When Grace & Reality Collide: Dealing with Mental Illness, Part II
- Thursday, June 05, 2008
Editor's Note: This is the second half of a two-part article. To catch up on Part I, please click here.
Grace and Mercy, Borderline and Boundaries
In the biblical sense, grace is often defined as “God’s unmerited favor toward sinful man.” He gave His Son to die on a cross—His work—and required nothing from us but acceptance of this and we are thereby saved. Though we are not able to give to others the kind of grace God gives to us, we are to “imitate Him.” Ephesians 5:1 says, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us….”
I have a friend who is one of the most gracious people I’ve ever known. No matter what ill someone may direct toward her, she shows grace. Sometimes I wonder if I could ever be as gracious as she, let alone God!
Mercy, it has been said, is the second head on the Grace coin. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) Paul wrote: Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them…he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12: 6, 8 excerpted).
Mercy is considered a spiritual gift. It’s a wonderful gift to have. For those who have been blessed with it, however, comes an admonition: be careful not to lose balance in your own life because of someone else’s. And, be careful to distinguish between the line of encouraging and enabling, as Bottke explained. “When a parent or grandparent places mercy above God’s clear directives,” she said, “they inadvertently endorse behavior that is the antithesis of faith.”
My loved one has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), ADHD, and is bipolar. These are three of the most difficult mental illnesses to deal with and they all live within the body of this one woman.
BPD, in and of itself, is particularly devastating. The BPD sufferer lives in a world of inner and outer torment. They see themselves as the cream-de-la-cream and, at the same time, not worthy of breathing. Their anger—something akin to fury—is short-lived but brutal, often leaving wounded. Their impulsivity often leads to drug addiction, STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and legal problems. They form attachments to “objects” (people) which become love/hate relationships. This love/hate waxes and wanes frequently. Their lives are considered stormy; they live in constant upheavals. They are both victim and abuser. Though they may try with everything within them to “be normal” or even to “be good,” their behavior is often inappropriate. Rather than living in peace with all, they are drawn to personal confrontations and disputes. They find it nearly impossible to keep a job, goals, values, and relationships with longevity.
And, I love someone with this disorder. “Disorder,” I write, as though it’s a headache that can be treated with a couple of Bayer aspirins. This is a disease with no sure beginning. Some medical professionals attribute it to early childhood trauma while others say it stems from biological or neurological sources.
Love her or not, disorder or disease, this person brought so much havoc into my life I found it nearly impossible to get through a day without total despair. I tried for years, patiently extending the grace and mercy I thought proper to be helpful—to perhaps even lead to a willingness to get medical help and receive wellness—but, in the end, nearly destroyed myself and my home. As a person in ministry, this was particularly devastating. I was torn between believing in God’s examples and miracles and in need of secure and severe boundaries.
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