SOURCE: Dr. Henry Cloud
If anyone had it together, it was Jason. He had a good job, beautiful wife and two children whom he loved. He exercised regularly and looked it, and he was always one to keep in touch with friends and family members.
But one day out of the blue, a deep depression hit Jason so heavily, he could hardly get out of bed. It made no sense to him. He came to see me.
We talked for awhile about Jason’s snug and untroubled life before his breakdown. We gradually uncovered that Jason’s structured lifestyle was basically a way to send off a lifelong depression. He had grown up in an alcoholic and abusive family, where he’d lived through all sorts of chaos and crises.
His activity and responsibility saved Jason. Because no one else in the house washed his clothes, prepared meals and budgeted money, Jason learned to. He became a 30-year-old at the age of 9.
Jason did the right thing, not because he was selfless and loving, but to stay alive. The depression inevitably caught up with him.
Not that it’s unhealthy to be responsible. The reasons behind the responsibility are the problem. Jason has lived a lifetime of sacrifice. Fearful of falling apart inside, he stayed busy and active to ward off a breakdown. He was driven by fear and panic.
A truly responsible lifestyle is the product of being loved just as we are, with our imperfections, our wounds, our weaknesses. Then as we are loved in that state, we learn to give back and love. Jason had not been so loved, and so it was impossible for him to obey love.
Some people lead highly functional lives not so much to keep their depressions away, but to keep from being shamed by others. I knew a woman who kept her weight in check by being around critical people who would come down on her for gaining weight. When her critical friends moved away one year, this woman put on 70 pounds in several months. The shaming external control hadn’t solved the problem — it had postponed it. She finally lost the weight for the right reasons, but she first had to learn mercy and sacrifice: She had to receive mercy in order to sacrifice her longing for food.
When we do the right thing reluctantly or under compulsion, not freely, we live in fear. It may be fear of loss, of falling apart, of guilt, or of others’ disapproval. But no one can grow or flourish in a fear-based atmosphere. Love has no place there, for perfect love drives out fear.