Hey, so I recently admitted to my partner that I helped my friend with assisted suicide when I was 9 years old. For 11 years I didn’t tell anyone, not even my parents. No one knew what happened except me. I’m just trying to figure out if It was the right thing to do. I need help learning if I am evil for what I did or not. He was sexually abused by his father at a very young age, in very poor housing with no mother, Schizophrenic, and smiling when I helped him. After all these years of brooding and holding in the secret I’ve become jaded and unknowing of what’s moral and immoral anymore. I know I have PTSD from it because of all the hallucinations and nightmares. Can you help me determine if what I did was the right thing to do? I killed someone when I was 9 years old, how to I learn morality again?
A. There is a grand difference between the morality of a child and the morality of an adult. As a longtime teacher of human growth and development, I am very familiar with every widely accepted theory of morality. All of them, show the morality of the child to be quite inferior to the eventual morality of that same child, when fully mature as an adult. Every court system, in every free country in the world, realizes this and punishes children to a far lesser extent than an adult. The punishments for children are not only quantitatively different but qualitatively different.
If you were to research theories of morality, you would quickly realize that all theories conclude that children are not born with morality but need to be taught morality by parents, the church, society, etc. Let me give you a for instance. Probably the meanest things that were ever said to you, were said to you when you were a child and were said by other children. Children can be vicious. Ask anyone who has been bullied.
A study of theories of morality, will help you to understand the incapacity of a child to understand the impact of their actions. Can a nine-year-old sign a legally binding contract? No, because society recognizes a child is incapable of understanding that contract and the full ramifications that come from signing a contract.
As a nine-year-old, you were incapable of understanding the impact of your actions. A nine-year-old has a very poor and obviously incomplete understanding of death. As a nine-year-old, did you believe that you were helping your friend or killing your friend? Were you angry at him and desperately wanted to hurt him? From what you’ve written, it appears that you were trying to help him and thought that you were actually helping him. Did you know the meaning of death? Did you understand what was actually occurring or was it much simpler to you; a friend whom you liked asked for your help and you thought helping him was the right thing to do?
Read more about the morality of children. By all means, get therapeutic help. You need a professional who has already studied and well understands childhood morality. Perhaps the most important thing that you should understand is that there were two people involved in your friend’s suicide and that they are both victims. Yes, you are a surviving victim of that event. Good luck, my friend.
Dr. Kristina Randle