Sunday, January 9, 2011

Misery & Company

Several years ago I read a study that found out something interesting. This has colored my life a great deal. In this study they assigned non-depressed people to spend time either in person or on the phone with a person (assigned by the study) who was suffering from depression. What they found out was interesting. They discovered that most of the non-depressed people didn't stick with it, because they didn't like spending time talking to those who were chronically depressed.

I found this interesting for two reasons. First, I think we've all met people who are continually negative and after a while it feels as if they are sucking the life out of you. You know what I am talking about - it seems that the more you give to them, the more they take from you and often that relationship doesn't work both ways - they take but don't give a lot in return. Second, I found it interesting to see how depression doesn't just affect the depressed person, but also the people who are in their lives - sometimes even in relationships with them. These people often become depressed as well - it absorbs your personal life and it means you suffer with the person who is struggling as well.

I have discovered in 36 years of living that when people are unhappy they become more irritable, they are easily angered and often they feel the need to take others down with them. I have ended relationships for these reasons, because at some point in my life I came to the conclusion that while I may understand why are person is upset or unhappy that I will no longer people a whipping post for other people. I am not mean in ending the relationship, and I am probably a lot nicer than I should be - I issue a few warnings even. If at some point though, they keep going and taking their frustrations out on me, I put my foot down. While in the Bible Jesus says to turn the other cheek, I don't think that means he wanted us to be a doormat or to allow people to use us and abuse us. It's crazy the things people tell you that they should be allowed to do to you in the name of "being a good Christian."

I wonder how often God shakes his head at us and the awful things we do to each other. This is what I know. I know that there are some extremely unhappy people. I know that there are people who do not have a filter so they speak whatever comes into their heads - sometimes with the sole purpose of hurting other people. I also know this is not what God wants for us to take from others nor is it his plan for people to hurt each other this way. Don't you just love free will? I know that God can help tame the tongue. I know he writes about it in James Chapter 1.

So here is what I propose. If you are one of those people who cannot seem to stop speaking and hurting people, I ask that you pray and give this to Christ. Count to three, take a deep breath and pray first before speaking to others harshly. It isn't always easy, I know it, I still have to give it to God in prayer on a regular basis so I don't hurt others. I encourage you, if you are deeply unhappy - seek counseling, seek Christ, but please learn to keep your tongue in your head. Hurting others to make you feel better doesn't make you cute or clever, it makes you mean spirited and bitter. And when you lash out at people it brings you closer to the point of losing another relationship. I tell my daughters this often "Misery may love company, but company does not always love misery." They sigh and nod to shut me up, but I have a study that proves my point, so I'll continue to say it. It works along the same principal of "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all." Not always an easy task, but one worth striving for. Maybe if we all practiced this (myself included) we could avoid a lot of heartache and avoid the need to say "I'm sorry." After all, it's much easier to say nothing than to have to eat humble pie later and tell someone that you are sorry for having been mean and hurtful later. AND after a while, no one will believe you if you continue to act in this manner. It also ensures you will spend the rest of your life alone and isolated, because few people will want to be your friend.

So please if you are struggling with depression, or are so deeply unhappy you lash out, then find a therapist, a psychology, a psychiatrist even, but get help. Because the truth is in the end, you are only hurting yourself.

Have a good week. Enjoy the snow if it is coming your way.

Love in Christ,

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