The Art of Validation – how God’s silence is a sign of solidarity

Let’s talk about the art of validation. To validate is so much more than active listening. It’s not just repeating back to someone what they have said, it’s taking the time to try to understand another person’s perspective – even when you disagree – especially when you disagree. It is temporarily putting yourself in their shoes and saying, “I would probably feel the same way if I were you,” or “I see why you’d feel that way under the circumstances.”

Think of good therapists, for example. They don’t argue or give unsolicited advice: instead they walk alongside a client, listening and validating. After a client has finished articulating their feelings to this non-judgmental listener, ideally they’re able to come up with their own solution to the problem. When it comes to friends and family, however, finding someone who’ll be a non-judgmental listener can be difficult, no matter how close we are. When someone interrupts us to argue or give unwanted advice, it feels like we aren’t being heard and we aren’t being allowed to express our true feelings. We end up debating in self-defense, or simply shutting down. In the frustration that comes from longing to be understood, we find ourselves stuck in feedback loops: sharing our view again and again in the hopes that they’ll finally get it. Ongoing invalidation can be greatly damaging to a relationship. We’ve all experienced being misunderstood, and therefore know how hurtful it is.

What’s more, it’s human nature to take a contrary view whenever we feel backed into a corner and put on the defensive.

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Remember those in prison

This year for Lent I decided to try a spiritual exercise (rather than fasting) and chose to daily pray for the current victims of terrorism. I already do pray for them but on a sporadic basis. First, I was taken aback by how much of a burden it is to pray for strangers every single day. I don’t find it hard to pray for friends and loved ones regularly, but this was truly hard. And I know why.

Self-preservation keeps trying to kick in.

As someone who has long struggled with intermittent depression, it has been one of my coping mechanisms to say a prayer for the victims of violence/tragedies and then put it out of mind by choosing not to dwell on it. We call this “positive thinking.” Yet Hebrews 13:3 says:

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

For this reason I have always made a point of saying a prayer for the suffering people mentioned in the news. But while I might be heavy-hearted and haunted for weeks at a time, to actually pray every.single.day for these same people makes it doubly hard to mitigate disturbing thoughts. Those we fervently pray for, care about, donate to, and ponder the plight of, become part of us. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Second, I began to have nightmares.

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A Thorn in the Flesh, living with depression

Today I welcome guest blogger, Rachel Xu. She wrote and shared this with me this week, and I couldn’t agree more. I asked if I could post it on my blog and she agreed.

Since I’ve written here previously about my own journey through an anxiety disorder, I have kept the phrase in mind “the danger of a single story” as a constant reminder that we all have markedly different life experiences. I never want anyone to feel intimidated by hearing mine. Because that’s all it is: my story. And it is only one story.

Here is another:

As someone who has suffered from severe depression and anxiety for decades, I have spent a lot of time researching the condition and Christian views on the matter. What never fails to confuse me is that it seems the majority of Christian articles seem to claim that depression is the fault of the person afflicted with it. Some of the many causes these Christians seem to attribute to depression are living a sinful life, pride, lack of prayer, not being a real Christian, lacking the faith to be healed, and spiritual weakness for choosing to be depressed over choosing to have a positive outlook. I think this lack of support and understanding is very damaging to the many Christians that suffer from this disorder. Having depression is hard enough without the judgments associated with it.

Would you tell someone with cancer that if only they repented of their sinful life they would be healed?

Would you tell a paraplegic that their pride was keeping them in a wheelchair?

Would you tell a blind person that if they would just pray more they would be able to see again?

Would you tell someone in a car accident that it was because they weren’t a real Christian?

Would you tell an amputee that they would grow a new limb if they had more faith?

Would you tell someone with Down Syndrome to stop choosing to have Down Syndrome?

I would assume the majority of people would respond no to these questions, so why is it acceptable to say such things to someone with a depressive disorder? I think Christians need to remember that actual depression, not just a day of feeling the blues, is a medical disorder caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. That way they can be more sympathetic and less judgmental towards someone suffering from this condition.

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Diary of a Former Hypochondriac

When I was eleven, I developed an anxiety disorder which manifested itself primarily as hypochondria; with depression as its cousin companion.

I was not, however, the stereotypical sort of hypochondriac child that one associates with verbally fretting over every ache and pain, scrape and bruise; analyzing each sniffle and cough; feeling for lumps; or sighing and fainting with weakness. No, I was nothing like Colin in The Secret Garden. At least, not on the face, that is.

I kept it all a big secret.

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Is Everything Grey?

birdI once overheard the following:

There is no such thing as black and white, everything is grey.

Do you see the irony in this comment?

It is a black and white statement. There is no elbow room, no negotiating, no degrees of grey, just one single shade of it: the unbending opinion that there are no moral absolutes. Clearly it is a self-contradicting statement, for if everything is grey, what of the statement itself? How could it be the unquestionable truth that all things are grey, if one thing is not? That is – the black and white belief that all things are grey.

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The Egg-Bird-Egg Sequence and Bill Nye the Science Guy

Recently the well-known, Bill Nye the Science Guy, posted a Youtube video entitled, “Bill Nye: Why Creationism is Inappropriate for Children.” It has received 4.6 million views and counting. The jist of the video is that Creationists make for incompetent scientists and that we do our children a grave disservice by teaching them Intelligent Design.
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