Episode #201 - Pride

October 30, 2023 Damon Socha Season 1 Episode 201
Episode #201 - Pride
Show Notes Transcript

I know that we don't talk about pride much when we discuss mental health but in reality it is one of the major roadblocks in our healing process.  When we fully submit to the Lord, we can then see him in the details of our life.

Episode #201 – Pride.  If you ask a dozen members who have mental health issues, “What is the biggest roadblock to healing?”, it is rare to hear someone say “just plain pride.”  We don’t often think of pride when we are passing through a trial of the magnitude of mental health.  Generally survival dominates our mental capacity.  Just getting through the day or week is really our focus.  Certainly we desire healing and the relief of peace and joy.  And that does dominate our prayers and our daily walk.  Finding relief from the emotional toil is just a major part of survival.  I was talking recently with a brother that has had some mental health concerns in his past.  He and I were discussing bipolar and the high tendency for individuals with bipolar to have addictions.  This doesn’t mean that other mental health disorders don’t.  We were just discussing bipolar.  He had noted that in his youth he reached out to anything that would help the emotional chaos.  In our discussion, I noted that most individuals who suffer deeply with mental health often turn to physical self-medication.  The reality is that self-medication is a survival response.  While addictions wreak havoc on the physical and emotional body long-term, many substances can and are used as temporary stop-gaps to tone down the emotional turmoil.  It is not uncommon for members of the church to use these substances to find some relief.

Yes, it is abhorrent to most members to even think about using such substances as alcohol, marijuana, illicit drugs, or even abuse prescriptions.  And then to venture into the sexual side of sin is even worse, even  though it could be considered a drug.  I would think that a leaper would be treated better in today’s church than someone suffering mental health issues that has turned into a Word of Wisdom or Chastity violation.  But to someone suffering emotional pain that is far more debilitating that physical pain, the idea of wrong and right may get lost in the emotional battlefield.  It is difficult to feel wrong and right when the pain is of such a nature that it blocks out nearly all other emotional feelings.  As one’s emotional pain elevates and endures at high levels, the feelings of wrong and right can be quickly overwhelmed by a need for relief.  I have admitted to simply being lucky in the sense that I did not have access to such methods of relief.  My upbringing away from large towns and cities and the religious nature of my parents, friends and associates provided deterrents to such addictions for which I am ever grateful.  I do not know what would have happened had I been exposed to such substances that provide that temporary relief.  But I have great compassion for individuals who have suffered the effects of addiction.  I have had my addictions but like a lucky red-light encounter.  I passed through the red lights without injury or crashing into another.  That is not true for many individuals within church boundaries that have suffered.

These individuals have suffered in multiple ways.  They have suffered at the hands of the illness which ravages the body to the point of exhaustion and even overcoming a deeply seated survival instinct.  When they have turned to temporary relief that falls outside of the church’s health and chastity doctrine they are often exiled and treated as weak soldiers in the cause of Zion to be left on the battlefield to be consumed by the enemy.  That is probably a harsh statement but nonetheless somewhat true.  So many people leave the church not because it isn’t something they need or desire but that we as a culture tend to shy away from difficulties with addiction.  I don’t think that the problem lies in the sense that if we touch it, it might come upon us.  I think that we don’t know how to help or what to do.  When avoiding addictions has been something easy for you to master, it can be difficult to understand why another person might have problems.  Reaching out to love the someone who is struggling and whom with you cannot identify is the most difficult type of charity.  It is far easier to have compassion for someone with whom you share a common problem.  You can feel as though you can help because you have no experience.  To reach out in love to someone with a problem far removed from your own is significantly difficult because you come with no experience and no understanding.  You can’t even truthfully say that you understand and know where they are and where they have been.  And so many members who fall into the addiction problem due to mental health issues, slowly drift away to individuals who better understand their dilemma.  Unfortunately, these individuals are often those who are also steeped in addictive behaviors and struggle in their own right to curb their emotional difficulties and to calm issues that take significant time, effort and often money to solve.

We have lost so many members of the Lord’s church because we cannot empathize with those who struggle to deal with an illness that even science struggles to fully comprehend.  Although with some compassion and understanding many of these individuals would return.  However, they will come with difficulties that take time to rectify and need far more support than a monthly call.  So often these deep burdens fall upon families and close associates who feel powerless to help.  The burden can become so great that they at times they leave some of it along the roadside, simply unable to bear the difficulty and the hurt they feel.  This is not a personal hurt but the pain of a parent, spouse or friend who feels the suffering of one close to them.  This type of pain is a communal pain between loved ones.  It is a pain that is caused by the suffering of the one and the helplessness of the other.

