Jump to content

Bad things christians say to depressed people


Recommended Posts

images.jpg.18ef4608dc9aa0d46e7cb73dc0808a8b.jpg

I came across this today and it reminded me how I have sometimes felt when I encounter certain type of Christian believers. I am a Christian and I have been struggling with how to talk to non-depressed pastors and laity about how the things they say can negitivly effect the mentally ill in their communities. I do not have an answer yet, but if anyone has any ideas - I would appreciate it. ūüėČ

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have to say that I agree with that meme.  I'm not sure of what could be said, because I'm not sure they are really listening. But I'm also cynical. 

You might point to the example of Jesus, who did not judge, condemn, or question those he healed (with only one exception I think).  He just healed them, accepted them, loved them where they were. 

You could also try correcting some of the false assumptions that come with some of those 'truths' that get spouted, but that could be dangerous ground.  It would be a fine line between showing someone the speck in their eye, and actually saying something that challenges them in a way that they potentially lose their faith. 

I've learned that often times, those with the most narrow view of the world are also the ones with the weakest faith.  It took me a long time to figure that out. 

What have you thought about so far?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only thing that I have thought about so far is trying to explain the emotional impact of their platitudes and my world view, which is essentially that it is not helpful or healthy for me to believe that, somehow, if I just believe hard enough or in the right way, God will take away all my pain and despair. The reason for the last is that I feel as though the message there is that the reason I still have my pain is my own fault. I still hurt, because my belief is not strong enough. Imo, that is bulls***.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I love that meme!

Yes, the "blame the vicitim" mentality seems all too common with many of the self-proclaimed Christians. They tend to wallow in the Old Testament, which is full of blame and punishment. Or at least that's how it seems to me.

I want to watch this thread because I think it could get interesting. Thanks for starting it!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@JessiesMom, That is an interesting meme. I would be interested in hearing the story of the person who created it.  They may have been hurt or abused by a church; or they may just have a misunderstanding about Christianity.  I heard one time that the people who are the most critical of the faith, have never read the Bible or studied the faith. 

 I think it would be a very good idea for you to talk to your pastor about your concerns.  I think sometimes pastors and laity get so involved in their church world that they forget that their job isn't "to be a Christian" or "to act like a Christian".  Their job is to love and help a hurting world.  When someone asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-39), He said, "To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind; and to love your neighbor as yourself."

I sense from your post that you have been hurt in the past by churches and Christians.

Ghandi once said, "I like your Christ.  I don't like your Christians."  Unfortunately, I think a lot of people could say that and, as a Christian, I want to say I am sorry if you have been hurt or misunderstood. 

But I also want to encourage you to get to know God, the real God of the Bible.  I don't think it is a matter of believing hard enough or in the right way.  And I definitely don't believe that your pain is your fault.  We live in a sinful, broken world.  All the chaos, violence, etc. is a result of sin.  But God made a way, through His Son Jesus, for us to have a relationship with Him.

Christianity is not about believing hard enough, or acting a certain way.  It is about having a relationship with someone who loves you more than you could ever imagine.  God created you.  He is for you.  He loves you.  He wants the best for you.  He wants to have a relationship with you and He wants you to trust Him, and be able to talk to Him about everything that is going on in your life. 

I had to learn that if I want to be emotionally and mentally healthy, I can't look at other people.  I have to keep my eyes on God and read and study the Bible everyday.  As soon as I take my eyes off Him and start criticizing other people, I start to sink.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have no problem with my faith and understanding of how God works in our world - it just seems that, every once on a while, I get "triggered" (hate that word, but it is the best one I can think of) by something in a sermon, song or comment made. I am stong in my particular sense of christianity having left the church to try to find God in other places and returned as an adult. To be honest, I am less concerned about me than I am about other people who might turn up at my church and the message they might get. I know my pastor pretty well (it's a really small church) and I am comfortable pushing back on him when these issues arrise. Perhaps the real issue is that it is so difficult for people who have never struggled with mental illness to get how things thay may sound reassuring to thelm sound different when they are heard through the filter of depression.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

iirc, I think there was a pastor in the past year who posted here on DF asking for advice on how to help those with depression.  He was swamped with responses.  Perhaps someone can dig up the thread.

