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7 Things Not to Say to Someone Who's Depressed

These words can just make it worse
7 Things Not to Say to Someone Who's Depressed

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"Depressed? Get over it, sister!"

If you had a friend who was suffering from depression, you most likely would not tell her to snap out of it. Yet so many of the well-meaning things we do say ring just as cruel in the ears of the one in ten Americans who have reported suffering from depression.

Today's Christian Woman asked those who've endured depression to let us know which "well-meaning" comments were the hardest to hear. We share them with you so that you'll be better equipped to care for those who suffer.

1. "Your sin has caused your suffering."

If "sin" includes all that misses the mark of God's gracious intentions for humanity, then yes, sin—in its most sweeping expression—is at the root of all manner of diseases and afflictions. This trite aphorism, however, more often serves to dismiss the biochemical reality of depression.

To someone who's hurting, this admonition sounds like telling a person who lives with paralysis of the legs to 'run faster.'
  • "Maybe you need to ask Jesus what sin has you captive." This is no doubt offered in the hopes of seeing someone who is hurting experience relief. Yet it also carries shame by suggesting that the sufferer is responsible for her emotional anguish.
  • "You aren't really trusting the Lord enough." To someone who's hurting, this admonition sounds like telling a person who lives with paralysis of the legs to "run faster." Most likely, the Christian person enduring depression is already trusting God as much as she is able.
  • "If you have enough faith, you will feel better." Spiritualizing depression—denying its biochemical component—is a subtle form of spiritual abuse. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? The person without emotional resources—sometimes due to a chemical imbalance—isn't able to generate either "faith" or "good feelings."

2. "You should be thankful."

Insisting that a person who suffers should be thankful might make the speaker feel a bit better, but it offers nothing to the person on the receiving end of the insensitive remark.

  • "There are people with much bigger problems than yours." There are . . . and there aren't. Yes, others do suffer horrific atrocities. However, this curt dismissal minimizing the experience of those who are hurting communicates to someone that her pain doesn't matter to you.
Margot Starbuck

Margot Starbuck, award-winning writer and speaker, is a graduate of Westmont College and Princeton Theological Seminary. A TCW regular contributor and columnist, Margot speaks regularly on discipleship, justice, and living love in the world God loves. Connect with Margot on Facebook, Twitter, or at MargotStarbuck.com.

Subscribe to TCW at this link, and sign up for our free e-newsletter to become part of a community of women striving to love God and live fearlessly in the grit of everyday life.
From Issue:
Today's Christian Woman, 2014, May Week 2
Posted May 14, 2014

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7 Things Not to Say to Someone Who's Depressed