Only those who have experienced the pain know of its depth, height and intensity.  To watch a loved one suffer not only because of mental illness but because that mental illness has led to a suffocating addiction is troubling to the core of the soul.  It is almost as if you are standing in a glass room at a firing squad waiting for the bullet that will end the suffering but inevitably create suffering in its wake.  You almost want the bullet to strike its target because their suffering is your suffering but you would rather that the addiction bullet be suspended.  You would rather see that road to recovery no matter how long or arduous it might be.  You would gladly give anything to remove the suffering but in the end that is not the way agency works.  You would fight for as long as it takes to relieve them of their personal demons.  Yet you know that in the end they must want the fight.  Be willing to endure the fight.  And understand that the fight will remain as long as they live.  You desperately want the Lord to fully intervene and to relieve the suffering.  You plead, beg and even at times find anger that such a monster has been allowed to captivate that soul you love.  Yet for as much as you have prayed, the effect so desired has had limited outcomes.  Life seems to drag on similar to what it has always been.  You really don’t see God in any of it and the very presence of it makes you wonder if such a God exists.  

Mental illness takes a terrible toll on church members and not just in the sense of addictions.  Broken and scarred relationships are found scattered throughout the battle.  Parental, and spousal connections are lost or consistently found to be troubled and tattered.  Homes tend to function at the edges of emotional exhaustion.  Church activity can appear to wane and covenant commitment can seem lacking to the average member.  Mental health is for the most part a silent killer in the sense of spirituality and mortality.  It doesn’t just cause pain and suffering but causes serious capacity issues and difficult moments in time where one feels truly lost.

I have such great and heartfelt compassion for individuals, families, friends, fellow ward members who suffer.  No one should ever think that such an illness is somehow deserved.  It is most certainly not.  The Lord has allowed for it based on premortal life, what is needed in mortality and to provide for eternity.  Although from our perspective in the mortal life, viewing mental illness as a training tool can be almost impossible.  One can see little value in its existence from this side of the veil.  One could even question the existence of a God who allows for it.  That is perhaps my point today.

How does God justify such an illness?  And how are we to respond to the idea that he allows for it to occur and perhaps even specifically chooses those who suffer based on eternal needs?  Now hopefully you will stick with me when I say this.  No one wants to hear it said out loud.  We make mental illness so much worse when we allow for pride to dictate our response.  Pride is the antithesis of the gospel in every form.  By its nature it cares only for short-term fixes and selfish pursuits.  It is one of the definitions of the natural man.  It is more than just an emotion or feeling it is a method of viewing reality and all that is around us.  It is pervasive to the extent that there is no area of our life it does not touch or invade.  You can find many sermons on pride scattered throughout scripture and modern-day revelation.  There is no end to what you may study.  But in the sense of emotional health and mental illness, these may not feel very applicable.  I have never really thought of pride in the sense of mental health, at least in the past.  My focus has really been on what is the solution to my problem.  What do I need to do to get out of the waves of falsified, painful emotions?  How do I pursue healing?  How do I get to the end of this misery?  My focus has not been on any layers of pride that may exist but on the why, how and what of the illness.  Until recently, I had not considered pride as one of my obstacles.

Yet, when I consider my response to my several illnesses and mental health concerns, I personally can see a layer of pride that so often affects my response to my concerns.  My first layer of pride is seeing mental illness and all difficult trials as mortal training tools rather than some type of punishment or random occurrence.  Trials tend to be difficult or they wouldn’t be a trial.  Within that difficulty, the mortal mind wants to know why.  Why me? Why now? Why this particular trial?  I think we reach for the why because maybe if we understood the why then we could find the solution.  The why so dominates our mind that it can tend to lead us to prideful methodologies for resolution.  When we don’t fully understand why and we seek it as the means to the end of our illness, we lose trust in the Savior.  Trust and faith do not necessarily need to know the why.  They trust that a why exists and even if we don’t know it the Savior does and he is aware of us.  When we seek out the why without allowing for trust and faith we tend towards pride. This doesn’t mean that we can’t pursue it.  It simply means that sometimes we are not going to understand the why and must trust simply that the Lord knows how to support our needs.  There needs to be a balance of understanding with a measure of trust.

My second layer of pride tends to be the pain response.  Like most people I am very pain averse.  Although strangely I have experienced pain most of my life between my mental health challenges and my autoimmune.  Pain and I have a problematic relationship.  I have worked through more medications that I care to enumerate throughout the extent of my issues. I have tended to look to mortal solutions before I have resorted to more spiritual ones.  Although the last few years I have begun to change my perspective.  My prayers or petitions for relief have in the past been more open-ended with the idea of the entire situation being resolved rather than for specific moment relief.  I have over the last few years transitioned to understanding just how much the Lord is involved in our everyday lives.  My prayers have moved from more open ended to specific and that has improved my pain response.  Asking for relief from a specific moment tends to be a far more effective prayer than asking that I be relieved of all my issues.  I have moved from open ended to far more specific prayers for relief and strength and for me that has made a difference.

