How to Be a Good Friend

magnifying glassI got this blog topic request from a heartbreakingly sweet friend and old housemate: discuss what means to be a good friend. I am so grateful for this question, which is why it took a while to clarify my thoughts here because I don’t want to participate in what is essentially a never-ending slush pile of catchy “top ten” lists or patronizing “expert” talk, some of it fecund but most of it recycled and done up in a distractingly gauche or simplistic way. There’s a lot being said about friendship all the time and I didn’t just want to auto-pilot-ly accept it as true or obvious and then regurgitate it in my own words. You’ll hopefully see why in a minute. Continue reading How to Be a Good Friend

Love, not Law: A Response to Mental Illness

dirty handsTwo weeks ago now (sorry about that), I mentioned that a friend who read my op-ed in Real Change’s May 27th issue had asked some good follow-up questions, specifically what my suggestions for better legislation/solutions were and if there are other states or countries that are doing a better job. I’ll start with the big picture: we lose about one million people worldwide to suicide a year; 450 million are dealing with experiences commonly understood as mental illness; ‘neuropsychiatric disorders’ accounted for the largest percentage of “disability adjusted life years” – above AIDS and injuries – in 2001, the last time they did such a study, and that number has only grown since; and one in four families contain a member dealing with a ‘mental illness.’ Continue reading Love, not Law: A Response to Mental Illness

Balancing Your Checkbook…With the Rest of Your Life

heart wavesI’ve not received such a specific blog topic request before: I’ve been invited to discuss this important, research-based infographic put out by the Northwestern online counseling center: Mental Health of Affluent Teens: The Challenge of Prosperity. I don’t have a lot of teens in my life at the moment but the information in this chart follows the contours of my own affluent past pretty well. Continue reading Balancing Your Checkbook…With the Rest of Your Life

Healing for the Mental Health System

healingIt’s been several months since one of these blog topic requests came in. I got it on Good Friday (4/3) and am excited and trepidatious to attempt an answer: “Do you think there are ways the mental health system can be actually improved, not just botched with a feel-better patch, and how?” I am so grateful for this question.  Let’s begin.

Continue reading Healing for the Mental Health System

Grief – What Not To Say

comforting_handOriginal request (received 9/16/14): I know you’ve written on grieving before, but what do you think about “Christian platitudes” concerning grieving a loved one’s passing, specifically “They wouldn’t want you to cry” or “They’re in a better place now.” This has happened to me in the past, and then again to someone close to me who is grieving a loved one recently.

What I first want to say to you, dear requester, is that I’m sorry The Christian Platitude has happened to you.  Whether in response to grief, hardship or even joy (I’m all for rejoicing with those who rejoice, but let’s actually do it rather than merely declare it), The Christian Platitude is, at least in my opinion, generally experienced as a brush off and no one likes or deserves that kind of treatment, especially not by those who claim to follow the way of Love. Continue reading Grief – What Not To Say

Israel vs. Palestine

studyingI received this request on 8/24/14 but needed to spend some time thinking and reading more about it.  The original question: What perspective can you add to what’s going on in Israel/Palestine? It seems horrible to me from either perspective, and I’m often confused when people like my grandmother mindlessly “support Israel” while denying that their actions have a genocidal flavor. And yet, with Hamas shooting rockets, building tunnels, using human shields, I have a hard time sympathizing and I feel that, yes, Israel has the right to protect itself – and yet, Israel has been, arguably, a colonizer for the past 60 years, and not one with a light tread. It’s hard for me to understand what’s going on. Can you shed some light?”  

That’s a doozy.  First, I’ll say that I agree that it seems horrible from both sides and that it’s hard for *most* people to understand what’s really going on, given, among other things, that the mainstream media in America is beholden to powerful and monied special interests that ostensibly do not include keeping the public informed.  And this is precisely why I would caution against blindly supporting anyone.  The Middle East has been a volatile region for a long, long time; the conflicts there are deep, entrenched and nuanced.  In other words, this is not a new issue; it takes work and study to understand what’s happening.  No one should support anyone or anything without educating themselves on the multiple perspectives involved (rather than seeking information that only supports a preconceived opinion) and considering the sources of their information.  Rather than using ignorance as an excuse, though, it is my position that we need to learn at least enough to know our part in this – if and how we’re contributing to bloodshed and suffering.  As Christians, we cannot stand for this no matter what “side” it’s coming from. Continue reading Israel vs. Palestine

“Modest is Hottest” and the Perpetuation of Sexual Brokenness

skirt judgmentsOriginal request (received 8/17/14 – sorry to be a bit of a slacker!): What are your thoughts on “Modest is hottest”?”  My initial reaction, honestly, is that, if it weren’t for the sexism and judgment, the slant rhyme would be kind of clever.  Of course, because this phrase is mostly entirely applied to (religious) women, it’s not clever or cute, but frustrating and shallow.  It’s yet one more way women are judged by appearance and it reinforces the idea that women are valued only by their sex appeal: we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.  If we don’t cover up, we’re sluts; if we do cover up, we’re sexy, according to the modest-is-hottest logic.  Either way, it reinforces the idea that women exist for physical and sexual consumption of others.  Women are never free from sexualization and objectification, even if we do hide the bodies that “cause” men to stumble. Continue reading “Modest is Hottest” and the Perpetuation of Sexual Brokenness

Offering Aid: Helping Vs. Hurting

handsMy first request (received August 15th)!  My plan is to post responses on weekends to any topic requests that come in and stick to my regular Tuesday-Thursday posting so we’ll see how that goes.

This is a convoluted but necessary topic to discuss, especially as those called to be salt and light to the world.  Here’s the original request as I received it: I would like to hear your thoughts on humanitarian aid, including animal aid, sponsoring children, and how the “white saviour complex” as some call the desire to help plays into aid. How can we help people struggling with poverty without appropriating their struggle or committing cultural genocide, or treating them badly, in the way Native Americans were “helped” in the 18-1900s, by being removed from reservations.”

I really appreciate the passion for helping, the concern for justice and the cry for equality I hear in this question.  The desire to help is a precious but complicated drive and, to begin to address the above question, I’m going to start in what might seem an unlikely place: the theology of disability. Continue reading Offering Aid: Helping Vs. Hurting