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Why I Decided Not to Kill Myself

by Kent Philpott

Olivier as Hamlet

Chapter One:

“Kent will go insane or commit suicide before one year is up.”

The “prophecy” was given by a woman whom I had helped and encouraged through a troubled marriage over a period of years. Now, one week after my resignation from the charismatic church where I was senior pastor in San Rafael, California, this same woman made her pronouncement from the pulpit, while my teenage daughter sat in the congregation. The pastor who then replaced me announced that my entire family was to be shunned from that point on. This, again, while my eldest daughter was present. The year was 1980.

My dear girl came home in tears and told me what had happened. I was determined from that point on to keep from going crazy. And I would certainly not kill myself. (I ran into this very woman some years later and she denied having made the statement. My guess is she was disappointed that her “word from God” had not come true.)

Not that I did not think of killing myself on several occasions—I did. Going through the divorce was pure hell, and all these years later I have not completely recovered, but I would never give that false prophet or her eager hearers the satisfaction of seeing her predictions come true. Is this a bad motivation?

No satisfaction for my enemies

There it is—reason #1 for not killing myself. Whether it is the healthiest of reasons does not matter to me. Sure, I have a number of other reasons, which I will get to as this book proceeds, but #1 worked at the time and continues to serve me well.

I have always had enemies of one variety or another. Some I may have imagined, others were real. They were not the kind of enemies with whom I might fight it out with bare knuckles, but enemies nevertheless.

There are some people, sad to say, who would like to see me dead. This is no doubt true for most of us. But I am not going to give them the satisfaction. Not at all. There is no question that I have failed people, let people down, and abused trust put in me. And I can feel pretty bad about it. Oh well! Whether these people learn grace and forgiveness is not my problem; I have forgiven myself as best I can, despite the fact I cannot forget; I have been forgiven by God, so I refuse to live a life of guilt and shame.

There is a saying I like to remind myself of from time to time: "The devil is an accuser." That is not all the quote but enough to tell me I have another enemy, unseen and flying below the radar. And I am not going to give that bastard any satisfaction either. Another point about the devil--he has been "a murderer from the beginning," and that was spoken by Jesus who would know.

A murderer from the beginning. That enemy—I refuse to satisfy him either. No, I am going to live and fight back.

This first chapter about me

Before getting into some of the stories from others I wanted to open up with my own experience so you can see this is not merely an academic treatise. No, I am more than an observer, I am a player. I have been there, as they say, and I have something to contribute.

I have been through two divorces, and that is enough to drive anyone to the bridge, I mean the Golden Gate Bridge, which is just a short distance down Highway 101. I also have five kids and eight grand kids; but more than that, I have been a pastor of three churches for the last forty-plus years. Right, I am an old dude now (almost wrote dud), but I am still here and going strong, even though I have felt like giving it all up on any number of occasions--discouraged, probably depressed, angry, and saddened all at once, with the thought of killing myself stealing across the brain and lodging in the heart.

Mostly I have dummied up about my feelings and would never think of talking to a therapist. I haven’t even talked to my closest friends about my dark times. I am mostly an upbeat, type-A guy, and those who know me would be shocked to learn I have even felt bad enough to think of suicide. Not that I sink down into that pit, but I have looked over the edge. Come on, most of us have peered over at one time or another. It is really nothing that needs to be hidden. On the contrary, the whole subject has to be brought out into the open. So I admit it. Does it make me a bad person, or a sick person, or a person to be avoided, or pampered, if I have thought about killing myself? No, maybe it is better to engage with those who can take me like I am. The rest can hang with those who are balanced, focused, purpose-driven success stories who skip lightly over the mountain tops and never slip into a valley.

That is about enough about me. What about you? How are you feeling right now? Maybe you would like to send me your story so that I can put in the sequel to this book. Try me: kentphilpott@comcast.net. I might get a flurry of mail, so please be patient with me. 

Read more in the August issue.

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