Holding On or Letting Go: The One Friend I Want to Help, But Can’t Anymore.

Anonymous asked a question:

For a while now, my best friend has been struggling with depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. I am the only one that knows this. She takes a lot of her issues out on me … But I can’t take the emotional abuse anymore. It’s an unhealthy relationship that has stopped being a friendship.

I have been asking God what to do. I have sat with her in her mess. In her screaming. In her crying. In her hopelessness. I have tried to give advice. I have prayed for her. I have been patient and worried and angry all at once. I have been bitter because everyone else gets to experience the side of her that I used to know, the happy, loving girl that puts on a mask to hide her pain.

I have decided to tell her that I can’t be the person she needs me to be for her. That she needs to seek professional help. This is going to be a really hard conversation … If you have any advice, I’d love to hear it.

Thank you so much for your honesty and for reaching out to me. I’m also very sorry about the heartache that you’re experiencing; I absolutely know how hard it is to decide between holding on and letting go.

I have to say this upfront, and it’s going to be a wildly unpopular opinion: You’re on to something that most people won’t admit, that “love” and “friendship” do not mean exhaustively giving ourselves out to the point of toxic self-harm. That would be unfair to you and enabling and coddling to your friend, which would end up destroying everyone involved.

Here’s something even more unpopular, and please believe me that I have a hard time writing this. I think that most of us have been bombarded with the Hollywood idea that if we help someone enough, that person will eventually get to an “epiphany” full of high fives and hugging, and that their recovery will get on some upward trajectory. You’ll also be demonized if you “leave someone behind,” especially if you’re considering to possibly “leave behind” someone who is depressed or suffering a mental illness (and I’ve suffered from depression for as long as I can remember, so I’ve been on both sides of this).

Most of us hate to admit when we don’t have the qualified “training” to help someone, and there’s a secret guilt when we simply don’t have the energy or time. So we almost force ourselves to help everyone, which can be good, because most people simply need encouragement and listening, but there’s a very small percentage that need something way beyond us. By now you’ve seen how truly difficult it is to bear with someone who might be beyond your “ability.” What you’re going through is commonly known as secondhand trauma, like secondhand smoking.

The truth is, most of us are unequipped to fully help someone who is suffering from an overwhelming mental illness. In fact, social workers and psychologists tend to get cranky about people who think they’re doing “hero work” by helping the mentally ill. It’s basically like a painter trying to perform open heart surgery. I know that even the best of my friends are limited when it comes to dealing with my own depression. I don’t hold that against them. What I see is that you’re not so much asking for permission to give up, but for permission to rest and to have a wise distance.

And I’m here to tell you, keeping a distance even from your most well-adjusted friends is not “leaving behind” your friend, but simply a necessary rhythm of friendship. Of course, I absolutely believe we’re meant to be there for someone, that no one is excluded from our love and company, and that we must move towards people who are hard to love. I’m not at all saying that it’s okay to give up, or that it’s okay to cut someone off at the earliest convenience. Yet there must be a point when we recognize that someone is abusing our trust, and that professional counseling is not only an option, but a very real next step.

I advise two things.

Continue reading “Holding On or Letting Go: The One Friend I Want to Help, But Can’t Anymore.”

Choices, Decisions, Passion, Life

 

I think sometimes we desperately want others to understand our life-decisions and we want to explain our side of the story and make sure others understand why we are set on these dreams: and we feel that even if they really believed in us, they are still looking down on us somehow and that maybe fate or God or the universe will catch up to our subpar choices and pay us back. 

I wish others could see we are conflicted, that certain decisions are not easy, that nothing is as ideal as we hope, that we don’t always know if this is right or wrong, that we often decide what we feel is best at the time and that we really are trying our hardest while trying to make everyone happy.  But there is no pleasing everyone, and probably not even fully ourselves, and some decisions are bound to make others angry.

We are bound to accrue enemies over a lifetime for the decisions we make — and we can’t control that.  We can only control how we respond. 

It does not help our case to be rude to our “enemies.”  But it also does not help to constantly apologize for our life-choices and act sorry about the path we chose when it’s already so hard to figure out our one life on this earth.

