The topic of diversity is one that many find intriguing, others are passionate about it, and still others are apathetic regarding the subject of diversity. Certainly the topic of diversity holds a variety of meanings for different people, but since the setting I am most familiar with are church or religious environments, I approach the topic with that as a backdrop.
I have discovered that to say that you as an organization or a church are “diverse” or “multicultural,” along with other descriptive terms is on some level trendy and it can even draw individuals to a place or group. However I find that with many Christian groups, whether it be churches, universities or otherwise, it can end up being only that which is on paper or on a computer screen. Some even go as far as to display photo stock pics of diverse groups of people as though it were a reflection of the realities of their group.This is not limited to groups/organizations – every group is made up of “individuals.” The actions of individuals also have bearing on what takes place in the area of diversity. I find that we all at some point can suffer from a disease I call the “Diversity Delusion.” Here are some of the symptoms:
1. All of your friends (whether real or via social media) “look” just like you. The only people you have deep conversations with or friendships with are of the same race, class, etc that you are
2. Failing to notice dominance of one cultural group or be aware of who is culturally missing and never wondering why.
3. The books on your shelf are all written by authors of one dominant group or cultural perspective.
4. With the exception of maybe one or two or less, the people you listen to and learn from are all people of your specific race, culture, social and economic status.
5. Because you are familiar with certain cultural stereotypes, you assume that you know a particular culture.
6. You precede your references to people of a culture different from yours by adding a race description – “African American man,” “Asian woman,” instead of simply saying a woman or man.
Awareness of the symptoms can be remedied by choosing different actions from this day forward. During my attendance at an event titled “Experimenting with Diversity:Using the College as a Laboratory by Marvin Worthy, he mentioned that “Not everything you face will be changed, but nothing will ever change unless you face it.” I don’t believe that lack of opportunity to embrace diversity and learn not only about, but from others is the problem. I believe that the problem is that we fail to extend ourselves beyond what makes us comfortable…
Today I am sure that I am not the only one, but during my journey through it I was certain that I was the only one. Burnout. Meltdown. Depression. All of these combined is where I found myself not long ago.
Though I am in a healthy place right now, I remember the day when things came crashing down on me like yesterday. Laying down on my living room sofa I felt a strong, overpowering sense that my life didn’t matter to anyone. Laying there I was sure that life was not worth continuing. I was utterly depleted, empty, drained, and lost all sense of hope. The dangerous part was that I didn’t feel like I had anyone to call or like anyone could help me.
Miraculously I made it through that night and managed to call a friend in the morning planning to leave a message. To my surprise she answered the phone and she only asked one question – “Are you ok?” After bursting into tears I exclaimed “I don’t think I am.”
Eventually I was diagnosed as suffering from Major Clinical Depression. The challenges of the struggle to be honest about the battle had everything to do with worrying over the perceptions of others. What would people say? A Christian? A Leader? Darlene? Depression?Not to mention that in African American culture, as well as in many Christian circles, the encouragement is to just pray and eventually get over it. But I needed more than just a little talk with Jesus…. It took great Christian counseling, solid friends, and a few praying people to help me reach a place of releasing the shame. Depression is more than having a low day or low moment, it grabs a hold of you making it impossible for you to function as you normally would.
I am now in a place where I refuse to allow shame or embarrassment to have power over me – the love God has for me is what makes me so secure and confident! My personal opinion is that the stigma surrounding this type of issue needs to be chipped away at much more so that more folks can get the help they need….
Not all who experience burnout also experience depression. And not all who battle depression battle it due to burnout. It’s a very complex illness. For me, it was a combination of being genetically predisposed and ministry burnout.
I found out personally that Depression is more than just feeling down, we all experience that. I found out through personal experience that it is not something that just goes away, or that you simply pray away and wish away. For some of us, it needs to be treated in a variety of ways – whether through therapy, medication, self care strategies, and so much more….. It knocked me down and left me with no hope of getting back up again (that’s the short version). Me and God were straight, I still loved Jesus, had a prayer life, was doing ministry, etc (I say that for the benefit of those who sometimes interpret depression as a sign that one is not spiritual enough, etc). It was like being in a dark room with no light switch…. The story is too long to tell…. But I am grateful for God’s care for me, and the support of those who love me, and for doing well – I still remember the first day I could actually hear the birds sing again and started to see the beauty in each day again. I STILL can’t believe it!