Tag Archives: compassion

For One of the Least of These: Offering Living Water to Those Who Thirst

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

A few days ago, my doctor’s instructions were to avoid food and water for twelve hours before a procedure. The food was no problem, but please. Water!

Matthew, who wrote the BIble book by the same name, tells us about the time Jesus ate no food for forty days. “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.“*

Jesus, being God, had the power to make stones into bread and sand into water. He chose not to do so because he “was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” The “Spirit” here, is God’s Spirit. Jesus was intent on doing God’s will. His goal was to finish the task for which he came to earth in the first place. 

As the Creator of everything delicious, and having come from heaven of all places, it is doubtful Jesus came here for a yummy snack! No, he intended to die for our sins and resurrect to give eternal life to anyone who will believe. He had a serious mission. 

Let’s carry this into the realm of emotional and relational thirst. When Jesus taught to give a drink to thirsty people, he meant real water.  In other scriptures we see he offers ‘living water’ to those who are spiritually thirsty. 

People are thirsty for truth, for hope, or for someone to tell them they matter.  Believe it or not, offering a cup of real water is one way to tell a person he or she has value to you.  Kind acts carry a lot of weight. On a deeper level, taking the time to gain insight into a desperate person’s  experiences and thoughts, grants us an opportunity to offer life. 

I have written and spoken on the benefits of therapy, medications, and self-care. These matter in a big way to huge numbers of people. At one point, I too was dying of emotional thirst because I did not know how, or believe I would ever, find the sustenance (love) I needed. Therapy pointed the way, and taught me how to take in what had been there all along. 

Let me be clear. I am grateful for that experience and encourage others to find wise counsel. It is important to note however, my therapists did not ever point me away from the real difference-maker, Jesus Christ. The opposite is true, as they reminded me repeatedly who I am in God’s eyes. 

Helping someone who feels emotional, relational, or spiritual emptiness, is more effective when we seek God for the answers. Sometimes he leads us to the right people who will show us how to offer support.  Sometimes he guides us when we read the Bible. Always, he makes our paths straight when we surrender our will to his, and completely rely on his unfailing love.

Embrace someone who hurts. Show compassion for the confused, and those lashing out in pain. This is like water in desert ground to them. Allow God to begin the deep work of  change, hope, and joy in you by surrendering to Jesus.

Then pass on the living water to all who thirst.                                

Today’s Helpful Word

For [Jesus]  at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”                                                                                                                                       

 

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

*Matthew 4:1,2

**Water pic by ROBBY_M; glass of water by LITTLEMAN, both of rgbstock.comrgb

God Teaches a Self-protective Hypocrite to Love

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness, addiction, or abuse   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Twice during church services, the pressure of hypocrisy jolted me into tears to the point I could barely stand. Each time,  a false interpretation of my role had been translated into unloving attitudes and behaviors, including self-righteousness.

The hypocrisy was mine.

One public sobbing was at least twenty years ago.  A pastor stood and said, “I do not know why I am reading this, but sense the Holy Spirit is leading me to do so.”  With that, he read part of Revelations (2:4) where God chastises a church for losing its “first love.”  

It was as if someone struck my legs.  I folded to the bench and wept.  The service continued.

In that moment as the pastor read,  truth clicked.  I was like that church! Jesus is the first love of all who claim him as Savior.  He said we show our love for him by obeying his commands. (John 14:15) His command is to love each other as he has loved us! (John 13:34)

Before ten years passed, my prayers were again embittered. Mentally condemning anyone judged less righteous than me,  I mumbled, “Thank you God that I am not like her.”

It is fair to say,  that moment is one of my most shameful memories and a great regret.

You see, Jesus used a story to illustrate prideful hypocrisy.  While one man asked God to forgive him of his many sins, a religious elitist stood nearby and prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people …or even like him!”  

Ouch.  As three fingers pointed back at me,  I cried in sorrow.

God always meets us where we are.  If outwardly we act tough and inwardly die, he sees. If our faces smile and laugh while our stomachs seethe in anger,  he knows.  If past trauma or any other source of fear feeds a self-protective attitude of hypocrisy, he is not blindsided.  If  his people are willing to listen, he will speak and teach us to love.

