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Liturgical language of ‘unworthiness’ can be helpful to the depressed

20 February 2015


From the Revd K. A. M. Price

Sir, - The Revd Eva McIntyre says that "themes of unworthiness and sinfulness . . . are, for those living with a mental illness, like tree roots in a dark forest" (Comment, 13 February). I would like to offer an alternative perspective.

As somebody who struggled with depression and low self-esteem as a young adult, it was precisely this language that resonated with me and spoke to my inner experience. It helped me to reframe my sense of worthlessness in terms of a thank-ful dependence on God, and to exchange my isolation ("Everybody else is happy; everybody else finds life easy") for the shared human experience of sin and struggle.

When I did come to faith - in a church that used Prayer Book language, surely more sin-laden than Common Worship - I had indeed an overwhelming sense of God's forgiveness and acceptance. Yet I could not have accepted any glib assurances of God's love had my feelings of pain and guilt been suppressed rather than recognised and acknowledged. "The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; the burden of them is intolerable" - that raw plea for mercy sounded like my voice, and occasionally it still does.

The voices of those in pain are too often silenced. Please do not silence them in church.

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