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A world full of judges

Feeling judged, being judged, and judging.  None of these things actually feel good in the long run. Maybe in the very-short run some people feel a tiny hollow thrill when they judge other people, but I’m inclined to agree with Joyce Myer:

“Judging people is a fruit of not loving people.”- Joyce Myer

I’d go a step further and say it’s also the fruit of not loving yourself. Why? Because you cannot summarily judge others unless you feel bad about yourself.  For instance, it’s easy to judge someone by the clothes they wear, call them out on something they said, or label them as ‘evil’  when you hate yourself.  You do it to make yourself feel better about who you think you are. But, most problems (and I dare say even fashion sense) is not that simple.  Not when you’ve taken the time to understand humanity. Not when you’ve truly tried to love and understand your fellow-man.

Matthew 7:1-3 Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make, you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.

You judge yourself by the standards you set for others whether you realize it or not. I would go a step further and say: You miss out on so much life has to offer by judging. Pre-judging is a way of walling off your spirit from the outside world. You don’t let it in. Not fully. Life can be terrible and beautiful and wretched and wonderful. The thing is though – how can you truly experience life if you’re not open to it? How can you understand others when you think you already know them? How can you understand thunder if you don’t try to understand it, truly listen to it, and recreate it?

Ok, did I lose you on that last sentence? If so, check out the video below: (Oh, and by the way, this woman is completely deaf)

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Is depression an illness or a lack of faith?

A few years ago, a friend of mine drove home from work and stopped to call all his family members to tell them he was ‘going home’. The tone in his voice alarmed one family member who called the other family members and asked them to meet at his home before he arrived. Everyone was standing in the driveway waiting for him. When he arrived, he didn’t say a word. He quickly passed by them, walked into his home with family hot on his trail, picked up a gun, and shot himself.

There were none of the warning signs we are taught to look for. He didn’t give away his belongings. He didn’t lose interest in school, work or family. He didn’t even seem depressed. He was going through a difficult time, but he seemed to be dealing with it.

In the wake of his death, many people didn’t know what to say. Most offered condolences and left it at that. A few people speculated out loud about his ‘eternal fate’. They implied that he was in hell. One person said so definitively, “How terrible that the family will never see him again unless it’s in hell.”

This troubled me for many reasons. First, it was inappropriate to heap more grief on an already grieving family. Second, this attitude defines suicide as a weakness of character and/or a weakness of faith.

I was troubled, so I sought the advice of someone I respected. She’s a teacher, a friend, and a life-long Christian. When I told her what had happened, she said, “Good grief. I can’t believe that someone would think that let alone say it. Even God’s smallest creatures fight to survive. A tiny little mouse will fight to survive if threatened. It’s a defense mechanism that’s built into all God’s creatures. If that mechanism is broken, then it needs mending just like a broken leg. The problem is, you can’t always see it because it’s a mental break. God knows before we do what is going on with us. Either you believe that, or you don’t believe in the word of God as a whole. So, if God knows, then he also must understand. I can’t believe in a God that would punish someone who is mentally ill anymore than I can believe in a God who would punish someone who drives recklessly and gets killed in a car accident.”

Psalm 139:1-3 – O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar, you discern my going out and my lying down, you are familiar with all my ways. (NIV)

No one, including my trusted adviser, is advocating suicide. Life is harsh. No matter how tough you think you are, you never know what might break you.

God gives us strength. I do not doubt that.

When someone is depressed or suicidal, I can’t help but believe something else is at work. Many people say that during bouts of depression everything hurts. Even compliments are turned around in the mind as an arrow to the heart. I can’t imagine such agony. For many, medication and therapy works. That leads me to believe that depression is an illness, and not a lack of faith. I do know that no matter how the person got there, they need help to get out of it, and it is not for me to judge them. Thankfully, there are religious and non-secular counselors there to help those who suffer from depression. There should be no stigma attached with seeking help. Seeking help takes strength and courage….and a good deal of faith.

I  know protecting our hearts and minds from ‘negative’ or ‘harmful’ thoughts is part of practicing our faith. Meditating on God’s word, praying, and listening for God’s whispers can help keep our internal compasses on course and help us eliminate negative thoughts. As the old saying goes, “You can’t stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from building a nest on your head.” So, maybe religion alone can’t cure depression, but perhaps it can help prevent it?

I don’t know all the answers. I’m not a doctor or theologian. I just know there are people suffering, and once depression takes hold, it is difficult to make it go away without help.

Here’s to fostering positive thinking with God’s help. And, if you know of someone who is suffering from depression, please encourage them to seek help immediately.

Cuts and Hurts

Being the overly emotional creature that I am, it may come as a surprise to you that I once thought emotions were silly. I thought that only weak people experienced emotion. I was a stuffer and a compartmentalizer. Like a serial killer, I silenced my emotions, stuffed them into a small space, and then tucked them away in an unseen container to rot.

Oddly enough, I knew God. Or, at least, I thought I did.

I,  like so many others, had been hurt. It wasn’t just one person or one event. That would have been fairly easy to deal with. I had been hurt by so many and so much that I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.  I didn’t think justice existed. I was certain that people who hurt others never truly paid for it. I thought the Golden-Rule was a fantasy and karma a foreign concept.

Hurting people – hurt people. And, more than anyone else, they hurt themselves.

I was so used to being hurt that I surrounded myself with people who hurt me. I told myself I needed to man-up and handle it. I told myself I needed to be stronger to compensate for those who hurt me, and for the hurt I unknowingly caused myself,  but could not name.

Strangely, this worked for me. I kept my hurts quiet and close, and they reminded me to be angry. Not outwardly, but secretly. A fire burned within me that I still cannot explain. The closest I can come to describing it is to compare it to adrenaline. Adrenaline shoots through your system without destroying you, it sometimes burns – but in a good way, it numbs you to pain, and it gives you more energy to keep going.

I was an ‘A’ student. I got an education. I became  successful in business. I was raising a family. But, my anger was growing. I wasn’t aware of it. It felt normal to me. I made excuses for the people who were hurting me. But, the adrenaline of anger eventually takes its toll.

It wasn’t until life happened to me, events nearly killed me, and my heart was truly broken did I see what an idiot I was. It was then that I truly knew God. Why? Because I recognized my hurts, named each one, and then I let them all go.

Watch this video. If you don’t feel something then there’s a good chance you are holding on to some kind of hurt that has numbed you to the outside world.

Oh, and by the way, there is justice in the world. It’s called the Golden Rule and is also known as karma. They are one in the same. We may not always be around to witness it, but it exists. Those who sow seeds of destruction reap destruction. It is both a message and a warning. It is not an immediate reaction, but a slow reaction that takes time, care, and feeding. Eventually, everyone gets a harvest. And, what’s done in the dark will be brought to the light…