 Today’s Helpful Word

Luke 18:9-14 

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee ,  and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

******COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

Pics: glass window by DRAGONARIAES of rgbstock.com; Pharisee by freebibleimages.org  

 

More than Cutting: Understanding Self-injury and What You Can Do to Help Someone Stop

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Yesterday a friend joked about cutting, a serious self-injurious behavior some people fall into for a variety of reasons. It is commonly viewed as an adolescent female problem. My friend meant no disrespect to those who struggle with this, but I realize it must seem very strange to someone with limited knowledge of this behavior.

What self-injury IS

Clinically known as non-suicidal self-injury or NSSI,  self-injury is a coping mechanism for dealing with difficult emotions and mood.  

Self-injury is deliberate mutilation of one’s body through cutting, burning, and other injurious behaviors.  It crosses all age, gender, economic, national, occupational, social, sexual, racial, religious, and educational lines.  Clearly, self-injury is not limited to adolescent girls.  According to  studies, at least 35 percent of self-injurers may be male. *

For a more in-depth article from the American Psychological Association on self-injury and it’s relation to social issues, mental health,  eating disorders, and future suicide attempts, see Who Self-Injures by Tori DeAngelis.

What self-injury IS NOT

Let’s be clear on what “self-injury” is not. It is not tattoos, piercings, plastic surgery, or nail-biting unless the goal behind these choices is to deliberately cause pain and harm to one’s body. 

Self-injury is certainly not normal, and is often confused with suicidal tendencies.  People who self-injure are often doing what they know to do to face life, not die.

How self-injury WORKS in the body

Endorphins are a biological calming chemical that  release during and after self-injury.  

My dad used to joke when I complained of a stomach ache, “Let me stomp on your toe and you’ll forget all about the stomach ache.” This is a loose interpretation of one of the purposes behind self-injury; it draws one’s attention from strong emotions, anxiety, or numbness one does not want to feel.

The DANGERS of self-injury

Self-injury teaches nothing about healthy coping skills.  It does not improve any circumstance, relationship, or self-image. It creates a false sense of control, and must be repeated to continue to work.  It is addcitive and difficult for a self-injurer to stop. The behavior will have to increase in frequency and level of damage to achieve desired results. Later, regret over scars may interfere with a positive self-image, human connection, or intimacy.

What does NOT HELP someone who self-injures

When someone we know is engaging in self-injury, it is not helpful to make a comparison to what we or anyone else in the world is suffering. “You do not have it so bad,” or “I had problems with my family too, but you don’t see me cutting myself,” is the same as dismissing a person’s emotional pain as not worth taking seriously.  Instead of recognizing an obvious need for expressing and learning how to manage emotions,  we add more rejection to the mix.

We cannot stop his or her self-injurious behavior. Each person has to decide whether to practice self-care.  A more effective means of influencing the situation is to avoid panic and other reactionary responses fueled by high emotion.  

Often, it is best to not bring up the topic of self-injury unnecessarily and to avoid discussing details of injuries or looking at scars because this can trigger compulsive behavior.  

What WILL HELP someone who self-injures

Distraction may buy time until an impulse lessens. One young woman would go for a run when she felt the urge to cut. She acknowledged it did not “cure” the urge to self-injure, but used up adrenaline and bought her time to change her mind.  Perhaps there is an activity you and a recovering self-injurer could do together. 

Understand the problem is not self-injury.  It is the self-injurer’s unmanaged emotions or mood and perhaps the relationships or circumstances surrounding the struggle that need addressing.  Point a self-injurious person to competent and often professional help.

Discuss the situation openly without judgment. Listen to his or her needs even if those needs do not make sense to you right away.  When love is compassionate instead of controlling, it is gentle. It supports each person’s value and ability to learn healthy ways. Love also celebrates each step forward.

Today’s Helpful Word

1 Corinthians 13:4  

Love is patient, love is kind.

 

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, addiction, and abuse. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

*From Who Self-injures by Tony Deangelis on the American Psychological Association website. Retrieved on March 17, 2018 from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/07-08/who-self-injures.aspx

4 Possible Motives for Taking On Too Much (and how to restore balance)

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Last night, a friend said he feels like a heel because sometimes the injustice of this world is too much to process and he makes himself not care. He blames his lack of feeling on an apathy he is convinced must reside at his core.

