I received a message a short time ago from a person who was following my videos on Facebook. In this message was a long explanation of why they feel, “I have no idea what I am doing.” This is not the first one of these I have received and I am sure it will not be the last. That is ok.
For the most part when I get these emails or messages I have a standard response. First I think to myself that this person is a rude busybody who had no right to… ( Look, I didn’t say this response was a healthy one. ) Sometimes this happens in person so I have to move past this point quickly. Thank you Jesus for the ability to do that.
Next I get over it and realize that I am not perfect, so I will (and often do), make mistakes. So I ask myself, “Is there any truth to what I am reading/hearing?” Did I write or say something that was off base, or flat out wrong? Was I being mean, judgmental, self-righteous, or did I just get my facts wrong?
Most often the comments come down to a matter of opinion. What they are saying is not wrong, what I said was not wrong, maybe our wires just got crossed and something was lost in translation.
Often times the person isn’t so much mad at me, as they are just upset with a situation. I said something that just rubbed them the wrong way, maybe brought up feelings that had nothing to do with me at all but I was the one they decided to take their frustration out on.
The ones that really get to me are the ones where the person is right and I have to admit that I was wrong. I hate that.
No matter what the result though I actually appreciate these messages. Notice I didn’t say that I LIKE them. I said I appreciate them. I don’t think anyone likes being told they are an idiot. But I know that God has put people in my path for a reason. So it is up to me to see the value that these people bring. Sometimes I learn something about myself; sometimes I learn something about other people. Sometimes I learn what to do and how to do it. Sometimes I learn what not to do. I think there have been plenty of opportunities for me to be a blessing to the person who is chewing me out. I may be the only opportunity this person has to see that they have been heard. There is tremendous value in feeling that you are being heard. That may be the entire purpose behind the encounter. Maybe it’s not about me.
And then sometimes it is.
At the 2016 Summit East in Murfreesboro Tennessee I delivered a message about the Celebrate Recovery Mental Health Initiative to a packed room. I felt the presentation had gone well. I was over the top excited about everything that was going on that whole week and I started to think, “Wow this is all going perfectly.” It was at that moment I started to screw up.
At the end of my first workshop I had a time of Q&A. I had the attendees write questions on a 3×5 card and I was going to answer them for as long as time allowed. One of the questions I received was, “How do I know if a person is ready to attend open share group?” My response to the question was quick and not thought out. I replied. “Um, I guess when they show up.” Much of the audience laughed and I moved on. At the end of the session a man came up to me and said, “I didn’t write the question. But you gave kind of a flippant answer and I would have liked to have heard more of what the person was asking. There are people in our groups who maybe are not ready for open share time.” I felt about two inches tall at that moment. I had glanced over the question, made a snap judgement about the intent behind it and I was wrong. Not only was I wrong but I was demeaning. I didn’t intend to do it. But I did it. I screwed up. And to make things worse, the group had been dismissed at this point so I couldn’t even apologize. I had to just let it hang there in my mind. This still bugs me. That I would make this big of a mistake. I serve as the National Director of Mental Health for Celebrate Recovery. My job is to make people feel safe and I did just the opposite.
When we are going through life we will make mistakes. Some big, some not as big. And when I make these mistakes I pray for grace. I pray for forgiveness. And if I am praying for these things I should try my best to offer them as well. If someone says to me, “Just read your Bible more.” or “You just need to have more faith and that mental illness will go away.” Then I must offer grace as well. I have spent a fair amount of time talking about how I grew up hearing these phrases and how hurtful they were. And they were hurtful. But, a dialog consists of two or more people in conversation. People communicating their ideas and listening to the ideas of the other person.
Nothing will change in our culture around the stigma of mental health if more time is spent showing why I am right and why the other person is wrong. Sometimes I will be wrong. That is just reality. I need to listen to correcting voices as well.
For me the best way I have found to do this is to always assume that the other person doesn’t have a malicious intent. If I can do this then I can keep my defenses down. So I can listen to what the person is saying and not be thinking about how I will come back at them. I will respond instead of react. I will have a clear mind to weigh what they are saying against the word of God. It is in this place that I will find a place for unity.
I don’t know anyone who wants to be condemned, but I do know many who want to grow.
I pray we all can continue to grow.
1 Corinthians 13:1 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
National Director of Mental Health for Celebrate Recovery