I guess I'm stating the obvious.  Even if they don't register - and I'm particularly thinking of laity now - I think that simply referring them here is a practical idea.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mental illness is hard to understand if one hasn't had some experience with it. I think it is a lot like grieving because we lose the life we had hoped to have and everything is extra difficult. Just like it can be hard to know what to say when someone has lost a loved one, I think it is pretty close to what depression is like except no one has died. Our world is dark and seems hopeless. A pastor that spoke at my church called platitudes, scripture grenades. He wrote a book called "Life's A Pain" as he suffers from severe chronic physical pain. It has helped me gain perspective on my own pain.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Perhaps one factor is that there are so many forms of Christianity.  I was raised in a very joyful and hopeful Christian environment.  When I was little I was taught that God is Love, that God desires the salvation of everyone and that nothing is impossible to God.   I think different Christians stress different things.  It is hard to put into words what I mean.  It is like how one prioritizes various ideas.  If one makes "Treat others as you would want to be treated and do not treat others as you would not want to be treated" as something of a very high priority then one's religion would be different than one that gives a higher priority to something else even though both religions call themselves "Christian."   Maybe I am in error here.  

I was taught to try to never look "down" on anyone as if I was superior but to try to find the good in others and look up to them.  Of course hostile forms of religion have no monopoly on looking down on others.  Agnostics and atheists can do so too.  Sometimes health professionals "look down" on their patients either overtly or covertly.

I try hard not to look down on those who disagree with me.  Of course I fail at this a lot.    A teacher once taught me to not only read things that tend to confirm my views but cultivate an attitude of reading those who disagree with me and not with an eye to refuting them, but with an eye to questioning my own views.  Are my views overly-simplistic?  Have I left out important things?  Could it be that there are problems with my evidence or logic?   This same teacher suggested that I cultivate an attitude of humility and fair-mindedness.  ""Don't assume malice in others.  Even if your view is basically correct, remember that it is incomplete and that perhaps others do not share it, not out of ill will but because they have never been given compelling reasons to agree with you."  Of course maybe he was wrong.

Sometimes it is easier to be aware that someone is looking down on one than to be aware that one is looking down on someone else.  There is a thing in logic called "fundamental attribution error."   The principle is that people can sometimes tend to assume that others do bad things from intrinsic ill-will or malice while they do bad things from ignorance or other impediments.  Sometimes this is reversed in depression I think.  Of course, it is sometimes true that depression makes it difficult or even impossible to see good at all: in oneself, in others, in the world.  Maybe I wrong about this and wrong about everything I have written here? 

I recall something else too... Human beings have a great ability to think dichotomously.  When someone says or writes something it is often quite easy to think the opposite and compare the opposite with what that person has said or written.  It is easy in this way to see the flaws in another person's view.  Even if someone says something that is "true," it can always be pointed out how the view is incomplete.  For example, 2+2=4 can be said to be true and yet it is not the whole of Truth.  It is not even the whole of mathematics.  So it can be easy for people to disagree.  And in logic there is something called degrees of error.  It is an error to say that our solar system is made up of 20 planets.  But it is a greater error to say that our solar system is made up of 20,000,000 planets.  One error is closer to being true than the other although both are false.  Maybe I have erred here.

I have pain in my hands so I can only write a few sentences at a time.  Wish I could do more.   - Epictetus

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 8/22/2018 at 11:27 AM, JessiesMom said:

I have no problem with my faith and understanding of how God works in our world - it just seems that, every once on a while, I get "triggered" (hate that word, but it is the best one I can think of) by something in a sermon, song or comment made. I am stong in my particular sense of christianity having left the church to try to find God in other places and returned as an adult. To be honest, I am less concerned about me than I am about other people who might turn up at my church and the message they might get. I know my pastor pretty well (it's a really small church) and I am comfortable pushing back on him when these issues arrise. Perhaps the real issue is that it is so difficult for people who have never struggled with mental illness to get how things thay may sound reassuring to thelm sound different when they are heard through the filter of depression.

