It’s Time Men Learned To Be Vulnerable
“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” 3 John 1:2, ESV
The topic of mental health is one we guys like to avoid.
There’s a taboo attached to it. Our dedication to portraying strength leads us to ignore and even deny the topic. Suck it up, buttercup. Pull up your socks and move on. Don’t be a wuss.
Here’s the thing: ignoring a torn ligament will not restore the athlete’s performance. Recognition and treatment will. We need the same view regarding the state of our souls.
I personally experienced burnout and depression in 2015. After 31 years of pastoring, I found myself at a breaking point. What were my thoughts?
“I can’t tell anyone. People will see me as damaged goods. They won’t respect me or see me in the same way. I have to suppress this.”
On and on these thoughts dominated me as I was slowly losing control of my own life. Things were generally going well. The church was healthy. But my soul was not getting along well and I could not enjoy life because of it.
I ended up taking an extended leave of absence while I underwent the process of rest and recovery. Did I need to wait until I reached this point? No. No way! Fear, shame, a sense of failure — these were the things that held me back from what I really needed.
How many of us suffer in silence because we believe these lies:
- I can fix this
- I can’t tell anyone because…
- Jesus & me — that’s enough
We were not meant to do life alone. Yet we isolate ourselves where it matters most.
I discovered something profoundly helpful: Vulnerability is strength, not weakness. It takes greater courage to be vulnerable than it does to hide. Making myself vulnerable to the right people positioned me for healing and restoration. It was the mercy of God and the support of people that brought me out of my dark places.
You may have a close friend, a pastor, a spouse, that you trust deeply. Yet you may still be hiding the torment of your soul because you fear judgment or rejection. If these are not the ones you feel safest to talk to, seek out a Christian counsellor or therapist. They can at least get you pointed in the right direction. By the way, that’s what I did. I was afraid to talk to anyone close to me at first.
But know this: chances are those around you already know your soul’s condition. It comes out in your attitudes, your words and your behaviours.
GETTING HEALTHY & STAYING HEALTHY
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV)
Our lives are an intertwining of spirit, soul, and body. They are interconnected and affect each other. You can’t get up in the morning and go to work, leaving your soul behind because you only need your body for physical labour!
Have you noticed that when you are sick with a cold, your concentration is lessened? Your patience is reduced? Have you noticed that when your devotional time with God is reduced you have less power to resist ungodly thoughts? There is no denying that one aspect of our lives affects the others.
It is therefore vital that we take a holistic approach to our health.
MANAGE ENERGY INSTEAD OF TIME
We’ve learned so much about time management and how to get the most out of our time. This has sometime resulted in putting so much energy into our time that we deplete ourselves and as a result become exhausted in some way.
There are four categories of energy: physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. The mental energy is the result of the management of the other four. In general, if you allow any of these areas to be depleted, you will first ‘borrow’ from the others and deplete them. Finally, when the tanks are empty, you crash. These principles apply to all of us for general well being. If there are medical/physiological problems, they need to be treated specifically and differently.
Let’s break down these four areas and what we can do to manage them well.
We were made for it. Even Jesus took time to rest. Think of it, he slept through a storm in a small boat! He must have been tired. If we don’t get adequate rest, which includes sleep and down time, our bodies become taxed and stressed. We will slowly drain.
Many of us have jobs that require little physical activity. Our hearts can’t remember the last time they were in aerobic mode! A sedentary lifestyle is a major contributor to a variety of illnesses. I began my recovery by simply walking 15-30 minutes/day. Physical activity is directly linked with mental clarity and concentration. It also contributes to a general sense of well-being — not counting that first time you exert and hurt for it!
Emotional energy is about your capacity to handle your and others’ emotions. How drained do you feel when dealing with others at an emotional level? How drained are you while dealing with your own emotions? Emotions are not evil in and of themselves. But they can take a toll on you when you overextend or when you believe the lies that can accompany them.
Forgiveness and thankfulness are also keys to your emotional health and energy.
Spiritual energy is the measure of the condition of your relationship with God. So ask yourself: “Is my heart full?” “How am I at resisting temptation?” “How well equipped am I to pray for and minister to other people?” “Have I spent time with God in prayer and devotions?” These are the spiritual gauges.
Managing these four areas well will help you move into and stay in a healthy place. Make decisions and set boundaries for each area. Learn to say no when necessary. Partner with someone to establish new habits.
There is still a degree of stigma attached around mental illness. We carry the thought that if we have faith in Jesus, we shouldn’t need medications to deal with mental illness. Would you shame someone for needing insulin or thyroid medications? Of course not. Sometimes the mental and emotional challenges we have can be caused or exacerbated by physiological issues such as a chemical imbalance in the brain. Don’t bear the shame for seeing a doctor and exploring this possibility.
Breaking addiction requires work, support, and the grace of God, but it is vital to your wholeness.
Break out of the shame game and get honest — with God, with yourself, and with those you trust. Freedom and wholeness await.
I pray that things would go well with you and that you would be in good health, even as your soul is getting along well.