The third layer of pride is the one that perhaps causes me the most trouble.  That is the pride of justice.  How is it just that I would suffer such an illness?  This probably is similar to the why question and maybe there isn’t much difference but this one tends to lead to the murmur and complaint side of the equation.  This isn’t so much as to understanding the why but moving into the world of justice and then complaint.  Am I not doing everything the Lord has asked?  Why would he give me such a difficult illness? What purpose does it serve to limit my capacity in such difficult ways?  Wouldn’t my family be much better off if I didn’t have these illnesses?  This really doesn’t seem fair.  The complaints generally follow these types of questions.  This is the justice pride response.  That somehow life should be fair.  If I live the gospel as best I can I should be relatively free from these type of trials.  Certainly I could understand some limited trials but what would be the purpose of a never ending emotional health issue.  What does that type of trial serve?  Shouldn’t it be that if I do this, keep this covenant then the Lord should do this provide the relief.  Somehow in our church culture we have come to the conclusion that those who serve the Lord should always be protected, even though the scriptures clearly teach that complete protection from trials seriously limits our ability to grow and develop.  You cannot increase faith without serious trials that require determined patience.  It simply isn’t possible.  If you protect every person who is a member from every having a difficult trial you create a weak membership reliant upon complete protection.  This creates obedience not by change of nature but by physical conditioning or by behavior.  Once the conditions are removed, the individual will return to its nature.  The Lord is not trying to change behavior he is altering nature.  Altering behavior is easy, nature takes time, pressure and patience.  And yet I still find it difficult at times not to cry out why me, I am doing what I should be doing?

My finally layer of pride has been the most difficult of all and maybe it is all-encompassing.  My willingness to submit to the Lord’s training program no matter the difficulty level he deems I should encounter.  I think that most of us are willing to submit to some trials.  We logically understand that some difficulties are good for us.  The real question is are we willing to submit to everything the Lord sees fit.  Are we completely submissive to his hand?  Are we willing to endure what he gives? It is easy to say yes but the scripture that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak comes to mind.  This level of pride I have found does not peal away all at once.  In fact, the longer the trial endures, for me at least, the more this level of pride strips away.  For some reason, I assume that it comes naturally to humanity, for us to strip away pride to a level deemed acceptable by the Lord, we must pass through difficult trials for a lengthy time period.  That time period is determined by us and by the Lord.  We can through complaining and murmuring opt out of the trial.  But ultimately the only way to exaltation is through the trial.  We opt into the trial by submitting to the Lord.  We opt out by pride.  However, once in the trial, our pride may not serve us very well, causing greater issues and grief.  Once we opt in we may continue to suffer until our pride has been diminished. However, I have noticed that the Lord will give us moments of respite during our trials where he bears us up almost entirely or removes the symptoms for a time to allow for healing.  We can even ask for these moments of respite, with the understanding that the trial may not yet be over.  The Lord is ever mindful of his methods of training and he knows exactly what we need to become as he is.  I admit I do not know fully how mental and emotional illness fits into his plan in its entirety but I do understand many of the reasons I personally have been afflicted.  I have seen his hand lovingly and with determination guide me through my trials and suffering.  I admit that sometimes I take it more like Nephi and at other times I take it more like Laman and Lemuel kicking and screaming the whole way.  I’d like to think that have moved the needle towards a Nephi like response where I submit more patiently to his will accepting that he knows best.  But I admit that when the pressure is great and the time frame long my patience at times wears thin.  There is nothing wrong with patience wearing thin as that is where we grow that area where patience wears thin but we are still willing to submit to the trial without complaint.  When we cross over to pride the growth tends to slow dramatically.  And yet we must be pushed to those moments that we may learn.

In the end, I hope that you can see some of the reasons why you have been afflicted and the value it has provided in your life.  The Lord reveals those “why answers” line upon line and most often they are very personal.  The Lord has relieved much of my mental health suffering but I still continue to have some symptoms every so often.  He has continued my autoimmune suffering but has allowed me to continue to function in my job and family life.  He has not left me comfortless or without his help.  It may not be in the manner and method that I expect but the Lord always provides.  And maybe in all of this that is most important to feel and recognize the hand of the Lord.  To know that he is in charge of every detail not just some of the details.  There is no such thing as a random illness or accidental genetic cause.  The Lord truly is in every detail.  So often when we suffer is when we learn of him just how much he truly knows us. In the end as we submit and remove that pride we become more as he is.  May you find peace knowing that he is always there.  Until next week.  Do your part so that the Lord can do his.