Continue reading “Choices, Decisions, Passion, Life”

Breaking Porn Addiction and How to Quit For Good

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My book on breaking porn addiction has a brand new cover! It’s available in both paperback and e-book. It’s been recently endorsed by Craig Gross of X3Church.

This is a very short book about how I overcame a fifteen year porn addiction. I’ve now been sober for over three.  I talk about what porn does to your brain, specific steps to quit, and how you can quit for good.

I know how embarrassing it can be to talk about porn, but this book is designed for both you and to help your friend, regardless of gender or beliefs.

The paperback is only $6.99 and the e-book is 2.99! And you won’t need a Kindle, it works on everything. Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.

What Is The Definition of Grace?

dearaudre asked:

What would you say the christian definition of grace is?

Hey my friend: the technical Christian definition of grace is “unmerited favor, an undeserved gift that outweighs its own need.”

But I’ve never known grace to simply be boxed inside doctrinal boundaries. The second it becomes abstract, it tends to be enabling and pampering and a sugarcoated excuse to abuse the word “struggle.”  Grace is way too costly to be thrown around like cheap lingerie, and if it does not motivate you, then it’s not real grace.

True grace is love that costs everything.  It is sacrificial.  For God to show us grace, it cost Him the life of His very son.

Let’s consider the implications of this.  You create a race of sentient human beings who you’ve given paradise, and they give you the middle finger and begin to kill each other for fame and glory and pieces of green paper, and you keep sending other little beings to tell them about True Life, but they kill all those beings too.  So you become one of your toy-creations by limiting your infinite power and taking on all their weaknesses and only asking for them to believe you’re real, and they torture you and string you up and stab you with jagged metal spikes in your most tender flesh-covered places (which you willingly took on), and there under a sunless sky you still offer forgiveness and love for everyone because this is the best and only way to love them.  And to validate your claims, you come back to life from the grave and show yourself to hundreds of people and remind them of their real purpose, and even after all that, two-thirds of the world abuses your name for the worst of atrocities and the one-third who believes in you still chase after mindless powerless images or lies or approximations of the real thing.  And you still love them.

You see, romantic love is easy.  It lasts as long as the feelings last.  Maybe we have a good temperament so we’re patient and laidback.  Maybe your friends are all pretty cool and stable and rich and they’re not needy, so you like being with them.  Maybe you were genetically predisposed to being generous and truthful and reliable, so everyone around you likes you too.

But marriages that last fifty years take sweat, blood, heart.  Friendships that encounter flaws take a supernaturally forgiving power that is not inherent to our self-preservation.  Raising children requires you to stay home when you’d rather be out clubbing and chugging.  Serving the homeless and ex-convicts and orphans and the emotionally unstable will demand all your life.  Endorsing justice in the world takes more than a blog post or pink ribbons or an X on your hand.  Love is not love unless it costs you something, and grace is the love that costs you everything.

Continue reading “What Is The Definition of Grace?”

If You Were To Love God.


“Ask yourself, ‘If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?’ When you have found the answer, go and do it.”
— C.S. Lewis


Ask For God’s Help.


“You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again.”
— C.S. Lewis


And The More I Considered Christianity.


“And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.”
— G.K. Chesterton


A Bare-All Announcement and Confession.

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Hello lovely wonderful friends!

I’ve recently been inspired to work on a book about people-pleasing, attention-seeking, self-regard, and God-centered worth. This is perhaps one of the most besetting, burdening issues in my own journey, and as I’ve seen, for many of us, too.

As I was reading up on it and doing the research, I was reminded again how crippled I am by the opinions of others, how crushed I am by criticism, and how desperate I am to fish for affirmation. That especially includes social media. As they say, I’m better than I was on this, but far from where I’d like to be.

It hit me then that some of my drive to keep this page going was to “stay seen” or relevant in the online world. It’s like keeping up with a show on Netflix just to say you’ve binged the show. I’m sure I’m not alone on this one. Blogging entails an icky conflict between genuinely wanting to encourage others while exhaustively hoping it gets seen. Even this post is balancing both. My priority, of course, is always to be a blessing, but my motives get muddy if I don’t check them. And it’s been a while since I have. I hope my candor here (and my embarrassment in saying all this) will be met with a bit of grace.

