Image credit: Dave E. Phillips
Long ago I knew someone who was trying to wean themselves off antidepressants. It was a long-haul. Mornings full of struggle. Evenings full of disappointment.
Especially when reductions were made.
Think about it: your brain is depending upon a certain level of drug. You then deny your brain that level. It is going to rebel and make life miserable for you.
But people do it. They do it by biting leather, pounding the floor in prayer and, most importantly, talking to survivors–people who have been successful.
That objectivity is critical because we all know what it is like to be overwhelmed. We all know what it is like NOT to think straight. Like nothing will EVER change.
So we need people to walk into our lives and tell us the truth. To give us a dose of reality.
Failures Can Hand Deliver the Truth
But then there are the people who are going through the very same thing we are suffering, yet manage to encourage us. They may be at a lower level of sobriety, poverty or sadness, but they can still say the right things.
The truthful things.
This is exactly what happened to my friend. At a particular low point in his reduction–a point in which he was considering upping the dose to help him cope–he sought support and encouragement from others. It came from the most unlikely place.
An older woman pleaded with my friend not to go back. Not to up his dose. She told him that it was a bad idea. That he would regret it. She cheered him on, and because of her advice, he muscled through the reduction.
The thing you have to know about this woman was she was a mess. She was too embarrassed to say what bad shape she was in, how much medication she was on and how many times she had failed.
She simply encouraged him.
Failure Humbles Us
A parent who lost a child to suicide can warn us of the dangers of neglect, abuse or promiscuity. A husband who lost his wife to divorce can warn us of the dangers of selfishness, lust and greed. A man crippled by his life-long addiction to alcohol can warn us of the dangers of drunkenness, debauchery and violence.
The truth isn’t any less real coming from their lips. Which is why a sinner can warn another sinner of the dangers of sin without being a religious hypocrite.
The thing about the woman in this story is that she was humbled. Her depression, treatment and subsequent failures had brought her low. She felt defeated. But not so defeated that she couldn’t encourage another person.
And because of her brokenness she encouraged with head hung low and heart in grief. A perfect metaphor for how we should encourage and correct our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Do Not Rebuke Without This
Christians often lament the fact that they have a hard time correcting a brother or sister in Christ because they feel that they don’t have a right to do that. They feel like a failure because of their own struggle with sin.
The thing you have to remember is that regardless of our condition–the truth is still the truth. A person abiding in sin still needs to be warned and rebuked. The key is that correction comes with humility.
It comes from a position of utter helplessness in which we plead with a person to stop sinning–because we personally know the dreadful consequences of sin. And this is exactly the type of attitude we should have when we approach the biblical doctrine of discipline mapped out in Matthew 18.
Our own depravity doesn’t disqualify us. The truth is still the truth even if the messenger is corrupt. It just needs to be couched in compassion.
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