This month, in our series on personal and relational areas of mental health, we conclude by looking at how we care for one another in our communities.
Caring for Our Friends
We live in a society that moves quickly and offers little time to stop and “waste time” with one another. Physical connection and eye contact are lost to texting and exchanges through internet networks and social media. Time and attention are the most valuable gifts we can share in relationships. Our willingness to form relational bonds, within a loving community, is at the heart of the Good News of Jesus. This can radically change the world around us.
Our communities all have individuals who experience the effects of past relational damage, along with the desperate attempts to manage the resulting pain. People are drawn to compulsive and addictive behaviors, self-harming actions, ways of controlling their world, and even ending their lives. Is this struggle only an area for professional assistance or is there a role for you and me?
My clear, confident answer is YES for you and me! Each one of us can offer support that enables those suffering from mental trauma, depression and illness to be grounded and move towards greater health. The willingness to give our time and attention can result in many positive outcomes. However, we may very well encounter hindrances at first, and there are hindrances!
Fear is one of the biggest barriers for all of us, and to those enduring mental pain it can be more apparent. The experience of violation of one’s personhood and the feelings of being “flawed” lead to the formation of defenses to prevent further damage. Contempt or anger, directed at ourselves or others, is a common reaction to silence the screaming pain of their hearts. The degree of these relational (abuse) issues may vary, but acknowledging and responding with compassionate attention is fundamental. It leads us all through the healing process ourselves and enables us to help others.
Courage and compassion are needed when teaching violated individuals relational skills like boundaries and confidentiality. Coupled with healthy confrontation and honesty, the hopeless, shame-filled individual may develop new ways of relating.
This is rarely a one-person lesson in healing, but a choice and response by the whole community to care for the relationally damaged individual.
“The story of the donkey in the well may help us understand and explore our role in helping one another”
The story of the donkey in the well may help us understand and explore our role in helping one another:
One day a donkey fell into a well. It cried out for hours as the owner tried to decide what to do. The farmer decided it wasn’t worth rescuing the old animal, and began to bury the helpless donkey in the well. As the well filled the donkey ceased crying. It realized as the dirt fell off its back and onto the ground, a step formed and he stepped up! Eventually the mound of earth filled the well. The farmer stopped shoveling and, amazed, saw the old donkey jump out of the well and run off!!
This is an amazing example of how we can begin to overcome the struggle in our lives. Taking time and giving the situation attention is vital, but how this helps may seem unclear. Many of us have experienced helplessness and the feeling of being trapped. We are also in a position of reaching out and enabling others. I invite you to risk giving time and attention to those in need. We can be part of healing within our communities. See how these Christians love one another!!
Karen Pitt, a psychotherapist with more than 25 years practice, has extensive experience in individual and group therapy, as well as facilitating workshops and support groups. She attends the Church of the Incarnation Oakville.