I guess education is the only thing that is going to help.  People don't know what they don't know.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some people don't understand mental illness.  Some of those are 'religious'.  Some of those are clergy or work in religion.  I have not personally encountered someone trying to 'fix me' by beating me up with a bible (or other holy book).  On a good day, this could be an interesting conversation. On a bad day, too triggering for me.  (on the other hand, if I were to shake someone's beliefs, I would feel bad)

If 'god is everything' works for them. Great.  One-size-fits-all answers are for...other people.  It's not that they are trying  to push their beliefs on me. It's that they are trying to push their bad responses on me.  Everyone here is different with different struggles.

On the other hand, I have seen a number of clergy with some education in psychology or social work.  They tend to have some understanding and (more importantly) listen.  Not just throw simplistic answers out as it one very repeated phrase is going to change everyone's life forever.

And then there is the intolerance. If their answer does not work for me, they are offended by that thought.  Almost like they don't believe it themselves...

Which leads us to "some people are in denial" about their mental health and their coping mechanisms.  (religion as a coping mechanism...that seems worth more thought)

Those are just some random thoughts.¬† Back to the original post, " how to talk to non-depressed pastors ÔĽŅand laity about how the things they say can negatively effect the mentally ill in their communities "¬†¬†¬† If a pastor/laity is preaching actively, a side conversation encouraging them to research and learn more¬† could be helpful.¬† Every one has limitations (we are human, they should understand that) and learning more will help them (not just preaching from the pulpit, but in one on one conversation).¬† If pastor/laity came to you asking your opinion, that could be an interesting opportunity...

Otherwise, if you are just conversing, maybe try to remember some of what works here.  Make 'I' statements  "I have a mental illness", "I believe in God, but struggle with...", "I am very upset when some one uses God to ... "  etc. 

As much as I want to, it would probably not be constructive to confront with "Are you a psychiatrist?  MD? Psychologist? No?  Then how many people do you know with Mental Illness?  cause it seems like ZERO!" 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I did not mean to end this conversation. 

Oh, and I should add that this is not only  'Christian'.  Other religions can show the same things.  And of course, not even religion oriented.  Some cultures hold a lot more stigma than others...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I finished listening to an audiobook today called When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold Kushner. I am Catholic and the book is very pertinent for Christians as well. He lost a son to progeria and was also frustrated with the unhelpful platitudes given by people with misguided good intentions. I do recommend it, even if it did not soothe all sorrows. He discusses many of the platitudes discussed in this thread (e.g. "It's God's plan", "God needed them", "You just need to pray", "God only gives you what you can handle", etc.).

He emphasizes that God does not cause bad or good things to happen. But God will be there to give you strength through your hardships, to bring others to your side when you need them the most. He also believes there is no inherent meaning to suffering. It is how we respond to it that gives it meaning, good or bad.

I am still struggling with how I view God...the idea of existential nihilism is really interesting to me but it's hard to include God if that is your philosophy. I am trying to find my way back, but so much of it rings hollow to me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 8/26/2018 at 4:48 PM, justthinking said:

I guess education is the only thing that is going to help.  People don't know what they don't know.

 

Only education will help, or if one of those people who make fun of us, or don't believe in this illness have to deal with it some day or someone they love does, and they see the reality of it!! Decades ago when I was younger I went a priest for advice, and he didn't believe in depression & anxiety. He made fun of psychology, psychiatrists, and just said I needed God in my life.  I never returned and walked away from religion, for that reason and others. I was not very fond of religion, I was just a lost child at the time, and the only place I thought I could turn to because the darkness of the depression had taken over my life and I was scared.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It makes me so mad when godly people in leadership roles act so ungodly. Yet I guess they are not perfect either but they give God a bad reputation and hurt a lot of people. I believe they will need to give an account of their behavior yet I'm not always a good example either. Maybe it is so that we seek out God and not see God & religion as the same thing. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...
On 8/22/2018 at 5:20 AM, JessiesMom said:

images.jpg.18ef4608dc9aa0d46e7cb73dc0808a8b.jpg

I came across this today and it reminded me how I have sometimes felt when I encounter certain type of Christian believers. I am a Christian and I have been struggling with how to talk to non-depressed pastors and laity about how the things they say can negitivly effect the mentally ill in their communities. I do not have an answer yet, but if anyone has any ideas - I would appreciate it. ūüėČ

