When I talk about the pain of stigma, I think many would wonder what I’m talking about. Most would not consider the effects of stigma to be pain at all. Yet it is. Very much so.

People who are stigmatized experience distinct feelings that they don’t fit in. They’re thought to be “strange,” shunned, avoided by others. They may not be talked to after church in the way others are. They’re not included in social groupings or home study groups. They feel looked down on, maybe because they’re not thought to be very smart or have interesting things to say. Many are made to feel as though they don’t count. As though they don’t matter.

When individuals with mental health challenges have things they want to say, they’ll often find that they’re not really heard.  Sometimes, no effort is made to try and make out what they mean. What they think or say doesn’t matter as much as what others think or say.

Stigma dehumanizes people.

We are victims of rejection. When we read our Bible, we read about Someone who sounds like he felt just like we feel. It’s  good to know that Someone has gone through the same pain we’re so familiar with. It feels good to know that we’re not alone with these feelings.

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

 Isaiah 53:3

Although we who live with such rejection cannot be compared to Christ and the sacrifice he made, we suffer in similar ways. Although our community might not accept us, we understand something that they don’t. In our suffering, we can imagine what Christ’s suffering meant to him, more so than others would.

And because of that, we feel close to him.