Today I consider a recent homily by my husband, Deacon Jeff, from the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, focused on the Gospel of Luke Lk 18:9-14. He mentioned in the homily how the Pharisee prayed to the Lord with gratitude that “I am not like the rest of humanity” in tithing, prayer and fasting. My husband highlighted the quantity of “I’s” in the Pharisee’s prayers. The Pharisee presents a distorted view of others in his prayers, and ultimately in those same prayers a distorted view of self.
This reminded me of a recent article I read on mental health. The article in the December 2022 issue of Psychology Today referenced studies concluding that individuals suffering from depression used more “I” pronouns than other persons. This makes me wonder….Are the times we are more focused on ourselves the times when depression increases? Are the times we are comparing ourselves to others related to the times when anxiety increases? What do you think?
I think of times when someone, or even in my own experience, might be sharing the outcome of an important task or success but behind the outward words is that little voice asking the question “Am I smart enough? Am I good enough? Am I worthy of love” The list of questions from that little voice can go on and take many forms. Possibly you have experienced that little, negative voice too. Consider how those thoughts include a lot of “I’s” just like the Pharisee who was sent home unjustified and the individual who uses more “I” pronouns and who are depressed.
How can we take the wisdom of the scripture from Luke and apply it to our own experiences of depression and anxiety? How can we look at our “I’s” to discern the impact on our mood? Can we recognize when those “I’s” appear in our thoughts, and take the time to shift the focus away from ourselves and onto the needs and good of others? I wonder if that simple shift is done often enough, if clouds of depression can have brief moments of respite, and with discipline sustained periods of relief? Isn’t that what is proposed in the scripture? In our humbleness, we will be exalted.
I understand that managing severe depression can be difficult and is not this simple to manage. However, I propose this is a starting place and a place where God’s mercy and love can be found and given room to flourish.
Let us not be afraid to acknowledge our thoughts come from our minds and not from our hearts. Let us focus on our hearts and recognize that yes, we need to do good things like praying, fasting and tithing. However, there is more. We need to do it without comparison to others and without self-praise that turns our behavior away from God and to oneself as the source of all goodness. Let us remember the studies connecting the routine use of the “I” pronoun to depression. (Honestly, I initially started the previous sentence with “I” and changed it to encourage my own habit of focusing away from self). Instead, let us all reflect on not the “I’s” of self but the “I” in the great “I am.”
In closing, if you are experiencing a mental health crisis and are considering suicide, please immediately reach out to get support:
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, or
Text HOME to 741741 to reach a trained Crisis Counselor through Crisis Text Line, a global not-for-profit organization. Free, 24/7, confidential.
More resources can be found at https://www.crisistextline.org/
Hicksstrong Is a not-for-profit that provides free counseling for Veterans for up to 2 years per Veteran. Veterans only need to apply. Click here for details https://www.hicksstrong.org/mental-health-support.html
Remember Mental Health Matters.
Author: Eileen Borski
Licensed Professional Counselor
National Certified Counselor
M.Ed. Clinical Mental Health Counseling