Few people realize the extent of the pain caused by stigma. Please hear what this lady experiences. What can you and I do to bring healing to her?

My struggles are no longer so much about my illness as I have learned to handle that now, especially with the medicines and some self help stuff I learned from WRAP. What is hard to overcome is really the stigma . . . self stigma, stigma from others . . . the fear of it . . . feeling hated . . . feeling talked about . . . the feeling of being a burden . . . the feeling of not being loved.

I can relate to Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If.  “when being lied about, don’t deal in lies. Or,  being hated, don’t give way to hating.”

I can’t help it, I always forgive and just ignore those people who stabbed me behind and just forgive because this is what I was taught growing up. But I question sometimes . . . if I am not going to stand up for myself, who else will?


Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

The sad thing is that even when we do all we can to love those who hurt us, their feelings towards us are usually so ingrained, it won’t likely change. To them we’ll always be less than others.

Another person responded with the following:

When you are being hurt by a person you love, and you tell this person that she’s hurting you . . . and the hurting continues with no remorse shown, nor apology given . . . must we keep on loving as Jesus tells us to? And if this person ends up despising us, not loving us back, why go on loving?

I thought to myself: I don’t think I usually hate others when I’m hated. Mostly I just hurt.

Stigma hurts us terribly, making us feel dehumanized. One person was abused as a young child, bullied at school, never thought well of because of his mental health issues. He has never learned what it means to feel joy. Can we blame him for being bitter?

Yet when we go to Jesus, trying to make sense of what is happening to us, I hope we come to realize  that stigmatizing others is part of being sinful human beings.  Can we forgive? Can we forgive, knowing that Jesus forgave us too?

Some of you who are reading this may be affected by stigma. Some may be helping to fight the battle to reduce it. But I believe the most important work is to help those who are hurting find healing. How can those who are healthy respond to the pain their friends suffer because of stigma?

Treat them as Jesus treated the people he cared for in the gospel stories. Have compassion. Be a friend to them. Encourage them, reminding them that God values them and loves them.

We can help our friends focus on Jesus. He did both—he came to heal, but suffered too. Jesus focussed on overcoming the injustices of the world, paying little attention to the personal pain it caused him. The important thing for him was to do what his Father had called him to do—to overcome evil with good.

The apostle Paul said, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

And that should be God’s message to all of us—those who fight stigma and those who want to help those who are hurting.


This has been Part 15 of the series In the Name of Jesus.  For Post 16  go to The Problem with Advice.

(I’m not a professional caregiver. Since 2006, I have given spiritual support as a peer to people living with all sorts of mental health issues. I write from the point of view of someone who has been there and understands—someone who wants to share the faith she has found in God.)