This seems like a strange topic for a discussion of depression, but bear with me. I’m not referring about the times people need to defend themselves, such as being accused of something you didn’t do, though Jesus did not defend Himself when He was accused before Pilate.
I’m referring to the tendency to see ourselves as the main actor on the stage, and we need to defend ourselves against all the minor actors who are
trying to assume our rightful role, such as a spouse who says, “You’re always angry.” Or a co-worker who says, “That e-mail you sent out yesterday was poorly written.” Or when you are depressed and someone remarks, “You thought your way into this; think your way out of it.” I could give hundreds of examples, but you get the point.
“Wait a second,” you say. Why shouldn’t we defend ourselves and what are we supposed to do instead?
Good questions. I’m speaking mainly to those who are in some stage of depression, but I believe this applies to just about everyone. See if you recognize yourself. Defending yourself takes energy; and if you are depressed, it’s energy you don’t have. The second problem is one we all can relate to. When we are defending ourselves, our mind is taken over by the spirit of “It’s all about me,” and our thinking goes round and round, over and over again. “How dare they attack me like that.” And “Everyone is against me; I’ll teach them a lesson.” And “I need to think of just the right words to put that person in her place.” And then when the “right” words are used and there is a response, you think all over again of what you should have said and what you will say in round two. Your mind is filled with defending, and everything else takes a back seat. And it goes on and on, further depressing you, further sapping your energy, further defining yourself as a victim. These are patterns of thought to avoid if you want to be emotionally healthy.
So, what are we supposed to do instead? The answer to that is to be quick to listen and slow to speak. “Could you give me examples of my anger and how that hurts you?” Or, more honestly, “I know I have an anger problem. I’m asking God to help me with it. Thanks for pointing out my need to change.”
Or, “I don’t like sending out poorly written e-mails. Could you point out the mistakes I made.”
Or, “I understand you feel that I could think my way out of this. I used to think that way too before I became depressed. Now my psychiatrist and psychotherapist have both told me I can’t think my way out of this; I need help from others. Could you be one of those who help me?”
Is this an easy pattern to follow? No, but keep working at it. I remember the words of a politician, “When you are defending, you are losing.” My goal for all of you is that you stay in a peaceful place where healing can take place. I need to work on this myself every day. I’m a natural defender, but I’m committed to staying in safe and peaceful places, and defending myself accomplishes just the opposite – stress and discord.
I would appreciate comments on this blog. Let me know what’s not clear or what you disagree with and why. I will respond back to you, but not out of defending myself. Test me out.