“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Friday, June 21, 2013

Pride, sin and depression

Had a conversation with a man the other day who shared with me that he suffers from periods of depression.  He actually lives with a manic/depression form of mental illness and although through medication he has it somewhat under control, he will sometimes still deal with depression. 

He shared how when he has shared his disability with pastors or teachers (he hesitates to bring it up anymore), he is often told that his problem is "unconfessed sin in your life."  Now my sin can definitely cause me to be depressed, however, if I have clinical depression based upon a form of mental illness, my depression is not due to unconfessed sin.  That is the first lession.  Second, if you tell me that the reason I experience depression is because I have unconfessed sin in my life, you are basically saying that you think you are better than me because you, as an idyllic, humble example of righteousness have confessed your sin so you do not experience depression.  While I have such an obstinate attitude that I will refuse to confess my sins and thus I experience my depression.

This response is not only simply wrong, it is so prideful in judging one's neighbor when you may have no idea of what the person with the mental illness is experiencing.  Need I even mention the book of Job?  You experience no impairment, no disability, no mental illness because of your righteousness, while I experience impairment, disability, mental illness because of my sinful condition that you claim I refuse to confess.

This perspective is referred to as the moral model of disability.  I basically states that impairment/disability is due to what I have done, or my parents have done or my family has done.  You see I/we are bad people and we are just getting what is coming to us.  But if we were more like you who does not experience impairment/disability then we would not experience impairment/disability too.

When I have the opportunity to speak to groups, I often ask whether sin is the cause of disability.  Not from the perspective of the "original sin of Adam" but just more related to my personal sin.  Now I can do things of a sinful nature that can cause disability in others.  If I act violently towards another person I can cause disability.  But does the fact that I am a thief or a liar, or do not honor my parents, etc., basically that I am as Paul referred to himself  the worst of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), should I expect that my children will as a result be disabled?  In reality if sin were the cause of disability and I truly understood the sinful condition of people, then I should expect that ALL of our children would be disabled.  In my personal life, I know that sin is not the cause of disability because neither of my children are disabled.  I know myself, and trust me if sin were the cause of disability my children would be disabled.

But back to the conversation I had with my friend.  He may do things in his life of a sinful nature that can cause him to feel depressed, but his experience of mental illness is not due to unconfessed sin in his life any more than the lack of mental illness is caused by the confessed sin in the life of his detractors.  We need to understand human impairments for what they are.  We need to understand the pervasiveness of sin in all of us.  Recognize that it is the pride in me that causes me to see myself as somehow perfection in my spiritual astuteness to confess my sin, while simultaneously seeing someone who experiences impairment/mental illness as other and imperfect and unrepentant.

Get the log out of your own eye before you point out the splinter in someone else's eye (Matthew 7:5).



Anonymous said...

From the following passage, it is evident that disabilities do not result from a person having sinned:
John 9:2-7
English Standard Version (ESV)
2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

Depression is not due to a person’s sin. It is God’s work. And we should not blame one another for any of our disabilities. If anything, we should view the circumstance as an opportunity to “work the works of him” and help each other heal.

Anonymous said...

I believe that is a a difficult discussion, but it not one that we should shy away from. I too suffered from severe depression in my secondary school days. When I look at many of reasons that lead me into that depression, I can say alot had to do with focusing on other things besides God. But I believe that many times it may have to do with no one paying me attention, particularly with theeyes of Christ. At that time, as I still do today, suffer from periods of depression, but sometimes it may come from a sort of spiritual malaise. I am hesitant to believe that Christianity is all happiness, although constant severe depression is dangerous. Job, was afflicted and David cried many tears in the Psalters. Many of the saints cried constant tears of pain and angst for who just/unjust were afflicted. There is a certain Catholic worker who became overwhelmed by her family's lack of faith, the general poor spiritual values of society, who would often cry out,"Lord help my unbelief!" These perception that these deeply spiritually inclined people had were much greater than anyone can imagine. Although, I am no expert on depression, I thought I might bring a different angle on the conversation.

Shelly Hendricks said...

A trap we as Christians can often fall into is looking to be "perfect". It is a trap because it is impossible, but also because 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us, "And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." Don't know about you, but I'd rather that the power of Christ rest upon me in my weakness than to chase pridefully after my own perfection. Great article!