My friend is not apathetic; he is overwhelmed. He feels powerless. He beats himself up for not experiencing what he has judged to be the correct reaction.

We are going to feel powerless when we are powerless. A key component to developing healthy, compassionate boundaries is to recognize what we can and cannot control. Hint:  we cannot control other people or external events. We can only hope to manage our reactions.

Motives are choices

If we find we are frustrated, burned-out, or emotionally or physically dysfunctional because we have said yes to solving an overwhelming number of dilemmas, we need change.

Today you can learn to recognize some unhelpful motives that keep us stuck in patterns of saying yes. Also you will read practical tools for adjusting your life’s balance.  Let’s use the following scenario to guide us.

You have left your job one afternoon  extra tired because you have much to accomplish in the few days left before you leave on vacation.

There are errands. Pick-up gifts for the nieces and nephews; drive Bobby to his play practice, and then go home – to wrap presents, grab a snack to share, and head out the door to the neighborhood holiday party. Don’t forget to pick up Bobby!

Then Tina calls. She wants to talk some more about her divorce, the unfairness of her husband’s lawyer, and maybe she will ask you for gasoline money. It’s always “gasoline” money, although you never really know. 

4 possible motives for taking on too much (and how to restore balance)

1. Taking on responsibility for someone else’s difficulty can lead to false guilt. Empathy is important. However, there’s a difference between feeling with and feeling as if.  If you carry someone’s pain as if it were yours, you will likely feel more trapped into trying to relieve or solve it. Healthy compassion feels with, but does not own.

It helps to name the owner of the problem and say it aloud. “That’s Liam’s job loss”, “It’s Sally’s depression.” In this case, “It’s Tina’s divorce, not mine.”

2. Have you ever said or heard someone say, “no one else is doing it so I have to?”  As a director of children’s ministries years ago, I used to carefully upkeep church bulletin boards. Later, after that position ended, the bulletin boards stayed stagnant.   Children’s ministries continued fine without anyone spending hours on bulletin boards.

Not everything we think must be done is our responsibility or even necessary. Consider before committing, “What is the worst possible result if I do not do this?” In Tina’s case, she may have to find someone new to lean on. She will when you are gone on vacation anyway. Let guilt go.

3. The term ‘people-pleasing’ is a misnomer. Fear of displeasing people is the actual motive behind this self-protective behavior. It is only by saying yes to everything that we feel safe.

For example, We fear displeasing Tina, so we give her $20 for the third time. We fear the neighbor’s unhappiness so we  offer to host the next party. We fear our nephews and nieces disappointment in us so we buy more gifts than is necessary. 

Seeking validation and a sense of worth by helping others is not wrong, just backwards. We all need appreciation and acceptance. Nevertheless, as a motive, it pushes us to too many yesses when that validation doesn’t come fast or often enough.

Look at and test the evidence. Are there people who say no and remain appreciated and loved? Yes. Name them. You see it is possible, so why not you? Say no to something small. Did you survive? Keep practicing until what you are saying yes to matches with your highest priorities.

4. Sadly, past trauma may have taught us  that we have no innate boundary rights. An unresolved history may leave us with internal condemnation.  Talking deeper issues out with a therapist is a reasonable investment for a lifetime of freedom.

Truth is, compassion leads us to want to help. It can seem odd that sometimes the most compassionate choices involve saying no, drawing boundaries, practicing self-care, or not trying to fix anything.

Not much in this world is going to change dramatically because we took the time to pray, think, and discuss before saying yes and committing. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Yesterday It Happened Again

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2015 Nancy Virden

photo-24747118-courage-word-inscribed-on-soap_Yesterday it happened again.

When I have a table event there are signs and, of course, titles on display informing passers-by that depression and suicide are my topics. Some people glance and look away, others ignore, and there are always those who stop to talk. Repeatedly I hear stories and confessions of pain, sorrow, and guilt.

I also hear tales of great courage.

