What’s your purpose for being here on the planet? Mine is suicide prevention. When I was 17 years old, I came incredibly close to committing suicide. Just before I was about to kill myself, at rock bottom I entered into a state of pure awareness and realized:
Your self-worth does not depend on external circumstances.
The purpose of this post is to talk about the price you have to pay to make a difference in the world.
Haters Are Everywhere
When I say haters are everywhere, please know that I’m not intending to be negative. I’m simply stating a fact. Left and right, you’ll find jealousy, envy, anger, and sabotage oozing from people. This is because when you take action and do great things, it causes others to unconsciously confront some of their deep-rooted fears and anxieties. They are forced to look at themselves in the mirror, and rather than be honest with themselves people often project their problems onto others by being cruel.
I was chatting with my girlfriend this morning about what a taboo, difficult topic suicide prevention is. But from the bottom of my heart, this is my God-given purpose. No exaggeration: I’ve gotten death stares from audience members who were angry with me for bringing up the topic of suicide prevention. People have unfriended me on Facebook and unfollowed me on LinkedIn.
But at the end of the day, the opinions of these people don’t matter. It’s a topic that must be discussed in order to reduce suicides. If the message reaches and helps one person, I’m willing to put up with the haters, naysayers, and critics. When I was 17 years old, I was looking for someone who cared. People who commit suicide often feel like no one cares.
Whether I’m speaking to a high school, college, nonprofit, conference, association, or business, I know not everyone is going to like the message. But if one person benefits, that’s all that matters.
The price you have to pay for making a real difference in the world is putting up with haters and critics. There is one way to avoid haters: not fulfilling your purpose and not making a difference in the world. But that’s not for you.
“You can either have the praise of people or the praise of God,” Joel Osteen said. Getting the praise of people means pleasing others and living below your potential. Getting the praise of God means ruffling some feathers and rocking the boat a little bit, but genuinely putting yourself out there and helping others.
A Quick Example
There was this one guy, a so-called “friend”, who sent me an extremely long email explaining to me why I’m wrong to be talking about suicide prevention. He told me how his story of nearly committing suicide is much more serious than mine.
I didn’t respond in a negative way to his email because I didn’t want to stoop to his level. While venting this morning to my girlfriend about this difficult email (I’m a sensitive guy and sometimes take things personally), I’m left to wonder a few things:
- Did I ever once, for even a split-second, compare my story to someone else’s story? No, I absolutely did not. There are plenty of people who have dealt with worse things than I have. Our circumstances are vastly different, but feelings are universal; feelings are what connect us. All I’m saying is that authentically sharing my story and the feelings I felt may be able to help someone dealing with similar feelings. No one can take away your right to share a story, whether they want to or not.
- In the time this jerk and fake friend spent emailing me, he could have: written a blog post, written a Medium post, shared a social media post, and/or shared a YouTube video discussing his story in a way that helps others — and those are just some quick ideas off the top of my head. My girlfriend said to me this morning, “He’s not even helping others with his story. It looks like his purpose in life is to criticize others.”
- All I’m looking to do is to help others. That’s it. I mean this from the bottom of my heart and from the sincerest part of who I am. In the time it took this hater to write the email, someone committed suicide (someone statistically commits suicide every 40 seconds). Was writing this long email and criticizing me really the best way for him to help others and make a difference in the world?
- I send him peace and love, something he doesn’t send to me.
For the record: I’m definitely not sharing this to make it all about me, or to have you feel badly that I deal with emails like this a lot. As I said earlier, if the message helps one person it makes it all worth it. The purpose of sharing this is to help you the next time you’re dealing with a nasty hater who unfairly criticizes you. When this happens to you, smile to yourself and think:
Their purpose in life is to criticize others. Mine is to help others.
Bringing It All Together
I didn’t have time to write this today. I’m slammed with work left and right. But my girlfriend just called to tell me about someone she heard of who committed suicide today, jumping in front of a train. And we discussed the topic this morning. I knew I had to put everything else down and write this.
I’m not going to let the haters stop me from discussing suicide prevention. Talking about it might help someone. Suicide rates right now are at an all-time high and the way to solve the challenge is to talk about it, not to remain silent. Don’t let the haters bully you into silence. You have the power to keep moving forward and helping others, despite what even the nastiest critics have to say to you.
Wayne Dyer said, “Each child has secret orders.” What are yours? In order to live your secret orders, you must stop concerning yourself with the critics and start concerning yourself with how you can best help others.
See you at the Mountaintop,
Jeff Davis is the bestselling author of The Power of Authentic Leadership.