Kevin Love, the 29-year-old center forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers, recently wrote a powerful article about his struggles with mental health. He is refreshingly transparent about the initial stigma he held toward being honest about emotions and weaknesses, and urges his readers to join him in his attempts to reduce this stigma and getting help.
Kevin Love does an incredible job speaking to those afraid to come out of hiding and talk about what is really going on inside. He notes how important it is to be honest, and that when we speak openly about our weaknesses or struggles, others around us see that they are not alone. The Bible frequently talks about the benefits of being open and dealing with what goes on inside, along with what we can do to help our friends become more honest. While this personal willingness to acknowledge our need for help that Kevin Love talks about does begin to reduce the stigma toward mental health and expressing emotion, it is of equal importance for us to collectively create an environment that welcomes openness and honesty, rather than one that shames or suppresses it.
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied again, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
In this chapter of the Bible, Elijah struggles with feelings of despair and helplessness. He feels weak, broken, and alone. God’s response to him is not one of frustration or criticism. He does not tell Elijah to get it together or question whether he deserves to feel those things. Instead, he meets him with a gentle whisper, encouraging him to keep talking, to keep working through the pain until he comes out on the other side. If you keep reading the chapter, God doesn’t chastise Elijah for feeling this way and instead shows him that he is not alone and that there are people just like him. This is the kind of friend we should all be. Not one that criticizes or condescends when someone is going through something, but rather one that gently pushes them to keep being honest and see that they are not alone.
Jonathan and the soldier who carried his weapons talked as they went toward the Philistine camp. “It’s just the two of us against all those godless men,” Jonathan said. “But the Lord can help a few soldiers win a battle just as easily as he can help a whole army. Maybe the Lord will help us win this battle.” “Do whatever you want,” the soldier answered. “I’ll be right there with you.”
Jonathan was about to face something in his life that felt impossible. He felt afraid, unprepared, and unsure what to expect. Maybe you have a friend going through something that feels impossible to them. It could be that they are finally becoming honest about things that they haven’t addressed in years. It could be that they are taking the necessary steps toward improving their mental health. No matter what they are going through, they can’t go at it alone. They need a friend, a voice that’s always there to say “I’ll be right there with you.” This doesn’t mean that we support every single decision they make regardless of whether it is a good decision or not. It simply means that we will support them, as a person and as a friend. It means that no matter what they go through, we are right there with them and will do whatever it takes to help.
Be honest, too
“I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
In order for us to provide the light when our friends are drowning in darkness, we need to be just as willing to be open as we are encouraging them to be. To tell someone else to be honest and express need without doing so ourselves comes across as condescending and hypocritical. We cannot expect our friends to feel free to express everything that is going on with them until we address what is going on with us, because as Kevin Love explained in his article, “Everyone is going through something that we can’t see.” And that includes you and me.
How open are you with your own life? Do you create a culture of openness wherever you go? Do you believe everyone is going through something? Decide to be a light stand going forward.