One older woman picked up a card listing the warning signs of suicide. She and her friend talked awhile out of earshot, then before walking away she turned to me and said, “Thank you so very much.”

A middle-aged man stopped to tell me he had lost his dad to suicide when he was a child, and more recently had found the body of a friend who died by suicide. He said he lectures on the same topics as I, and uses his pain to teach others to put their trust in Christ as the only source of strength that will last.

Another woman took a warning signs card. “This describes my sister. I’ve told her she is not dying on my watch. Thank you for this, it will help our mother to understand.”

And so, not only depressed and struggling people come to me. It is the supports, the friends and families of hurting loved ones, who steadfastly and courageously give what assistance they can. Despite their own fears and limitations, these people learn about depression and suicide, teach others, and bring hope when they can to despairing persons.

It is a humbling privilege to meet so many who are in the middle of this stigmatized disease. Whether they are suffering or know someone who is, they shed light and fight ignorance wherever they go.

****************Comments are always welcome.  NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

My Depression is Sinful?

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2015 Nancy Virden

Last year, a list of sins was handed to me. I glanced at it and immediately saw three words, depression, hopelessness, and helplessness. Sure enouphoto-24748219-downcast-mangh, these emotions were listed right along with truly dastardly deeds.

Never mind the questionable necessity to create a list of sins that is supposed to fit every Christian while taking no circumstances into account; including negative emotions was unfair and quite possibly deadly.

A despairing individual who has come to hopelessness and helplessness already doubts his value and whether he has options. A severely depressed church goer is likely in a quagmire of feeling spiritually lost and struggling to be in any social atmosphere. To tell these people (or anyone) that their emotions are wrong is to invalidate legitimate experiences and needs, and to discourage openness.

It was explained to me that the author of that list didn’t mean the kind of depression that is clinical; it is the sort of depression people choose that is proof of a lack of faith, hence sin.

I’ve been there. In all honesty, sometimes sulking seems more fun than getting work done. I have entertained self-pity. Complaining or refusing to get over a past hurt are some of my not-so-great decisions. 

“Depression” has multiple definitions. Most people never feel anything worse than the blues. Pity-parties, grudges, and negativity can all play a role in a bad mood day.

There is depression that exceeds choice, and becomes the very existence and reality of one who suffers. It is far deeper than sadness and more overwhelming than grief. It is a whirlpool-like drainage of hope. It is a shroud of dread slowing each movement.

Like darkness in a cave can almost snuff out a light, a cavern of emptiness can swallow up truth despite powerful faith. Maybe the believer’s agonized whispered prayer is, “Help me,” or maybe it is, “God, please take me now.”

This level of depression cannot be described in a way that those who have not experienced it can understand. It can take months to years to overcome and can recur throughout a lifetime.

This is the danger of writing lists of sins- we cannot write about every mitigating circumstance. We cannot know another’s motives. Onclose up of a beautiful young woman looking upwardsly God gets to see our honest effort versus apparent lack of faith. 

I don’t recall seeing sulking or self-pity on the list – only depression was named a sin. That is a misuse of the word, I hope. I’d like to believe no church would dismiss people who experience the number one commonality between all human suffering.

Unfortunately though, I’ve seen all too many people of faith who are quick to judge and misinterpret symptoms of depression. I was greatly disturbed by that list of sins. If I’d seen it three years earlier, my reaction would have been greater despair, and frankly it would have played a part in my downward spiral toward suicide.

*********

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

-pictures from Qualitystockphotos.com

Fluffy Compassionate Love

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2015  Nancy Virden

photo-24738483-sheepYeah. It was 2:16 pm exactly, on Valentine’s Day, when the idea for this post came to mind. I was writing a sequel to my most viewed and shared article, Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse, and basically decided it was in my best interest to stop. The research alone is ugly; my mood was getting uglier. 

“Write a fluff story” popped into my head and I’m running with it. This is a safer exercise for all concerned.

When my oldest son was about six years old, he joined a boy scout-like program where he was told to choose an animal name for his badge. If anyone had asked, I would have guessed he would write Tiger or some such fierce creature. I was surprised when “Fluffy Lamb” came home, proudly holding out his name tag.

