew 6:25-29, Psalm 139:14) These years of your life will not last forever... journey through them holding His hand, put your rain boots on and trudge through the mud and muck that is high school drama, family problems, friendship issues, relationships. He will pull you through it, He will make you stronger because of it... He doesn't tell you He won't give you more than you can handle on your own. What He does tell you is that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)  He will provide refuge under His wings (Psalm 91), He will carry you and sustain you (Isaiah 46:4, Psalm 55:22), He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deut. 31:6), He can redeem even the most awful mess that you are walking through right now. He can even put love in your heart for the ones who are hurting you, but that doesn't mean you need to let them off the hook.


  • Suicide as an act of revenge is ineffective. Rapists will still be rapists, pedophiles will still be pedophiles, bullies will go on with their lives of bullying and high school drama will go on forever. Hannah's story is not reality, it's Hollywood romanticizing suicide to make it look like a viable option. Reality is that life will continue for most of a suicidal teenager’s peers after just a few weeks, and the life that was taken in a vengeful moment will have been in vain. That is an incredibly hopeless reality, isn't it? Hopeless only in the absence of divine intervention! I need you to know that because of your place in the family of God and your infinite value in His eyes, your story isn't hopeless at all, but FILLED with hope! And a future! And a glorious purpose in the Kingdom of God!


  • Some of you you are enduring horribly evil acts at the hands of somebody who you are supposed to be able to trust. Some of you are experiencing ongoing abuse and hurt from someone who outsiders would never expect. Some of you may look at Hannah Baker and see an exit, the easiest way out. Statistics tell us that, like Hannah, one in nine of you have experienced sexual abuse, but the statistics tell us that this abuse is more often at the hands of those you should be able to trust the most, those who are much closer to you than your classmates. The reality of those statistics may make disclosure feel impossible, complicated, terrifying. How will it affect everyone involved? Will he hurt me? Will he call me a liar? Will anyone believe me? I know that Hannah's way out may feel less complicated. There is a better way. It will take great courage, it will be hard, scary, dark... but at the end of the darkness, there will be shining a glimmer of light. Hold the hand of the ONE name you wrote down earlier, share what is happening in your life, and walk forward, praying continually for strength, courage, perseverance.


Wrapping this up the same way I started:

there's something Hannah was pretty right-on about:


Your experiences, all of them, will have an enormous impact on the world and on people around you who are going through similar things.

Share your hurts, bring them to the adult you named above, knowing that there will be no judgement toward you for somebody else doing bad or mean things. You do not deserve to have bad things done to you, you haven't brought them on yourself, you are not alone, there is healing, there is redemption, and in your disclosure, there is hope for so many who were before you or would come after you.

And one day down the road of healing, your experiences will speak into the lives and hearts of those who will come after you, who are facing the bullies and loneliness of high school, or find themselves in the hands of evil, those who are scared, who just need ONE safe person they can completely trust to love them no matter what.

And maybe that person will be you.


*Check back tomorrow for a letter to those of you who have NOT watched Thirteen Reasons Why.

An open letter to teenage girls watching Thirteen Reasons Why - Part One

Well... it's 4:00 in the morning. I just finished watching Thirteen Reasons Why and I have some things to say.

Truth...? A couple of months ago, after reading a few comments on Facebook, I was intrigued by a show that I knew would make me cry... and we all know I need to cry on a daily basis, so I thought I should look into it, since I was just waiting around for season 2 of This Is Us... you know, to keep the daily tears alive and well. So I read the synopsis, and I ultimately decided that on an emotional level, this wasn't going to be something I needed to watch, these tears wouldn't be the healthy kind...

...but then I found out how many of you are watching it. And I started reading more about it. And I started remembering our conversations. And I realized I needed to watch it. Not for entertainment, not for a new Netflix binge, not even for the tears, but for you. I needed to watch it because I know the things you're going through at school and at home, and I've been through them too. And because I know you cry when you get home because of the way you've been treated, I have cried those same tears. And because I need you to know why you have value, despite the way petty high school girls make you feel, or selfish high school boys objectify you, and replace your worth with their worthless desires. And because you don't deserve any of those things, or any of the other awful and truly horrifying cards that life has dealt you.

But let's be clear on something: what you deserve even less is some trendy book and show on Netflix telling you how to cope with the way you've been treated, how to be the hero, how to punish those who hurt you, how to change the way people treat each other, how to be a martyr for other kids like you, who are struggling with school drama, and relationships.... and that dying will achieve all of this for you. Hannah Baker was wrong about that...

...but there's something she was pretty right-on about:


And that is the scariest part of this series. Because this series will affect everything... but not in the way its creators meant it to.

There seem to be two camps when it comes to Thirteen Reasons Why... the camp that says it will do more good than harm, and the camp that says it will do more harm than good.  

I want you to look at the evidence in your personal circle and decide for yourself which camp is proving to be more accurate... then I want you to listen, because I have some words to say about this.


Look at your classmates. Are they treating each other differently? More kindly? Are you seeing less bullying and more acts of kindness between the popular group at your school and the not-so-popular group? Or are interactions at school looking the same as they did two months ago, two years ago, two decades ago?

Over the next couple of days I'll share some examples and evidences of the harm this is doing right now in people's lives and hearts, but for now look at your own... Has this series changed your heart? Do you look at people differently than you did before? Maybe you're thinking, "Yeah! I said 'hi' to a kid who was being bullied in the hall yesterday." But what about the bullies? Did you look at them differently? More vengefully? What about the people who mistreat you? Have you found yourself thinking Hannah may have been right? Or have you set your mind to recall and recite the words of Jesus, "Love your enemies, and be pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:43-45)


I need you to remember something you’ve known since you were a child: people know that their actions will affect others. This has never been in question, people have always known this, forever and ever. Not a new concept, girls. Predators and bullies know that their actions will cause lifelong damage, depression, suicidal thoughts and/or actions.  The sad reality is not that they haven't been taught or learned that their actions affect others, but that they don't care about their victims, or that their evil will affect them. Rapists will still be rapists whether or not they watch a fictional teenager kill herself after being raped on a fictional television show. In fact, these scenes may even be triggers for them, driving them toward more victims sooner than later. Bullies will still be bullies, mean girls will still be petty and shallow. Sexual assault, abuse, anger, hatefulness and all forms of evil will still exist in the world. Fiction will never create new hearts. God creates new hearts. (Ezekiel 36:26, 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Instead of hoping a TV show or book will cause people to think about how their actions affect others, you need to pray. Pray for God's intervention in the lives of your peers, your enemies, your neighbors, family members... that He would draw them in, heal their pain, begin a work in their hearts and carry it on to completion. And that He would heal your heart too. That He would erase the lies and images you have seen in this series, that He would carry you through these messy high school years, and one day use them for a glorious purpose. That He would expose any evil you may be experiencing at the hands of others, and that He would protect you in the aftermath. That your peers would see Him when they look at you. That they would see in you what He sees in you: Jesus!

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20


*Check back tomorrow for part two: This is about YOU