What is stigma? Everyone says, “There’s so much stigma around mental health.” But was is it?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, stigma is defined as:
“ a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person”
Going off of that definition, what is considered to be a mark of disgrace?Although that can be subjective, we all know that there are things that we silently deem to be “disgraceful” and shockingly unacceptable in the church.
Why is it that mental health struggles often fall into that category?
If you’ve been attending church for awhile you know:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.. ” Romans 8:1
God speaks of confession, forgiveness, and no condemnation. But when we share in small groups or see others on Sundays , do we do this?
Or is it more like:
Person 1: How was your week?
Person 2: It was good! This and this happened… GOD IS GOOD! How
Or (if you were a bit more honest):
Person 2: It was hard… but it’ll be okay… I just need to sleep
Stigma, disgrace, and the shame associated with our struggles often lead us to keep silent or to minimize our pain.
It’s common in churches everywhere because the matter of the fact is this: it’s hard.
But here’s the truth.
We all struggle. We are imperfect humans living in a broken and fallen world. Things happen in life– we get sick, we get hurt and hurt others, our jobs are stressful, family issues keep coming up.
Why let stigma keep us from sharing honestly?
God gives us community for a reason. He designed us to connect with Him and with others and He knows that life can get hard. And when we are alone and struggling, that’s when we are more vulnerable to the enemy’s temptations. He understands (Matthew 4:1-11).
Our God cares about us and He wants to help us in ways that really help us.
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. ” Galatians 6:1-5
The discomfort of sharing is worth it. You may be the first one in your community and that is okay. God will guide you throughout the process and through your vulnerability, He can do wonders to not only bring you healing, but to create a safe place for more healing to take place. Trust God. Take a deep breath, then go for it. Share with whoever God leads you to share with— a family member, a trusted friend, a therapist.
Let us not let stigma get in the way of the healing work that God wants to do.