In some bizarre design twist I can no longer explain, a basket of freshly shorn wool sat in the corner of our livingphoto-24819902-couple-looking-to-each-other room. This same son thought it would be fun to bury his face in it. This was not so entertaining after all when his skin broke out into itchy hives. “Fluffy Lamb” is allergic to the real stuff.

Research on love has resurged as of the last few decades or so.  One reason is that psychologists like to fix people, and studying love will presumably help us understand how to do it better, ultimately affecting treatment and the success of relationships.

Maybe that sounds like a lot of fluff to you. I thought so. Then I read Two Types of Love: Compassionate and Passionate and learned I was right. Essentially, research has discovered that being kind and caring is different from being hot and heavy. This is a truth I grew up hearing in church.

photo-24787605-young-carpenter-with-measuring-tapeIt has to be discussed though, because while we all enjoy the idea of compassionate love, some people seem allergic to it. I suspect that’s because it is a lot easier to receive than to give. “I don’t have time,” “I worked all day,” “I’m not letting them dip into my pocketbook!” seem reasonable.

It’s not “normal” in our American society to reach past oneself and do for others on more than a superficial scale. People tend to look at me like I’m an alien and worry for my self-esteem when I freely give away my stuff. When I give of my time, some remarks sound as if they think I’ve done something heroic. 

Compassion. It’s a feeling, but can lead to making a real difference in the world when followed by action. Some “fluffy” famous persons were known to act on compassion. Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Jesus were a few.

We generally do not like the idea of being living sacrifices. Yet even more research tells us that acting on photo-24785445-male-washing-rag-in-faucetcompassion makes us healthier both physically and mentally.  Putting forward the best interests of others strengthens our resiliency to stress.

Behaving with compassion is an acquired skill. It can be taught. Like any other lesson, the student has to want it. Motivation to practice has to come from somewhere. A few terrific ideas are described in better detail in an article on another website. My paraphrase:

  • Search for what you and the other person share in common
  • Do not fear being negatively affectedphoto-24817199-a-woman-with-a-pity-face
  • Look at the story instead of stats.
  • Focus on the need; blaming lets us feel superior and show less tenderness and concern
  • Trust you are capable of making a difference
  • Notice and savor how good it feels to act in compassion
  • Don’t be a sponge or doormat; you matter too

Do we want this challenge? We might want to wear a fluffy “good person” badge, but compassionate love is apparently very costly.

Sorry, I promised you a fluffy post. Maybe next time.

**********

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*pictures from qualitystockphotos.com

Why Are You Afraid of My Chronic Condition?

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2015  Nancy Virden

photo-24783806-sad-face-of-beautiful-young-ladyTammy* stretches her legs. Sharp pains course through her muscles. Collecting steely nerve, she  continues to get dressed. Each day she has only so much energy to use for basic duties like preparing to go downstairs for breakfast. Making her meal will cost her, so will cleaning up.

She’s been invited to a social gathering of friends and acquaintances this afternoon. Her choices are limited – will she vacuüm her neglected carpet? Perhaps answering emails is more important. Her goal to attend the gathering strongly influences her decision as doing all three is not an option. 

Robert* is highly anxious. Knots in his stomach bring about powerful feelings of nausea. He fights for control over his greatest fear- vomiting in public. It’s a wonder he has ventured out at all this morning, but no one is holding his job for him.

His boss has permitted a few hours off to visit his psychiatrist. The idea of seeing the doctor is an overwhelming proposition that brings about another wave of nausea.

Sally* has done it again- swallowed a bottle of pills and called 911 immediately after. Why? Her mood spirals up, down, and up again. She smiles at hospital staff, and they greet her by name. This is routine.

Her family comes without her brother this time. He is angry, and last time told his sister if she repeated this behavior he would never speak to her again. Sally realizes he may be gone forever and overwhelming depressed feelings once again master her spirit. She is certain that next time she will not call for help.

What is your response to the above three scenarios? Anger? Sympathy? Tolerance? Do you experience a greater pity for one person’s circumstances than the other two?

If you said yes to any of the questions, welcome to the human race. We tend to empathize more with struggles we have experienced than with those we have not. Let’s ask a different question. What scares us about what we do not understand?

