Here are my Top Twelve Posts of 2018, including topics like the benefit of grief, dealing with depression in marriage, misogyny in the Bible, people-pleasing, and my brush with suicide this year.
@cindahh asked a question:
Hi J.S. Park! I hope you and your wife doing well! I just wanted to thank you again for your book. It has given me a better understanding of depression. So I read it because my good friend battles it, and as someone who is helping him battle it, what are some of the things your wife helped you with; how does she support you? How does she snap you out of it? How does she help you be hopeful? What techniques does she use? What does she say? Are there any “don’t do’s?” What’s the most helpful? I would like to get a better understanding on how I can be there for my friend. I really appreciate it.
Hey dear friend, thank you for this question. It’s a super difficult one.
I have to say upfront: Even the most loving person in the world cannot fully help someone who wrestles with mental illness. Clinical depression will often do whatever it wants, regardless of medicine or therapy or a strong community (all which I strongly recommend, by the way).
While we’re called to love others as much as we can stand it, we cannot be responsible for someone’s actions. That’s too much weight to carry. We cannot save everyone, including ourselves sometimes.
I’ve come across two opposing views on supporting someone through depression.
One essentially says, “Do everything you can. Have empathy for their trauma and pain. Love despite it all. Love will eventually win. Research ways to help. Intervene. Always be there for them. People who leave are cruel and cowards.”
The other says, “Practice boundaries and self-care. Refer them to an expert. Admit when you can’t handle it. Keep a safe distance. You can’t pour out what you don’t have.”
My wife has embraced both of these, in different seasons, depending on her needs and mine.
No one can be everything for everyone. But no one should instantly run away either (excluding cases of abuse). We need a safe middle ground that covers both people involved.
To love someone through their mental illness requires a specific patience that many people don’t have. It’s not because they’re bad or anything. Some just can’t stick around because they themselves have too much going on. I can’t be mad at that, or them.
At the same time, some sneak out the second it gets too hard. I think that’s unfair. At the very least, we should go a little beyond what’s asked of us, whether that means going with someone to one of their counseling sessions, bringing them food, or watching a movie with them that they pick (even if it’s something you’d never watch). These things sound simple, but an accumulation of these things mean the world.
For me, I lean towards the view that people should stick around and help. I know there are situations they absolutely shouldn’t. But I hear stories all day long (at the hospital and with the homeless) where no one ever stayed. Maybe it was because the person left behind made too many poor choices, or they were abusive, or they were not willing to be helped. I can almost understand why they were left behind. But in so many cases, it seems like friends, family, and spouses walked away too early. In the end, it’s a strong community which we need for life, and it’s one of the points of living.
To answer you specifically about how my wife helps me:
Look, a romantic wishlist is a nice thought, but it’s also creepy and unfair. It’s setting up an impossible monstrosity of expectations and you’ll be disappointed for no other reason than you played yourself.
I don’t mean lowering your standards. I mean setting real ones, for actual people who exist. For people who are just people and not a customized Frankenstein creature.
The person you’ll end up with is going to be their own personwith their own hopes, dreams, goals, anxieties, and weird little habits. They’re not a checklist trophy that will meet your every size or quota.
They’re going to be way different and in fact way more interesting than the stitched up hologram made from half-baked movie cliches and choir-preaching memes.
Relationships are about compromise. Not compromising yourself, no. But about two weird people making it work. It’s a wild mix of chemistry, compatibility, non-negotiables, history and trauma, highs and lows, disagreements and pushback and feedback, augmenting goals, and lifelong change.
“Get you a guy/girl who” only works if you see yourself as a main character-savior-hero and you see others as a secondary prop to fulfill your romantic comedy narrative. In that case, you have other issues and you can wait.
And waiting in the meantime is a really good time for growth, for self-discovery, and for becoming the kind of person you never knew you were looking for. Singleness, really, isn’t waiting. It’s being.
Photo from Unsplash
Hello wonderful friends! Here’s a seminar that I gave in San Jose, CA about the truths and myths of dating & relationships within both the church-culture & pop-culture. Stream below or download directly here.
Some things I talk about are: “The time I overheard a couple have their final knock-down drag-out fight, my absolutely favorite type of scene in the movies, what everyone really wants in the hospital, dating theology from Taylor Swift, when God looks at you through the ceiling, and Christianity according to a cologne sample.”
