Please join me in this brief article as I reveal my understanding of love and patience as a source of the strength and courage that it takes to cope with a serious mental illness.
Editor’s Note: NAMI Washtenaw recognizes all faith and spiritual traditions, including those who do not subscribe to a faith or spiritual tradition, we invite you to tell your story from your own faith perspective. Submit this form to express your interest in contributing.
By John Wm. Dunne
“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” – King David – Psalm 27:14
At first glance, it may appear as though these words of King David (arguably the greatest warrior king in the history of the nation of Israel) are instructing us to wait patiently on the Lord in faith during times of adversity and/or personal struggles. Obviously, patience and faith are two important virtues we strive to practice as growing human beings striving for the actualization of the highest virtue of love; however, let me put this verse and the strength it calls upon us to display into its proper context. That is, what it meant to King David as an Israelite warrior king, and then proceed to reflect on our common inner struggles with mental and emotional struggles with a mental health diagnosis.
Judaic history literature reveals a time when David was faced with an army of numerous enemy soldiers and instructed his commanders, “Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do good what is in his sight.” King David, in the tradition of his ancestors, courageously went into battle and defeated his enemies through the strength he found in faith (Reflection: Finding Faith in Crisis – NAMI Washtenaw County (namiwc.org)). Israel’s formative history has been shaped by similar stories of faith and courage as indicated by the words of Moses to his servant Joshua once he was anointed as his successor: “Be strong and courageous …” Although these examples of strength and courage are derived from a faith-based world perspective, originating from my personal experience in Christianity, I would like to emphasize that all individuals who strive for the actualization of love, a universal human need, possess the inner resources of similar strength which I presented in April’s news article, The Virtue of Love – NAMI Washtenaw County (namiwc.org).
Obviously, King David faced physical and military adversity; however, I believe all of us (including myself) can relate to the need to find strength and courage in coping with a serious mental illness. For this reason, I would like to present the words of the apostle Paul regarding his visualization of a Roman soldier (notice once again the usage of warrior imagery). In his depiction, faith is to be employed as a shield when faced with the pains of mental or emotional illness. I can personally relate to this coping mechanism through my experience of passive aggression in which I rely upon the tools I have developed through practicing the virtue of love (The Virtue of Love – NAMI Washtenaw County (namiwc.org)). Whereas King David and Moses used the language, “Be strong and courageous (or take heart) …”, the apostle Paul simply uses the words “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” just prior to depicting his image of a fully armored Roman soldier. Finally, I believe that Paul understood our struggles by saying “our battles are not against the flesh and blood …” immediately after calling upon us to put on the full armor of our higher power.
Once again, I would like to remind my readers that the views presented in this article are my personal faith-based reflections, although I warmly encourage and welcome anyone who may be considering exploring any form of faith, or simply a deeper experience of the virtue of love itself, to join me next month as we wrap up this year on the subject of virtues with further reflections on the virtue of love which I believe binds all things together in perfect harmony (once again expressed by the apostle Paul). I intend to reveal a bigger picture of mental and emotional maturity next month and, hopefully, introduce the virtue of transcendence which has often been referred to as a psychological virtue. Until then, be gentle and kind with yourself and others as we travel this journey of life. As always, please feel free to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any comments on this or any other article.
John began his journey over twenty-five years ago with a psychotic break in which he experienced several religious thoughts and delusions which were out of touch with reality or true spirituality. Throughout the years following his diagnosis as an adult who struggles with schizoaffective disorder, he has received formal education in religious studies and philosophy while praying and studying the “big picture” of mental illness and the “bigger questions” of life. Through his religious studies courses he received an understanding of his inner being which includes his diagnosis as well as the “big picture” of how he would feel if he were mentally and emotionally stable. Through his education in philosophy, he came to an understanding of how to reach this state through a logical approach to his therapy. It is his desire to share this journey which he will continue throughout the remainder of his mortal life with his audience.