At a chat board I frequent, there is a poster who has clearly been struggling with severe depression for most of his life. In recent weeks, his posts have become more and more desperate, and more than once he has posted "goodbye" messages, only to be talked down off the ledge by the group.
A few weeks ago, after several days of silence, a newcomer joined the board to inform us that out of the blue he had received an email from this person, who was an old friend, and that the depressed poster had indeed made a serious attempt on his life and was currently hospitalized. There was an outpouring of support from the chat board community, lots of messages of courage and hope that our friend would now receive the treatment that he clearly needs.
Silence followed. Then, two days ago, the newcomer came back to inform us that in fact the suicide attempt had been successful -- that our virtual friend was gone. As you'd expect, there was an outpouring of sorrow, messages of grief, and fervent pleas that the newcomer express our condolences to the family.
To the shock of most, last night our depressed friend came back and posted that there had been a mistake in communication. That he's still with us, though he had made an attempt on his life. However, it quickly became clear that he had masqueraded as a newcomer and posted the misinformation himself, in a misguided attempt to "see what it would be like" if he died. He finally confessed the deception in a post full of self-loathing and -recrimination.
Many of the members of our chat community are quite upset, feeling manipulated and gulled, and perhaps understandably so. Myself, I cannot bring myself to feel anything but compassion for this poor young man, who is obviously so deeply troubled. So what if his illness and lies have lead to my having "wasted" my time and kindness responding to a sham? I can think of no better use for my compassion and kindness. I do not grudge him even one little bit of my time, thoughts, hopes, words, or worry. I cannot conceive of reacting with anger to a person who is clearly in excruciating pain. I hope it will always be thus.