I also did a follow-up Q&A which you can stream below or download here.
Some of the content is from my book on relationships.
Be immensely blessed! — J.S.
Marriage can be extremely difficult work. Here are three daily habits which I strive to practice (imperfectly with much stumbling) in marriage. Also, how Christian faith becomes practical in our relationships.
The video is slightly adapted from my viral post “3 Lessons I Learned Instantly In My First Week of Marriage (That I’ll Need For Life)”
This is part of a series of videos called “Where Faith Meets Life,” covering topics like politics, abuse, marriage, and mental illness.
Subscribe to my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/jsparkblog
Be blessed and love y’all, friends!
It can be easy to romanticize a passion or a social cause or a marriage or raising kids with tons of posed pictures and flowery words—but all such things are gritty, raw, rough, and painstakingly sculpted from our fully invested hearts. There is a lot of standing around and sweating through our shirts and seasons of self-doubt and all the frustrated parts that no one else can see. We fall in love with highlights but these were formed in the valley. Please don’t be seduced by soundbites and filtered photos and bowtie daydreams. Real joy actually hurts, but that’s why it’s real. It was carved from the best of us.
[Photo by The Ganeys Photography.]
We drove up for a wedding over the weekend. You learn a lot about another person on long road trips, and a lot about yourself. I learned that I’m not as laid back as I like to think I am, that I’m an upside-down turtle at multi-tasking, that my bladder has shrunk to hobbit-like levels, and that when both the GPS and my wife tell me to take a left turn in five-hundred feet, the surface of my brain instantly breaks out into hives. I also learned my wife is infinitely patient, knows when I need a hit of coffee, graciously endures all my u-turns, sings and dances in an untinted car with zero shame, and will listen to me talk about one single subject for hours. She can also sleep immediately in the car on command, in the middle of a sentence. Here’s to my wife and road trip partner: to many more u-turns together, both figurative and literal, and to dancing among strangers.
Hey friends, I was published on Thought Catalog! It’s a post called 9 Tricky Defense Mechanisms That Are Ruining The Communication In Your Relationship. It covers defensive tactics like rationalizing, deflecting, blame-shifting, gaslighting, and other easy-to-spot moves.
Here’s an excerpt, the one I’m most guilty of:
6) Value Judgment / Moralizing. Measuring a person’s inherent value as inferior, especially when their preferences or personalities are different than yours.
The way you think is not how things are. Can I say that again? The way you think is not how things are. It’s simply how you think. Your personality and preferences are not the barometer by which the world turns. I struggle with this one the most; I’m always tempted to mold someone into my own image. Even when there are healthy standards to abide by, it becomes a problem when we grade someone’s value based on how well they’ve caught up to them. And surprise!—we rationalize or blame-shift or deflect when we ourselves don’t measure to our own standards. To truly understand another person requires knowing the whole story, and not just a tiny slice of their life.
Read the rest here. Love y’all, friends! — J.S.
gahbeedee asked a question:
hey there, thank you for your blog. i have been going through a breakup the past month (we are both christians) and wondering if you’ve made any posts on this topic.
Hey there dear friend, I’m sorry for all that’s happening, and here are a few things that I hope may be helpful for you.
1) Break-ups are, almost step by step, the same process as grief. It seems silly, but breaking up with someone also means saying goodbye to everything that person was. Their presence, their texts, their smells and laughter and even the annoying way they shake their leg when watching a movie: you’ll be constantly reminded of all these little quirks, and each day, will have to remember and embrace that they’re now gone.
2) Break-ups are pretty hard. In the grand scheme of things, a break-up is a rather normal part of life (I’ll get to that in a second), but I think most grown people are pretty quick to dismiss how hard it really is. You shouldn’t feel silly about how emotional and up-and-down this process is. Some days you’ll be fine, and some days you’ll be crying your eyes out or cussing out the sky.
3) A break-up isn’t the end of the world. There may have been many promises made and a lot of sweeping romantic plans for the future together, but no, a break-up isn’t a world-ending event. They happen. Two people may be perfectly wonderful people, but the timing wasn’t right or they discovered they weren’t compatible, and that’s okay. It’s hard, but you won’t always feel the same splinter of grief like you do now. Break-ups are built into the eventualities of life.
Our two year anniversary. Adventure, challenge, and lots and lots of laughter.
