Tag Archives: friendship

Depression, Robin Williams and why Matt Walsh is wrong

Robin Williams

“Just get over it.”

“Just let it go.”

“Just snap out of it.”

The tragic death of comedian and actor Robin Williams has brought to light once again the terrible battle that those who face depression fight.

But as a Christian, what should I do with depression?

Popular blogger Matt Walsh as usual has all the answers. Except this time, I think he’s wrong.

The reality is that some of the most famous saints throughout the ages fell into depression: King Saul, King David, The apostle Paul, and Martin Luther to name but just a few.

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t get it. I’ve flirted with depression at times, been in its embrace but never intimately, not like Robin Williams. But someone I love deeply has. Someone whom I’ve walked with for 17 years has.

I will admit, there are days that I get sick of hearing about it. Being a friend to someone who struggles with depression is not easy at times. The intensity levels are high. Until grace comes.

A young pastor was recently preaching on depression and said something to the effect of “a Christian who consistently does not have joy in their lives is a poor witness for Christ.” I was so glad my friend was not in the crowd that night. Tell that person something they don’t know! Like they want to be depressed?  Tell them to be joyful, it’s a commandment.  But how, when joy is the elusive bird that always flies away and never lands on their soul?

As disciples of Jesus, not just followers, we are often faced with people who can’t seem to overcome certain battles. And the temptation is to “just move on.” Discard them as those who will never “get it.” How sad and wrong.

The Apostle Paul says “I was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan.”

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 Good News Translation (GNT)

“8 Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. 10 I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

For the Christian who struggles with the darkness of depression. I say, you are not alone, you are in good company of men and women who have lived and breathed and drank deeply of the well of God’s grace, and whose life is a testimony that we all need Jesus, desperately, passionately. Grace is far more than just forgiveness of sins. Grace is the fuel that the broken soul needs to be satisfied.

For the friend of the depressed, believer or not, three suggestions.

  1. Be there.

One of the effects of depression is that you desperately want to be alone. You also desperately need to be around people. Give the gift of presence. Invade their lives, but do so quietly. Don’t ask for conversation, or give solutions. Crowds are bad. Show up. Repeatedly. Let the bad days wash over you. Don’t take it personal. Give the gift of presence.2.

2. Be patient

If the depressed person could snap out of it, they would. “Interventions” can be helpful, or completely destructive. Be careful your “interventions” are not just because you are tired of dealing with the problem. Be a true friend, who understands that eternity is a long time, and that a friendship of 20 years that helps carry a person to eternity is well worth the effort.

3. Don’t give up hope.

I have a son who has a long term debilitating condition for which medicine has no cure. My darkest moments are when I give up hope and depression reaches out her falsely embracing arms. But Hope is the fuel of the human soul. I believe in healing, even if I sometimes have a hard time believing its possible for my son.

I believe that depression is treatable, can even be overcome. The worst pronouncement you can make upon the life of anyone is that they are hopeless. Depression can be overcome. Hopelessness can’t.

Robin Williams lost hope. Suicide is a terrible waste, a devastating legacy, and a painful unexplainable wound to the loved ones. Williams I am sure could have articulated the pain that his suicide would cause his family. Logically he could have processed. Somehow though, he went from logic to hopelessness. That is why presence is so important.

When things are good, our friends like us. When things are bad, our friends need us. Be a friend who brings gentle hope today.

How to be popular: Life Lesson #27

The secret to popularity.

The first popular kid I remember from school was in 4th or 5th grade. From then on, the popularity contest ran full swing until graduation night, populating the hallways of highschool with “in” kids and everyone else, “cool” kids and everyone else. These were rarified airs to travel in, and being included was dizzying.  Why is it then that so many of the “popular kids” were actually quite unpopular with the rest of the world?

To credit my high school, the playing field and measuring sticks for popularity were not as delineated as in other fine institutions of social learning. Something about being in an international environment changed some of the rules.

In college, the game was still there. To be popular, you had to be attractive, confident, put together. But if popularity wasn’t your goal, you could just be you.

Somewhere in my 30ies, I achieved popularity. Not because I was suddenly the favorite of a whole ground of strangers I was forced to associate with because of the educational environment forced on me by my situation. Rather, I was popular because I knew a lot of people that I liked and who strangely enough, also seems to like me.

Once I learned that perfect hair, teeth and abs were history after high school, I started enjoying being me a lot more. And ALL my friends are popular. At least with me.

Learn to talk to a human. Life Lesson #24

Learn to talk. (credit to my older, wiser brother, Stephen Porter, on the original idea here).

I speak 6 languages. Not fluently, and I have an accent in most of them. Swahili was the most recent one I learned and what a fun, challenging experience. My sixth language though? Digital media.

You may be a “digital native” . You don’t even remember Windows 95 and Compuserve. That doesn’t excuse you from this one.

I understand lol, I know that ALL CAPS IS YELLING, and I try to keep up with what the digital cultural metaphors are.

