Trust Is Everything
Depression is something we don’t like to talk about. Maybe it is because we haven’t experienced it and don’t’ know what to say or how to respond. Maybe it is because we have experienced it, and we feel guilty or ashamed. Whatever the reason, we aren’t giving it the attention it deserves. That’s a problem.
One of the ways that we deal with our teenagers’ emotional darkness is to simply suggest that they will get over it. And experientially, we can say that, but the truth is, to them that moment is the only moment they see. That heartache or heartbreak is the worst thing in this world, and if we will think back, we can relate. Without the benefit of being on the other side of that pain, it feels life-altering and consuming. It very much feels like the “end of the world.”
Suicide and depression are on the rise, and not coincidentally so are broken homes. I want to define “broken homes” because that word usually refers to divorce, but in fact, it encompasses anything that breaks up the stability of the home. The absence of a parent due to work or war or imprisonment, losing a family member to death, or any other sudden and unexpected changes in their home life and relationships. Most teens that struggle with chronic depression are from broken homes, and this is important to note: Broken homes create broken trust.
God created us to be dependent – first on our parents, then as we grow in independence from them, ultimately on Him. “It is not good for man to be alone,” wasn’t an isolated statement about marriage – how do you think that makes single people feel? That was a declaration about relationships and community, and ideally that is found in family. Because of that, kids are born with an inherent need to trust. This basic characteristic is so strong that even children that are beaten and abused will continue to trust their parents well into their adolescent years; in fact, they will trust until they find another who is more trust worthy. Part of trust is directly tied to stability and reliability. When those things are missing, something breaks down in a person’s make up that literally changes the way they think which alters their emotion.
If you ask any teenager what is the overriding emotion when they are depressed, hands down the answer will be “Fear.” Mistrust leads to fear which leads to doubt which leads to hopelessness. That is why it is so important that we address their trust issues before we can even think about soothing their fears. But, that requires being proactive and conversational. Asking the question, “Do you trust me?” isn’t a bad place to start. And if they hesitate you might want to follow that up with, “What would make you trust me more?” You see, something happens in a teenager’s heart when you ask questions like that, no matter what their initial reactions might be. You are communicating to them, “I love you,” and the more they feel that trust, the more they will open up, and the more they open up and are received gracefully, the more they will see that they will get over it, and the next heartache or heartbreak that hits might not carry them as far into the darkness of depression.
Teenagers don’t open up easily, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. As someone who has seen far too many young adult suicides in the last 3 years, I am not too proud to beg! Because of fear and mistrust, rational or not, they aren’t eager to share their deepest feelings, but daily conversation about life and love and living, showing them a healthy way of dealing with their emotions, and consistent displays of love and trust, might make the difference between life and death. There is no guarantee that a teenager will not get depressed or even commit suicide, but the more we invest in them and do our best to show them love and stability, even in the midst of a broken home, the more chances they have to thrive.
Written by Leslie Lamb