I think “crushing” on someone is a natural thing, and in the right place and the right time, it can lead to something great. Most of the time it’ll pass, as it’s meant to, and we can look back and laugh at the ridiculous amount of time spent mentally replaying the one failed conversation that we still twitch about in the shower. Crushes happen, and they almost never equate to a magical romance materializing out of thin air.
But the darker problem with “crushing” is that it occasionally turns a real live person into a trophy, a sort of non-independent rubber statue imprisoned on a pedestal, and if you ever finally reached it, you’d either squeeze it too hard or please it too much. In both cases, both people lose.
Relationships are hard work, and absolutely require more than the initial illusion of fleeting chemicals in our easily tricked brains. That rush of first feelings is overwhelming, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grander scheme: and we could save ourselves a lot of trouble if we took up Taylor Swift to “count to ten, take it in, this is life before you know who you’re gonna be.“
Here are five types of romanticized crushes that require a heavy dose of self-awareness. I apologize in advance for the snark: I’m only so impassioned here because I’ve seen how badly it can get out of control.
1) Hate Crush (aka Freudian Defense Mechanism)
What it looks like: You like someone, but you hate that you like them, so there’s a lot of passive-aggressive, mean-spirited, hyper-critical gas-lighting aimed their way. This looks cute in movies, but is often awful and humiliating to an actual human being with, you know, their own thoughts and dreams.
Problems: This can be irreversibly destructive if you drag someone long enough through your daily catharsis. I understand the psychology behind this—we resent what we can’t have or we just hate it when we feel so vulnerable with someone—but displacing anger out of confusion when you can’t “have someone” is a really dark, desperate issue that might require real help, immediately.
I love you just because I love you. It isn’t for anything else but you. Not for cash or status or my ego or an accessory, not because I’m afraid of loneliness, and it’s beyond the first bursts of chemistry. Love is hard work and it requires all of me, everything, with no guarantees, except the love in itself that’s promised and true. That’s just-because love. I love you for you.
Marriage is hard. Pretty pictures and bite-sized highlights might give you a false impression that it only takes sparks and looks: but the gritty reality is work, tears, and sacrifice. It’s a dance, everyday, to compromise and serve. In the depth of this tough humility, there can be great beauty. Real joy requires a fight from our very best.
Here’s an article I wrote that’s been published on X3Church, called:
“3 Quick Tips to Handle the Truth About Yourself.”
It’s about three ways to handle the hard truth about yourself from a friend’s honest intervention. No one handles “rebuke” very well because accountability is painful and messy: but it’s necessary for growth and progress.
Here’s an excerpt:
When you hear the truth about yourself, the person who tells you the truth isn’t perfect and probably won’t say it perfectly, but that’s no excuse not to consider their words.
The temptation when we hear criticism is to use the Mirror Defense, which is saying, “Well, what about you?”
We want to discredit the source of the truth, so we drag up old history and the other person’s weaknesses for self-preservation. Or we say, “I don’t like your tone” and use their voice against them.
The problem is, two wrongs can never make a right. In other words, someone else’s bad thing doesn’t cancel my bad thing. Even if the other person is a hypocrite, it doesn’t magically erase my own hypocrisy. And no one in the history of accountability has ever used perfect intonation and the perfect wording to tell the hard truth. If you find yourself saying, “If only she had said it like this” or “If only he had not said this” — then chances are that you’re trying to wiggle your way out of truth by a technicality.
Read the full post here.
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.
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!
Here’s my book on relationships with a brand new cover!
I go over the many myths about sex and purity in both the church and mainstream, and how the Christian faith can actually inform us on relationships and dating. I also talk about: Josh Harris, Taylor Swift, my fifteen year porn addiction, finding “the one,” a theology for singles, the idolatry of giving more attention to “attractive people,” when my friend failed her first beauty pageant, the time I tried to kill myself over a girl, and my non-romantic journey of breaking up and getting engaged to getting married. The Foreword is by the amazing Lauren Britt at yesdarlingido!
Be immensely blessed and love y’all! — J.S.
Sharing love for a lifetime is going to be difficult: it’s full of a million misunderstandings, shrill melt-downs, crazy eyeballs, and totally ugly cry-face. But that’s the point. It’s only a matter of who you choose to share the worst of you with. I’ve chosen. I’ll keep choosing. So has she.