Today I want to share an article written by Enos Martin and E.A. Vastyan from Christianity Today. In it they advise church leaders on how to treat parishioners suffering with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

I found it a valuable, yet personally humbling read. Humbling because it paints a picture of how I had in many ways behaved while attending my previous church. I’m shocked to see how I must have come across to the leaders there. Shocked and ashamed. Yes, I have a lot of the tendencies described here and didn’t even know it. If I don’t take care, I could become that way again. I’m continuing in therapy and I’m working hard not to make the same mistakes.

The entire article is a must-read for church leaders. But the part I’d like to draw special attention to is the following:

Ministering to the Person with BPD

It is easy to view people with BPD as hopeless cases. Yet there is hope. Churches and their leaders can help these persons function at a higher level, manage their emotional turmoil, and disrupt the congregation less. Here are several principles to use:

First, set firm limits on tolerable behavior. Giving into demands for excessive time-and allowing temper tantrums or threats of suicide if demands are not met proves unhelpful.

More helpful is setting limits that are clear, realistic, consistent, enforced promptly, and logistically sound.

Guidelines benefit both the person with BPD and us. They enable us to stay involved; we can avoid either responding to every request or refusing to have any involvement. And consistent involvement tells the person that rage will not destroy the relationship, as it has others in the past. When we demonstrate measured consistency, we provide a healing emotional experience.

Spiritual Dimensions

Under the section describing Spiritual Dimensions, I cannot – at least not within my personal experience – agree with this statement: “Not surprisingly, persons with BPD also have difficulty maintaining constancy in their spiritual lives. Often they see God as all good and themselves as all bad. They cannot handle the mixture of feelings they have toward God.”

This has not been true for me.

Is it because I have only some of the features of BPD, that my spiritual life has not been unduly affected? If anything, many consider me overly-spiritual. God has brought me through many difficult times and I seldom lost sight of him.

Through God I’m able to write weekly encouragements to those who struggle. Through God I found the courage to speak about what many would find shameful to share. So you can see how not all the descriptions of BPD you read in articles like this one, hold true for everyone with the diagnosis. Like others, we who live with BPD are unique individuals and need to be treated as such.