Knowledge is power in part because it squelches our fear of the unknown.  Fear feeds judgment because we avoid learning more. By sincerely and openly discussing issues with a hurting person we may discover a beautiful opportunity to grow in love and truth.

*****

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*not their real names

* pictures from qualitystockphotos.com

 

If It Hurts, Is it Love? (Part 2)

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2014 Nancy Virden

The first of these two articles describes three situations and family relationships. I had recently been told, “People can love someone and still do horrible things to them.”  Perhaps it’s my black and white way of thinking that will not allow me to accept this idea.

Why it stumps me doesn’t matter anymore; I just have to flat-out disagree. Love is an action, not a feeling. Sweet, warm and fuzzy feelings in and of themselves are not love.

Watching that pretty girl walk down the street and thinking,  she’s hot. I think I love her! is not love. It may feel powerful and be confused with love. Follow-up behavior determines what is love.

Unless the would-be lover devotes himself to her wellbeing, it is not love. If he cannot back-off when she asks him to, it is not love. If the idea of committment and remaining faithful to her through chronic illness, childbirth, death in the family, mental illness, or loss of youth or beauty turns him off – it is not love.

Love hopes all things and endures all things. Of course, when we love someone who loves us back, it feels awesome. These warm and happy emotions are not necessarily true love. 

Here’s a test:  When wonder and joy slack off a bit, do we choose to behave lovingly anyway?  Are our hearts still devoted to their wellbeing?

Do we call it love when we lose our identity, emotional or physical health, or our safety for someone who refuses to be kind? Love never fails. Never. However, if I take advantage of you, insult you, or hurt your feelings on purpose, I am being a jerk. I am not loving you.

If you have expressed your dislike for how I treat you and do not see long-term change in my behavior, I am not loving you. Love does not insist on its right to be abusive. Regardless of any excuses, it is true love’s job to stop abuse. Immediately. Every time.

Love is humble. It admits when we blow our opportunity to show kindness. It apologizes. It does not mindlessly repeat the same hurtful behavior. It focuses on the wellbeing of the person we claim to love.

No, no one can love a person and do horrible things to them. Abusers claim they do. They are flat-out wrong.

******

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

 

 

Billy has ADHD

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2014 Nancy Virden

Little Billy (not his real name) looked up at his grandmother who was glaring back at him. He seemed confused yet unsurprised. I watched as she scolded him and his attention wandered. By all appearances he was not listening.

Her voice rose in intensity and volume, demanding he pay attention. Billy didn’t. Instead, he wandered off in the middle of one of her sentences and she went ballistic.

“Billy!” she said. “When we get home your behind is getting beat. Unless you come over here right now and listen to me!”

He came. He looked at her red, screaming face for half a second and I could see his mind leave the scene. I don’t know where he went, but he was gone. Physically he also soon disappeared, running out of the room into more trouble.

Billy has ADHD, Attention-deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder.  Not having to deal with this disorder in my family, I am no expert. However, I’ve heard about medications for ADHD like Ritalin.

ADHD medications aren’t behavior-controlling any more than antidepressants are happiness-producing. These medical therapies take unhealthy brains and bring them to a healthier state, allowing the owners of said brains to make reasonable choices. Some recipients will be select to make good decisions, and some not-so-good.

In Billy’s case, his family refused to consider Ritalin or any other drug to help him. His wandering mind was incapable of lengthy focus. He was in constant motion. Billy  was smart, and in my opinion a potential powerhouse for good if given a chance. Instead, relatives took turns taking him in. He was told he could live with one family at a time until each grew sick of him, then he would have to move on.

Imagine the difference for Billy if he’d been able to experience love that lasted more than a few weeks at a time, or at all. While his sometimes outrageous behavior created difficulties for me and others in a church setting, it was impossible to miss the could-have-beens. An untreated mental health condition trapped him in a cycle of effort, scolding, and banishment.

I see a theme running throughout mental challenges. When supports do not understand the condition, judgments made tend to be unfair and disadvantageous to the one who is struggling.

Let’s be willing to learn, to read, and ask hard questions. Let’s pursue wisdom and understanding so our love is tender and not exasperated. Compassionate love is ours  to share.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*picture from qualitystockphotos