Stigma is the social disgrace people experience for having a certain condition. Mental illnesses are unacceptable or unpopular to the public, church, family and close friends at times. I’ve read the writings and met preachers who strongly contest the diagnosis of any mental disease. Their prejudice is due to a lack of understanding of the science and an over-simplification and out-right misinterpretation of plain Bible passages.
Erasing the Disgrace
Bipolar Disorder is a classification given to a grouping of symptoms put together in the Diagnostic Statistics Manual, now in its 5th edition. Symptomology of mania and depression are presented in separate articles on this website. The toughest lesson to teach the popular culture is that Bipolar Disorder is an organic brain illness.
Organic conditions are those which are occurring in the natural, chemical elements of the human body. The reason medication has a positive impact on mental illnesses, when prescribed appropriately, is that the illness is an organic malady. Non-organic issues may lead to depression, guilt or impulsiveness and casual fornication, and are matters of the heart. They are spiritual. Bipolar disorder may magnify some of these temptations but the core issue is chemical. There will be less stigma when this is understood by your church friends and family.
Not uncommon to Christians is a spiritual life in social disgrace. Even Jesus was disgraced for His righteousness. The prophet Isaiah writes, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And as him from whom men hide their face he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3 MLV) Our Savior understands what it’s like to have people shun him.
Jesus explained to the disciples who walked with him they too would be disgraced with stigma. Consider what He says in Matthew 10:16-22.
“Behold, I am sending you forth like sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore, become prudent like serpents and harmless like doves. But take-heed, stay away from men; for they will be giving you up to councils, and they will be scourging you in their synagogues; and you will also be led in front of governors and kings because of me, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But whenever they may give you up, do not be anxious how or what you should speak; for it will be given to you in that hour what you will be speaking. For you are not the one speaking, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Now brother will be giving up brother to death and the father the child he has and children will be standing up against parents and will be slaying them. And you will be hated by all people because of my name. But he who has endured to the end, this one will be saved.” (MLV)
The last two sentences in the quote say it all. Family betrays family. People will hate you merely because you are a Christian. Moreover, you are a Christian who has a mental illness. They key thought is to endure to the end. The one who endures to the end will be saved.
The church of Christ in the New Testament was majorly persecuted by the Jews. We read about this disgusting stigma in the book of Acts. The high-priest was issuing letters authorizing head hunters to arrest Christians, dead or alive.
“But Saul, still breathing his words of threatening and of murder toward the disciples of the Lord, came near to the high-priest, asked from him letters for Damascus to the synagogues, that if he should find some who are of the Way, both men and women, having been bound, he might lead them to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2 MLV)
How To Respond To Stigma
Do you have your own personal Saul? Your could Saul will convert to the way of truth before you tried beyond measure. Perhaps, a great light in your life will shine on the road of the hateful and change his or her life. Here are 4 R’s to help you endure until its over.
Respect for yourself Eases Stigma.
Self pity never does anyone any good. Since God sent His Son to walk a life journey among us, to be tempted in every fashion that you and I are tempted. And to die the death that we deserve to die. We may conclude we are worth much to God. He values us immeasurably. That being said, how much are we to value ourselves? Have respect for yourself.
Regard others through the lens of Jesus Weakens Stigma.
Jesus never looks at a person with disgrace. Our Lord and Savior looks at the soul of every person with unconditional love. He offers compassion to His enemies and leaves vengeance to God. Looking at others through the lens of Jesus is putting Him to view other people as He mercifully does. He is forgiving and kind. He is patient and forbearing. When we regard others like this we find healing for our own wounds.
Realize others like you were stigmatized before you empowers you to be it.
You are not alone. From the first century church of God to the churches of Christ present, saints are stigmatized. I have a friend who reads his Bible on his cell phone at work while he is no break. He’s afraid of the stigma that would be caused if he brought a hard copy into the workplace. Since other people are enduring social disgrace, you and I can also get through it.
Remember – It’s none of your business what other people think.
You cannot control what others think, do or say. When we come to the point where other peoples opinions of us don’t rattle our feels, we will be able to ignore stigmatizing comments and jests from others. Don’t be so touchy. Your own self-confidence goes further than you think. Other people’s thoughts do not define who you are. God’s opinion of you is what matters. I believe He sees you in a most favorable light.
~ Donny Weimar