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Acceptance September 23, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Christianity, Church, Life, Mental Health.
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THIS POST is for all my friends in the madosphere, those amazing people blogging, facebooking and tweeting their way through the traumas of mental illness: you know who you are and I salute you. But mostly it’s for Karita, whose recent posts DistasteStuntedHonesty and Lies – Part the Second and Honesty and Lies have set me thinking.

It’s a strange business, the way our society treats people with mental health problems, almost like lepers … perhaps even worse than lepers: leprosy is a disease that you can identify, pin down to a particular bacterium, and treat. But mental illnesses come in all sorts of guises and all too often, it seems, even health professionals don’t know how to deal with them and people struggling with mental illness find themselves sidelined or stigmatised.

Part of it comes down to fear, of course: fear of what may be lurking inside our own minds, sometimes hidden just below the surface, sometimes buried deeper within. Fear of looking into the abyss of the human mind and having to face up to the fact that when push comes to shove, we’re all the same. Then there’s pride: the foolish belief that somehow I am above these problems, that mental illness is a sign of weakness when in fact it’s simply part of being human, no more a sign of personal weakness or failure than cancer is a sign of physical weakness or failure. I think A Broader Mark summed things up well when she left this comment here the other day:

I’m beginning to suspect it’s their own pain that people can’t accept. Maybe they avoid looking at the pain of others because it reminds them of their own pain – forces them to see that they’re just as human as the next guy. Everyone hurts (almost always more than other people know, I suspect); it’s the human condition – there ain’t no escaping it.

It seems to be even worse in some Christian circles: many Christians seem to think that they shouldn’t be mentally ill, shouldn’t suffer from depression or anxiety or personality disorders or any of the other 1001 or more manifestations of mental illness. They’ve been taught to believe that Jesus will make all their problems go away and if their problems don’t go away then it must be their fault somehow because if they really, truly trusted in Jesus then their problems would be solved. Sing another sycophantic “God is Great” happy song and all will be well. Forgive my bluntness, but that’s complete bullshit. In fact, it’s worse than bullshit: at least with bullshit you can use it as fertiliser — but with complete cockamamy beliefs like that, there’s nothing useful you can do at all: you just have to throw them out of the window and hope there’s no one standing underneath…

Simple fact: Christians are screwed up human beings the same as everyone else. What Jesus offers to those who can or will accept it is acceptance itself and a bit of light in the darkness. What he doesn’t do is turn the light off or walk away or snuff out a flickering candle or break off a broken reed. Instead, he sits down beside the flickering and broken ones and gently puts an arm around their shoulders and says, lean on me. Then, together, with him wearing his crown of thorns that people like me awarded him for being our champion, they weep. Maybe they struggle to their feet and stagger a few steps together … he has bloody, broken feet because people like me smashed nails through them when he wouldn’t make like the God we wanted him to be, so it’s one hell of a journey…

But the important thing is, it’s a journey; and we’re all in it together. A broken god come to the rescue of a broken humanity. An impossible journey. But one that I happen to think is worth taking — and which I count it a privilege to share with anyone who has travelled this far with me. And if you, dear reader, aren’t religiously inclined, don’t worry about it: the god I believe in isn’t religious either and doesn’t give a fig about what you believe about him — what counts is he believes in you; and he does, my friend, he does…

Did I mention his hands are broken too?

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Comments»

1. Karita - September 23, 2010

Oh Phil, you’ve made me cry again. Thank you for writing this.

Phil Groom - September 23, 2010

Aw, Karita … don’t know what to say really except I was crying too by the time I finished writing it. But now suddenly I do know what to say: you. are. accepted. 🙂

2. David Marriott - September 23, 2010

Again, I turn to one of the best bands of the all the help explain what I think about the subject.

Thank you, Phil.

3. Hidihidi - September 23, 2010

Thank you Phil. Bless you. I wish more Christians believed like you. *hugs*

4. Louise - September 23, 2010

I wish I could be part of the madosphere.

Phil Groom - September 23, 2010

You are here, Louise, accepted and loved
*sends strength and courage*

5. Pandora - September 23, 2010

Great post. I’m so glad there are people like you in the world, Phil. ❤ xxx

(@Louise – you are part of the Madosphere, are you not? I consider you to be! x)

6. fromthesamesky - September 23, 2010

Great post Phil. I think I”ll find myself coming back and reading this again … and again …

7. Erika Baker - September 23, 2010

It’s not just fear, though, it’s helplessnes too. My mother had an undiagnosed mental health problem and her behaviour could change within seconds from “normal” to deeply depressed or aggressive, from logical to deeply irrational and quite terrifying.
The unpredictability of it was scary, the not knowing whether anything we did or said acted as a trigger, the not knowing how long it would last this time and what it might make her do.

We are trained and maybe even programmed to have reasonable expectations of people’s behaviour, of cause and effect. And if something upsets this normal pattern completely we simply don’t know how to cope.

Phil Groom - September 23, 2010

You’re right, Erika, and I have nothing but admiration for those who live with and support friends or family members through mental illness.

Pan has written a series on that very topic: essential reading for anyone in such circumstances: Perspectives from the Mentalist’s Partner

8. The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive - September 25, 2010

You have a lovely soul.

9. fragmentz - October 3, 2010

the last bit of this post made me cry

hugs to you are all i have t offer at the mo x

Phil Groom - October 3, 2010

Lovely to hear from you, fragz — and hugs right back to you (((fragz)))

10. Phil Groom - October 3, 2010

And while we’re at it, *big hugs* to everyone who has commented: thanks to one and all for stopping by.

11. titflasher - January 13, 2011

Phil, you made me cry too, darnit! What a lovely post – thank you for writing it!

Phil Groom - January 13, 2011

*blushes*


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