I do believe evil causes problems, they would say the same thing although they call it demon possession. I would say fight the evil in your life and rebuke it with faith. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

Stay away from shallow, name-it-and-claim it modern theology. Older churches like the Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Reformed understand and value the doctrine of suffering. If you have not been exposed to it, the doctrine of suffering does not try to explain away suffering or say "This is all about molding you to be a better person!" Instead it says that we all suffer, God included, and we share the suffering and trials of Christ as part of being a "living sacrifice." Our sufferings are sanctified and used to help others, but it is acknowledged that they ARE suffering and not some kind of warm and fuzzy "blessing." It says suffering is an inevitable part of living in a sinful, fallen, rotting world and is not something to be prayed or happied away. I find this approach to be a lot more understandable and realistic.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
On 8/13/2021 at 12:37 PM, BoricuaGato said:

Stay away from shallow, name-it-and-claim it modern theology. Older churches like the Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Reformed understand and value the doctrine of suffering. If you have not been exposed to it, the doctrine of suffering does not try to explain away suffering or say "This is all about molding you to be a better person!" Instead it says that we all suffer, God included, and we share the suffering and trials of Christ as part of being a "living sacrifice." Our sufferings are sanctified and used to help others, but it is acknowledged that they ARE suffering and not some kind of warm and fuzzy "blessing." It says suffering is an inevitable part of living in a sinful, fallen, rotting world and is not something to be prayed or happied away. I find this approach to be a lot more understandable and realistic.

This, this, a thousand times this. Jesus was not a "happy guy." He was "a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering." "Offer your bodies as living sacrifices." What, exactly, happens to a sacrifice? I am struggling to trust, more than I ever have in my 58 years. About all I can manage these days is try to remember the explanation to "Lead us not into temptation" in Martin Luther's Small Catechism. "God surely tempts no one to sin, but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us or lead us into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins; and though we are attacked by them, we pray that we may overcome and win the victory." False belief and despair are the heavy hitters in his list of the greatest temptations. The man got it.

"Overcoming" isn't about finding a better stinking job, and "victorious living" isn't about ease, luxury, and plenty. They're about hoping when all is hopeless, and soldiering on when there's no reason to. It's not what I want to hear, because I want a way out. But it's authentic. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

To add another shower thought to the above, I understand the temptation to despise Christians who think we can just "pray away the depression" and "march into Jericho in victory." All their platitudes fall saccharine on the ear and they just don't add up for me.

But years of working both in ministry and lay ministry with people from across the spectrum has convinced me that the way we approach God, like the way we approach politics, has a lot to do with our personalities. These, in turn, are more influenced by our genetics than we'd care to admit.

One day it occurred to me that happy-clappy namers are the "morning people" of the faith. "Morning people," science tells us, are genetically predisposed to process melatonin in the liver more quickly than the rest of us, dropping their serum levels sharply around 3 AM (for normal people it happens after 4 AM). They have hyper sensitive suprachiasmatic nuclei, which are the part of the hypothalamus that kicks your body into producing the "wake-up" hormone cortisol. I've noticed that these kinds of people tend to be bubbly, positive, CCC-music-listening, life-coach types who don't think too deeply and love to embrace the day by rushing out at the crack of dawn to hit the beach and yay God in their kayaks. They like to quote Psalms 119:147 and Mark 1:34 and ascribe a level of virtue to praying and Bible study early in the morning. They can't imagine why someone would dread Easter sunrise service and wish everyone would join them for their morning coffee klatch. But ultimately, it's a personality thing. It's a genetic thing. They like getting up early; it floods their system with hormones like serotonin and oxytocin, and they associate that rush with Holy Spirit miraculous fuzzy-wuzzies.

I've learned to shake my head and bear with them. Their experience of life is different. Their perception of the promises of God are informed by their experience. We live closer to the bleak side. For them, the path may be flanked by thorns, but they are attached to roses.

So I don't judge them anymore. Or hate on them. They don't get it because they can't. One day, perhaps, a crushing life experience may teach them empathy, or that experience may send them off the edge into even deeper delusion. I may smile indulgently from time to time, but I certainly don't allow their Pollyanna attitudes to embitter me toward God or the church. It's not fair to them, and it's not helpful to me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...