What Not To Say To Someone Who Is Depressed
“She just won’t stop blabbing about Jesus,” my friend said. “On and on and on. And then she always wants to know if I know Jesus. She asks questions, insinuating that I’m lost. No, I’m not lost. I’m right here in my dorm room. She can do herself a favor and save her prayers, I’m good.”
Funny thing was, not long before that my friend was going to church. Now, it wasn’t only her roommate’s fault that she became so bitter about God, but I honestly think she was causing more harm than good. Which is sad, because the roommate truly cared – a lot. Too bad her strategy was off.
The Long Way Around
Several years ago I started a job and my first day at work a bubbly, spritely woman bounced up to my desk.
“Hi, my name is Tiffany. What’s your name?” she asked. I told her. Then she asked where I was from, where I found an apartment at, and how I felt the sports reporters were treating me. Then she made me really uncomfortable.
“Well, I just want to let you know, I tell every new person when they start working with me that I love Jesus dearly. And if you ever want to talk about Jesus, to just come and see me.”
“Oh, okay. Cool,” I said. Back then my faith wasn’t important to me, I was agnostic on a good day. It was nice meeting her and experiencing her fun personality, but right then I began to categorize what areas of my life I wasn’t going to share with her.
Then there was Joe, a reporter who sat beside me and was also a Christian. Though he never had that confrontational conversation with me, instead he asked me how my day was every morning and invited me into his life. I watched him from a distance, trying to understand what he had that I didn’t. And when my heart was pricked by Jesus, Joe was the one I went to.
Please note, I also developed a great relationship with Tiffany. We laughed a lot and had a ton of fun, and after I found my faith we also shared our love for Jesus together. But I won’t lie, all of this was in spite of her first-day introduction, not thanks to it.
“He Just Won’t Listen To Me”
One day the mom of a friend of mine sat across the kitchen table from me. She had asked me over to talk about her son, my friend.
“Matt, I’m worried about Gene. I think he might have, well, that he might have bipolar disorder,” she said.
It was certainly a different case from mine. For instance, her son did not experience euphoric highs or hallucinate that his deceased grandfather was hanging out with him. In fact, he was mostly just tired, sleepy and lazy.
“And I’ve told him that I’m worried about him, that he needs to find something more constructive to do with his life than play video games. That he needs to get a job that he actually likes. You know, maybe go back to school or find a good girlfriend. Something that will put some spirit back into him. That sounds like a good idea, right?”
“Sure, I suppose it does.”
“Well, could you tell him? Because I’ve told him all of this and he just won’t listen to me.”
I furled my brow and twiddled my thumbs, trying to think of what was right in this situation. Unfortunately, I couldn’t relate, and for a few reasons. For one, I didn’t really think this sounded like bipolar, at least nothing like what I experienced. For another thing, my mom had an entirely different approach. Her’s was hands-off, allowing me to make my poor choices for myself without the pressure or defiance of anybody else.
My mom would have had every right to say the same things to me, too, as I was a lethargic slob who had just flunked out of college and was working graveyard shifts delivering pizzas. She wouldn’t have been wrong. But if my mom said “Matthew, just look at what you’ve become. Clean yourself up and stop wasting your life away,” I can assure you I would have held onto my poor choices tighter and tighter. I surely wouldn’t have given my life over to Christ and I’d still be sifting through the muddy waters of bipolar and depression.
Some believe in tough love. I believe in God’s love. I didn’t find my way out of misery because someone gave me the straight talk I needed to hear, but because people prayed for me. They let go and let God, as the saying goes.
And here I am.