I say all that to say: I’m going to massively slow down the frequent posts here and my other media for a season so I can focus better on my current ministry (hospital chaplaincy, which I’ll still be writing about) and this upcoming book. It’s essentially a fast, not only for the book, but to truly live what I’m saying.

In the meantime, I want to temporarily change the intent of this page. Normally I get asked a ton of questions, but I want to ask questions about YOU. Things like, “What’s the most humiliating thing that’s ever happened to you?” or “Can you describe that itchy feeling of cringe-awkwardness-insecurity in ten words or less?” or “What bothers you most about the church/this-song/this-idea/this-article?” Some of your answers might end up in the book, but mostly I want to interact with you in a way that I never have before. I’ll be asking questions in videos too, so I can be a little more vulnerable and open to you.

A last thing: Please pray for all the things that are happening all over the world and next door. Please donate where you can, speak up where you can, bring life where you can. I’m getting off social media to do the same. I’m with you and for you. I got tons of love for you. See you on the road, in the dirt, with sleeves rolled high.

— J.S. Park


Friendship Is Born.


“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'”
— C.S. Lewis


At the Intersection of Hip To Shoulder, Side by Side.

Each week, part of my chaplaincy training is to write a reflection on how it’s going. Here’s week number four. Some identities may be altered for privacy. All the writings are here.

I kept hearing stories in snippets, and I wondered about the whole thing.

There was a man who had survived stomach cancer, car accidents, a gasoline fire, a broken skull, and a direct hit by lightning.

A woman who suffered a heart attack because her mother and brother had died within weeks of each other.

Two different women, one young and one old, who were once very successful but kept burning themselves with flammable fluids because of the demons in their head. “I can’t help it,” one said. “I don’t know why I do this,” said the other.

A woman who was obviously abused by her husband, who wanted to stay longer in the hospital because she was afraid of the monster at home: but she wouldn’t admit what was happening.

I sat with a mother who was holding her baby in her hand. We had been called to NICU to offer a final blessing and a baptism, but we were too late. The baby had coded. Her lungs had become like melted wax and she couldn’t breathe on her own. She barely fit her mother’s palm. I wondered about the story she would never get to live. I wondered about God and why and “His Will” and the meaning and a reason and a crushed future and how life could keep going after this. I wanted to talk with the mother but the mother didn’t want to talk and I thought that was okay. Sometimes there are no words. Sometimes the stories are told in silence.

Continue reading “At the Intersection of Hip To Shoulder, Side by Side.”

Fitting Our Own Skin and Finding Ourselves Again.

Photo by faungg, CC BY 2.0

Each week, part of my chaplaincy training is to write a reflection on how it’s going. Here’s week number five. Some identities may be altered for privacy. All the writings are here.

I’m always trying to shake this feeling that I’m not fitting in my own skin. That ickiness is always there.

Even when I’m good at something, I constantly wonder if I’m getting it right. It’s like that strange phantom when you go on a trip: Did I grab everything? Do I have my wallet? Where’s my charger? Is the stove off? Am I wearing pants right now?

The moment I visit a patient, the finger-pointing phantom jumps right in my guts and starts twisting batter in my belly. It’s this nauseous churning of self-doubt and second-guessing and burning insecurity. This gleeful little rat-goblin chips away at me as words spill from my mouth.

Oh come on, you shouldn’t have said that.
Oh look, you’ve upset the patient.
Oh dude, your tone was really weird and nasally there.
Oh yeah, you’re doing that loud nose-breathing thing.
Okay, but no one will take you seriously with that hair.

I have a lot of trouble just announcing, “I’m a chaplain.” It’s a powerful thing to say who-you-are with confidence. I’m a doctor. I’m a nurse. I’m a chaplain. I’m a trained professional. I’m a big boy. What really gives me the right to say anything like this? I want to immediately apologize for my lack of knowledge and to explain I’ve only been here for five weeks and that maybe if they want someone more experienced, I’ll barrel roll to the nearest exit and grab a chaplain with normal human hair.

Oh hi, I have no clue what I’m doing and I got lost six times on the way to your room.

I have to act like my own skin really fits me, if not for my own sanity, then at least for the patient not to crawl away from me. I’m still pretending to be a big kid with a jacket that’s eight sizes too large, or I’m just eight sizes too small. That feeling: it’s always there.

