Protect Your Mental Health
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.- Proverbs 4:23
If you’ve been around church any length of time, you’ve probably heard that verse in a message. Today, if you’ll permit me, I’d like to put a finer point on it as it pertains to us as protectors. Although I’m writing this from a Christian perspective, the principles are true for your mental health, even if you don’t have the same faith view.
Like many in my position, I spend a lot of time studying the darkness and evil of men so that I can better protect against it. Several years ago, I started to realize that I wasn’t doing a good job of balancing what was going into my brain and, subsequently, into my heart. In response, I started to try to be more balanced in making sure that good was also on the menu.
One summer afternoon, I was reading a firsthand account from a convicted child molester outlining how he groomed a church congregation to give him access to victims. At some point, I realized I was feeling very angry, and that anger wasn’t the righteous drive to defend against schemes like this. No, it was the “I wish I could get 5 minutes with this dude” kind of anger.
When this happens, I usually turn on worship music, watch videos of puppies and kittens or take a walk and spend some time with God. My laptop was already on YouTube, so I clicked on a video of the song “The Blessing” from Elevation Church. This video had been filmed during the time when much of the country was locked down, so it put together videos of people around the country singing parts of the song, as well as those at the church. (Click here to watch it) Truthfully, at the time, I wasn’t a fan of the song, but as it played, I felt my anger begin to quiet and I figured that would be it. But God had more to teach me.
There is a point in the video where kids sing some of the song. That’s when it broke, and I began to cry. I was finally ready to listen to what God was telling me… My role is to protect, to defend, not to get revenge, not to dispense my own “justice”. To use the gifts and abilities that God gave me to protect honors Him. To use them for revenge or to “make them pay” is an insult to Him.
Four quick thoughts:
What fuels us matters. If protecting people is a manifestation of our love for people, we’re doing it right. If we’re doing it for ego, status or power, we’re not doing it right.
Are we guarding our hearts?
It’s easy to go down the wrong path. We call it “education” or “training”. We can spend so much time in the darkness and preparing for the darkness that we start to lose sight of why we’re protectors. We can easily become filled with anger and the overflow of our hearts won’t reflect the God who we serve. Even the philosopher Nietzsche, an avowed atheist, recognized this when he said “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” Don’t just protect people, protect your own mental health.
No, it doesn’t have to be a 1-to-1 exchange of 1 hour of studying violence for 1 hour of prayer or meditation, but it can be if you need that. Monitor your heart. Assess your mental health. Spend time with the family you want to keep safe. Watch videos of babies laughing. (no, really, watch this video. Your heart will thank you.) Be intentional with watching the balance.
Ask if there is actual value in the darkness to which you’re exposing yourself.
In 2019, a killer shot up 2 mosques in New Zealand. He wore a GoPro camera and live-streamed the killings. He also published a long manifesto. The video was quickly taken down, but the manifesto was easy to obtain. I did get a clean copy of the video and studied it. I learned things from it that helps me protect innocent people and to counter evil like his. However, I did not read the manifesto beyond a few snippets. There was nothing in it for me to learn from. It was obviously trash and gave me no insight into how to prevent an attack like his. Nothing but darkness going in without any pay-off. Ultimately, when evil comes to your doors, the why really doesn’t matter. Only the how does.
Have other outlets.
It is very easy to get so consumed in being prepared that other things suffer. Do we really need to spend another 30 mins responding to an internet debate about the 115-grain 9mm vs the 147-grain? Or another video on the merits of a particular red dot? Could that time be better spent being present as a parent or reading a book that helps you be a better man/woman/Christian. (I’ve gotten hooked on books by John Eldredge)
The old saying goes “Garbage in, garbage out”. So where are we exposing our hearts? How are we protecting our mental health? Do we have outlets? Please, don’t allow our desire to protect people become an idol of its own.
If you agree, disagree or want to share how you guard your heart, let me know in the comments below.