You wake up and immediately realize that it’s going to be one of those days. A day when mental illness is an elephant on your chest and an enormous weight on your shoulders. A day when you just need someone to listen to you and not try to tell you what you can do to fix it.
If you are doing well enough, you instinctively reach out to others for connection and to be heard. It doesn’t always go like you’d like it to go though. Sometimes you hear things like “People have it worse than you; why are you complaining?” or “Just focus on other things.”
All you needed was someone to listen and validate your feelings as reality. Though you reached out, you’re now feeling worse than you originally did.
What is Validation in Mental Health
One of the most important components in Christian mental health recovery is validation. Validation means to have your personhood and your needs acknowledged affirmed, and accepted as worthwhile.
We can think of validation in it’s simplest terms like a parking pass. In downtown areas, sometimes businesses offer parking validation. If you are going to an appointment such as at a real estate office, you’ll park in expensive parking and bring your parking pass up to the appointment for the business to “validate” your ticket. What that means is your ticket is accepted, and paid for, so you aren’t carrying the cost any longer. It’s been validated by the group. They carry the cost because you belong there. And they have accepted you.
But what if you bring your parking pass to the office when you go in for your appointment and the receptionist refuses to “validate” your pass? When that happens, you are not accepted. You carry the cost alone. You aren’t acknowledged as having a legitimate claim to your parking spot. (In this case, the legitimate claim is the legal appointment you have.)
It’s a bummer when this happens on a $12.00 parking fee. It’s a much bigger bummer when it happens to your personhood, needs, or feelings.
Validation of feelings, emotions, and mental health issues is important. When family and friends fail to “validate”, the person struggling becomes isolated. The cost is no longer shared by all, the claim is “illegal.” The legal right to feel the feeling or experience the experience is not allowed.
The person who has not been validated has an additional burden to bear. The burden of being alone and wondering what they did wrong to have their ticket invalidated.
The negative emotional load has just been increased.
Why loved ones won’t validate Christian mental health needs
If my Christian friends and family love me, why won’t they validate me?
Here’s why. People close to someone struggling in the area of mental health will often feel, to some extent, guilt in one way or another in regards to the person who is suffering.
In tandem with their Christian faith, they will try to “fix” the “broken” person, whether by telling them the supposed cause of their illness or how to spiritually solve all their problems. For instance, an unhelpful piece of advice for a suffering person is to just pray harder for God to fix your problems or “if you had been faithful to Him before you wouldn’t be suffering now.” But, just as in physical health, Christian mental health needs aren’t that simple to fix.
These types of “fixes” are extremely invalidating to the person suffering.
How to Get Validation as a Christian with Mental Health Needs
If you struggle in the area of mental health, you need to know that you are not crazy for feeling the way you do. AND that you are accepted and worthwhile and your needs are valid.
Unfortunately, just because we need this, doesn’t mean we’ll get it. Sometimes people just don’t give us the validation we need.
When this happens, our need for validation doesn’t go away. If it continues to go unmet, the burden grows heavier.
What can we do?
Validation in Christian Mental Health
When this happens, we need to go to God.
While trying to write this post I was struggling with exactly how to get validation from God.
You know those things where you’ll never be too old for them, no matter what? That’s how Winnie the Pooh is for me. I’ve related to several of the characters at different times, depending on how I feel. After deciding to sleep on it for a day or two to try to find the answer, I was suddenly aware of my love for Winnie the Pooh and his friends. It helped me realize two things.
1) No one is ever too old for Disney.
2) Sometimes going back to a childlike mindset when it comes to God is needed.
How to Find Validation in God
First, we need to humble ourselves in order to put our pride aside enough to hear him. James 4:10 says “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” Humbling yourself before Him will give him room to communicate with you in just a way so you’ll hear Him.
Know that even when people don’t understand, God always will. Stated in Job 12:13, “With Him is wisdom and strength, He hath counsel and understanding.” Even when it seems like God is far away and oblivious to your problems, He is close and waiting for you to go to Him. If you have Jesus in your heart, he is actually inside you. You don’t need to look outside yourself for validation!
It is the resurrection power of Christ in us, as Christians, that gives us whatever we need in the moment. In the moment we need validation, He is there to meet our need.
We Don’t Need to Look Outside Ourselves to Find Validation
Here it is again: Jesus lives in us! He had the power to rise from the dead. That same power is inside our spirits, available to be accessed by us for redemption and LIFE!
This is why I can say with all honesty that He has placed in you the strength to overcome whatever circumstance, either external or internal, that you are experiencing.
Take Job for example. God was near and allowed Satan to overwhelm Job with a plethora of problems and tragedies. But He did this because God was bigger than anything Satan could bring. God trusted His own power and strength to hold Job steady. And He knew the outcome: that victory, blessing, healing, redemption and restoration were imminent. God knew all this even though Job couldn’t see beyond his current circumstances. Instinctively, though, Job knew to trust God. Knowing what we know now, we can see how Job’s trust was justified!
Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” This is one of those verses that is all over aesthetic pictures on Instagram and water bottles and bumper stickers. But it’s true.
As a child of the King, find validation within yourself. Because He dwells within You! You know your feelings are real. You have been given not a spirit of fear, but of power and of love AND A SOUND MIND. Psalm 27:3 says, “though an army besieges me, my heart will not fear; though war breaks out against me, even then I will be confident.”
When other people don’t believe in you, or WON’T validate you, validate yourself. Because you are rooted in the Timeless, Boundless, Love and Reality of God. It sounds cliche, I know, but it’s actually true. And you can hold your head high, because God is proud of you! You are His.
Everyone wants to be heard, especially if you’re struggling. If people aren’t giving you the validation you need, go to God. He’ll always listen.
Application for Christian Mental Health Needs: How to Find Validation in God
By Jessica Bolen
- Place yourself before the LORD in an attitude of honor and humility to hear from Him. Come to a place of faith and belief that He really does care. Here are some scriptures you can meditate on to boost your faith. When you are able to believe and say, “I believe that God wants to take care of my need to be validated,” move on to step 2.
- Receive His forgiveness for allowing any attitude of pride or entitlement to have clouded your perspective. When we are invalidated by people, an attitude of resentment and anger can be allowed to creep in. God has promised that we are forgiven from any trespass. So allow that forgiveness to seep into every cell of your heart, mind and body.
- Then bring the invalidation experience to God. That injustice. When you have been invalidated it is a sin against you. Picture the moment it happened. Allow God to come into the picture. Let go. Release the person(s) who have invalidated you. Forgive them. Did you know Jesus actually has to power to forgive on your behalf even when you can’t? Simply allow Jesus’ forgiveness to be released on your behalf by saying “Jesus, I allow your forgiveness and cleansing to be released to so-and-so. Thank you Holy Spirit for abiding by your word.” For God’s Word says: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit’, says the LORD Almighty.”
- Finally, ask God what His Truth is about what you are feeling. Allow yourself to actively listen. He will give you a word, a phrase, a scripture, a song, or a picture. Maybe even a memory. Talk with Him about it. Write about it in your journal. Feel His validation come in. Choose to act upon His truth.