Magic words to tell everyone around you

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I heard these magic words on February 13, 2013: “Karen, don’t let the fact that others may go through harder things allow you to make light of your pain. It’s never ‘just’ anything when it comes to hardship. You have just as much a right to the compassion and empathy of your brothers and sisters in Christ as anyone else with problems. Really, no matter what one is going through there’s always someone worse off, you can’t let that invalidate your suffering.”

Some context: For a few weeks, I’d been noticing signs of a depression relapse and was trying to come to terms with it all. My new friend, D, sent a Facebook message asking how I’d been lately. Now, our friendship had begun on rather interesting note. At a large Christmas gathering of Christian students at UChicago, D publicly shared, for the first time, about having struggled with severe depression for 7 years (and counting). That night, we talked for a really long time, exchanging stories of depression and faith.  So when I received his Facebook message, I felt I could tell him about the recent onset of mild depression. But I also added, “I almost feel ashamed cus I know that what I go through is really small compared to your depression.”

That was when he told me the magic words that would stick with me as mild depression turned into full-blown clinical depression, as I crawled toward recovery 8 months later, and as I began talking to others struggling with various issues (mental or otherwise).

Almost every person who’s opened up to me, at some point expresses shame about asking for help because there are many out there who are worse off. And I’d tell them about what D told me, that I care about them and what they’re going through. Period. We don’t allocate compassion based on relative magnitudes of suffering. God’s infinite love means infinite compassion. There is more than enough to go around.

At the well

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” –Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30)

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14 thoughts on “Magic words to tell everyone around you”

  1. Those words are so powerful, and so true … when faced with the suffering we see and read about every day (why on earth can’t they report more good news stories?!) it is especially easy for depressed people to denigrate their experiences in the face of others’. Thank you so much for passing on this wisdom!

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  2. That is so true. Each one of us carries a burden, and everyone of us is given different challenges to battle with. Those challenges should never be dismissed as “not important enough”!

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  3. Each of us faces our struggles in our own way, but just because what’s hard for me might be easy for you doesn’t make it any less hard for me. More of us struggling should reach out to help each other more and spend less time trying to make our struggle seem somehow more important than someone elses.

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  4. God’s timing is always perfect. I was meditating on this very thing during my devotional time this morning. Because I have been in International ministry, I was thinking of those I have read about or met who have been through horrible persecution in places like Afghanistan, Indonesia and Sudan. I thought of Elisabeth Elliott witnessing to the members of the tribe who murdered her husband. With tears I cried out in shame to God that I could not have done what they did. The answer I received in the Spirit was that I could not have carried the cross they bore, but they would not have been able to bear the cross I have carried, either.

    As tears of shame turned to tears of joy, I listened to CeCe Winans sing Alabaster Box. As it says in the lyrics, “you don’t know the cost of the oil in my alabaster box.” And I don’t know the cost of yours. God knows all, and He who cares for us so much that He has numbered every one of our hairs, is there for us always. If it concerns us, it concerns Him.

    From the Rose is Rose comic strip of 1/17/2014 (available on GoComics.com):

    1st Panel: Rose is in her pajamas and kneeling at her bedside praying. She is finishing her prayer, saying, “… I won’t keep you … I know you’re BUSY!”
    2nd & 3rd Panels: Rose is pausing while sitting on the side of her bed. In the third panel, her eyes are looking toward heaven.
    4th Panel; Rose is back on her knees, flung across her bed, praying these words: “Yes! I’m AWARE of Your UNLIMITED guidance plan!”

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  5. Great post, I fully agree. We live in a world consumed by competition. My clothes are better than yours, my car is newer than yours, my boobs are bigger than yours, my schedule is busier than yours, my suffering is greater than yours, my poverty is worse than yours.

    This is the result of putting so much importance on what spiritual writers refer to as “human respect,” which means worrying more about what people think than what God thinks. A wonderful antidote to the temptation of human respect is the Litany of Humility, written by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930):

    O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

    From the desire of being esteemed …Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being loved …Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being extolled …Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being honored …Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being praised …Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being preferred to others …Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being consulted …Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being approved …Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being humiliated …Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being despised …Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of suffering rebukes …Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being calumniated …Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being forgotten …Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being ridiculed …Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being wronged …Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being suspected …Deliver me, Jesus.

    That others may be loved more than I
    …Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

    That others may be esteemed more than I
    …Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease
    …Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That others may be chosen and I set aside
    …Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That others may be praised and I unnoticed
    …Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That others may be preferred to me in everything
    …Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should
    …Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

    Amen.

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    1. This (the Litany of Humility) is profoundly sobering, thank you for sharing! I’ll be sharing this with my Christian friends at UChicago. Our campus culture is a very conducive breeding ground for self-worship (and, on the flip side, self-beratement) that I can be so difficult to emulate Christ.

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  6. I keep trying to tell myself that. I tell everyone that already. But even though I mean it when I say it to others, I can’t make it true for myself. It’s funny how advice is so easily given and so hard to take.

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  7. Absolutely! Never, ever feel that your suffering is irrelevant in contrast to another’s. The supposed “magnitude” or “reason” doesn’t matter The fact that you’re suffering at that moment is reason enough to matter – because no one deserves to suffer.

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  8. I recently found myself saying something very similar to what you did, Karen, and genuinely meant it. Like you, I had someone set me straight, and the wisdom of those magic words is indeed very profound. Problem is, depression is precisely what makes us say those things to ourselves (or others).

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  9. Such lovely words! I spent a long time not wanting to tell anybody about my depression because I felt ‘selfish’ like it was wrong of me to feel depressed when other people have it a lot worse than me but I’ve now come to realise that everyone has struggles and you should never judge yourself against anyone else. Thank you for sharing your journey it means a lot to find others in similar situations x

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