7 Things to NEVER Say to a Depressed Christian

As many of you know, I’ve been depressed for almost five years now. I had a major break in March of 2010. It came out of nowhere and has been a frequent uninvited guest in my home ever since.

I won’t go into it now, but almost seven weeks ago I came out of the depression. I think I know the triggers. But I often tell people not to get too excited. I can never be sure which “me” is going to wake up tomorrow. Will it be joyful me (whom I love)? He’s the one who sees life positively and has no time for worry (too busy serving God). Or will it be broken me (whom I hate)? He can’t dwell on anything but the bad and sees no hope in life (and doesn’t even act like there’s a God). But while I have my thoughts straight, I’ve been able to dwell on so many positive things. One of these is the subject of this post. I’ve accumulated a list of seven things depressed people (Christians especially) are told. They’re meant to help them out of their depression. I’ve even had these things said to me. But these things are wrong.

Please Note: None of these things necessarily come from evil intentions. These come from people who sincerely want you to recover. However, they do come from the evil flesh that dwells in all of us: judgmentalism. I hope this becomes clear as you read.

Further Reading: Dealing With My Depression #1: Muffling Its Voice

“Just Snap Out of It”

I don’t know how many times I said this to my depressed sister before she took her life. “Just snap out of it, Angie.” From my perspective, I thought you could. I thought that being depressed or happy was an act of the will. If you just make the right decision, you can think your way out of it. But more often than not, depression is not an act of the will. It is an interplay between the mind and the brain that you can’t snap out of. Don’t you think that people who are depressed would “just snap out of it” if it were that easy? Remember, they don’t want to be depressed. It is the worst torture that one can possibly imagine.

“Think Positively”

Again, this might seem right. Please realize that most of the time a depressed person can’t think positively. That’s why they’re depressed. If I were to tell you there’s a giant elephant in your room, would you believe me? What if I said that all you have to do is close your eyes and trust it to be true? You’d probably say, “I can’t!” Telling someone who’s depressed to “think positively” completely misses the problem. They can’t think positively any more than you can believe there’s an elephant in the room. They don’t want to think negatively. They just can’t stop.

Further Reading: Depression—When We Want to Die

“Confess Your Sins”

Trying to find a sin trigger in the life of the depressed is a hard proposition. There may be some evident sin in their lives that they need to deal with, but consider this:

1) Everyone Sins, but Not Everyone’s Depressed. There is evil in everyone. According to Martin Luther, we’re all simul justus et peccator, which is Latin for “at the same time just and sinners.” Additionally, according to the Gospel of John, we have to admit to sin in our lives:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. —1 John 1:8 (ESV)

All too often, a lengthy (and often judgmental) assessment of every sin the depressed person has takes place. Once they’re identified, they’ll try to get rid of them one by one. This is both impossible and can cause deeper depression. The depressed may believe you and think getting rid of all these sins is the answer. When they realize that this cannot happen this side of heaven, the depression deepens.

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C. Michael Patton
Michael received a bachelor of arts in biblical studies at University of Biblical Studies and Seminary in Bethany, OK. He received a master of theology degree in New Testament Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. Michael is the president of Credo House Ministries. He is also a speaker on Theology Unplugged, an Internet radio broadcast found at credohouse.org. He currently resides in Oklahoma with his wife and four kids.