**Click here if you missed part one of this letter.
THIS IS ABOUT YOU
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:
EVERYTHING AFFECTS EVERYTHING
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.