Maybe God or fate or the universe knew about it, because I was forced into announcing myself all the time.

Continue reading “Fitting Our Own Skin and Finding Ourselves Again.”

Forgetting How To Be, Reclaiming How To Breathe


I met with my counselor the other day, a semi-famous mega-church pastor here in town, and I had really forgotten what it’s like to be around someone who is so comfortable with himself that it made me comfortable with myself.

My counselor is one of those cool pastors who smokes cigars and uses dirty words and he used to be a rich drug dealer, so he owns this huge house and hosts these extravagant church parties with hundreds of curious people looking for real spirituality. He does this without even really trying to impress anyone, and with sort of a wink. Once I was leaving his office after a meet and he yells down the hallway of his church, “I’ll keep praying about your porn problem.” The very conservative staff glanced at me and I ran and he couldn’t stop laughing.  My counselor reminds me of Jesus.

So I told him everything. How I blew up on someone the other day. How I was juggling multiple ministries plus a growing blog.  How dissatisfied I was with the mainstream church.  How I haven’t talked to my dad in over a year.  How I was fighting anger and unforgiveness and lust. How I always felt like I was pouring out of an empty cup, and that the same grace I preached for others was almost never reserved for myself.

I told him I had this monster inside me, barely underneath the surface just coiled around my guts, and just when I thought I was making “Christian progress” and it was dead, it would lash out and destroy everything I love and then go right back to hiding.  I wanted this thing inside me to really, truly, eternally die.

Then he looks at me and says, “You’re not really walking with God.”
I was almost offended.  But he was right.  He went on.

“You’re doing so much, just do, and you lost who you are.  You find who you are, then you can do again.”

“So what do I do now?”  As soon as I said it, I heard it.  I said “do” again.
He said, “Pray.  I mean we’re both in ministry, you already know that.  But you see how we’re talking?  How you can tell me anything?  How I can just be me around you?  That’s prayer.  Praying is like breathing.  It’s a way of life that can happen all the time.  That’s walking with Him.”

I think I was trying not to weep. I remember when it was like that, when I felt like I was walking with Him all the time. When being with God was like breathing. I did want that again. And it was not a matter of doing, but being.

He said, “It’s okay to pour out when you’re empty. You can’t do that for a long time, but that’s grace. You can preach grace all day and be a legalist to yourself.  Quit listening to yourself and listen to Him. And don’t preach too far ahead of yourself. If it’s been hard, then preach that it’s been hard.”

We hugged for a long time. He told me he loved me. Before we parted, he said, “I wish I could tear that monster out of you.  Let God inside, and He will.”

— J.S.

“3 Lessons I Learned Instantly In My First Week of Marriage”

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Here’s an article I wrote that’s been published on X3Church, called:
3 Lessons I Learned Instantly In My First Week of Marriage.”

It’s about three hugely important lessons I learned early in my marriage that I’ll need for life.

It was originally posted here and has also been published in the revised edition of my first book, What The Church Won’t Talk About.

Here’s an excerpt:


Marriage means your stuff isn’t your stuff anymore.

In our first week, we didn’t fly off to the honeymoon, which was another two weeks away. We spent time unpacking, opening wedding gifts, frolicking in our new home, and merging our lives together. About five days in, I wanted to meet up a friend to hang out, one of the groomsmen in the wedding.

I neglected to tell this to my wife. This is one of those very obvious things that I should’ve knew from the get-go, but in my defense, I’m an idiot.

Marriage is about Two-As-One, as We instead of Me. My time was no longer my own. It was our time. Our things. Our bank account. Our bed. Again, this sounds obvious, but I’ve spoken with so many singles and unmarried couples who were dismayed at the idea of splitting a life in half. No one is quite prepared to completely surrender unilateral decisions. We quickly learn why Apostle Paul compared our relationship with God to the marriage union — because we are entrusting our will with another.

The wonderful advantage is that rather than “splitting in half,” it actually feels more like a merging of strength. Our individual abilities can make up for each other’s weaknesses. Our knowledge and our view on life is suddenly augmented with an entirely new angle. By the end of the week, I was figuring out what she would want and why, which helped my tiny brain to open to new avenues I had never considered.


Read the full post here!

— J.S.