But just because you speak digital doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn to speak to people. Having a conversation is about valuing the person in front of you. At 40, I get irritated when everyone at the table keeps checking their phone. Which means that I’m often irritated at myself.

Can you have a conversation? A lengthy conversation, that’s verbal, personal and face to face?

Try it out. If you are struggling, google it. You should know how to do that, right?

Why the way you apologize is wrong. Life Lesson #23

Learn to apologize.

Saying “I’m sorry” takes practice. For some, the process is akin to extracted impacted wisdom teeth. For others, the words flow out so quickly you wonder if there is any meaning associated.

Ever had someone apologize to you and afterwards you felt worse?

“I’m sorry you are such a jerk and I resented your bullish character, I resented your ugly way of talking. And I hated you for being wrong and not knowing it all the time. I’m sorry.”

Wonderful. I feel so much better.

Another friend told me he recently sat in a meeting of non-profit and religious leaders where someone apologized for feelings of resentment. The apology included 10 minutes of upbraiding masked in half-hearted apology.

You can’t apologize for what someone else did and issuing forgiveness before someone else apologies is simple manipulation.

The ANATOMY of a genuine apology.

The apology.

I am sorry. I wronged you. I …. Then STOP.

That’s it. No blaming, no “the reason I did was this…” No justification or explanation required.

If the person to whom you apologize reciprocates, good. But not required. If the person opens the door to more communication, even better. But not required.

That is hard. Because there is a reason for everything. Just shouldn’t be included in an apology.

Here’s the twitter version

“A cover up always necessitates a cleanup. no cover-up no cleanup. So just own up and get on with it.”

Why Starbucks gifts certificates are better than Amazon Gift Certificates. Life Lesson #19

Don’t give gift certificates (except to Starbucks)
Gift Cards
My wife loves cards. When we were dating, I’d frequently be the recipient of a lovely, love filled card which I would read and promptly discard, much to my wife’ consternation.  She learned that cards aren’t really my thing.

You might find it interesting then that among my prized possessions are is a card. Continue reading Why Starbucks gifts certificates are better than Amazon Gift Certificates. Life Lesson #19

Your emotions are a lie (sometimes). 40 Life Lessons I learned before I turned 40: #18

Emotions are real, but not necessarily true.

Doug Lowenberg has both a  DMin and is currently finished a PhD and teaching at a school in East Africa. He also taught many of the classes Tahnya and I took in our degree program in college. But his greatest statement to Tahnya and I was made in one brief pre-marital counseling session. The statement you see above.

What do you mean, Charles? Don’t trust you emotions?

Much has been written in the market about “Trusting your gut.” Malcolm Gladwell’s BLINK is truly insightful about trusting ourselves when we sense things about people or situations.

That’s not what I’m talking about. I’ve ruined very few relationships when I was calm. But angry, I’ve done serious damage. When I’m hurt or depressed I make bad decisions. Google the research on what happens to your thinking when your heart rate goes over 140. You can’t even think coherently. Few people get crystal clear when they are hyped up. Sure, my sarcastic ability goes into the zone when I’m angry. But how often has that improved my relationships and decisions?

Parenting brings out emotions like no other human endeavor. Teenagers will scream at their mother “I hate you!” then go on Oprah and tell of the most amazing mother. Which is true?

Emotions are real. Just not necessarily true.

The flipside is that relationships come with an ebb and flow. Denying emotions is just as dangerous. Suppressed anger becomes depression. Feelings of rejection lead to private humiliation. Telling someone not to feel is like telling Spring to not come.

The last three years, I have felt some of the most intense emotions of my life. Our son was diagnosed with a terrible genetic condition. I’ve felt despair, pain, depression, hopelessness like never before in my life. I’ve felt alone, like I “can’t do it anymore.”

Listen to your emotions. But question them. Run them by friends. Count to 10. Then wait 24 hours. Sometimes we shouldn’t rush to judgment.  Especially when the andrenal cortex is pumping.

There is real, and then there is true.

Scuba diving makes communication difficult. Life Lesson #17

Keep your communication above the water line.

Above the water line

This one is a bit cultural, so you may have to contextualize.

Some background might help though in understanding cultures. Culture, we often see as a geopolitical thing. Tribes in Africa, countries in Europe, regions in America. Barbeque versus Vegan type thing.

But culture goes deeper than that. Organizations have their own cultures, schools have their own cultures, teams have their cultures. Marriages have cultures.

Too often, communication goes below the line. Like an Ice Berg, the reality is not what is seen. And then the games begin. Everyone becomes a shrink, trying to figure out the real meaning of what we are saying, judging every nuance and inflection. Every eye lift and head tilt.

The problem is that we are often poor cultural interprets. Case in point? In the USA, eye contact is a sign of respect. In Tanzania, eye contact can be seen as a sign of disrecpect or even other less savory things.  Simple, above the line communication makes life so much easier to decipher. Just say it.

Say it gentlely. Be Nice. But everyone loves a straight talker, as long as they aren’t an angry straight talker. Just saying…