Of working with kids and how it has affected my views on heaven and hell

Now not too long ago I put together a post on what I think about Heaven and Hell as a Red Letter Christ-centric Universalist. Yet as I have written on this subject, I realize that there’s another facet to my views about the afterlife and it stems from working with kids.

I work with kids 7am to 3pm Monday through Friday. I work with the same kids pretty much everyday, and so there are certainly bonds of connection between them and I, we get along great for the most part, but sometimes not so much. Whether it’s physical aggression, verbal aggression, lying, manipulating, etc. it disrupts our engagement with one another for a season- sometimes that’s 5 minutes and sometimes it lasts all day… but it doesn’t last forever! We patch things up with each other, there isn’t malice or hard feelings, we own up to what we’ve done and move on.


I am led to believe within every cell of my being that God too operates on this level. Because if I possess the capacity to do this on a small scale, why wouldn’t God do this on a much larger scale? Some people will contend that God won’t and doesn’t. Statements of “God is a just God” gets thrown out by those who claim a higher spiritual/moral high ground, but the “just” that gets presented perpetuates paradigms of up vs down, heaven vs hell, right vs wrong, belief vs faith, us vs them, and so on.
This “just” strikes me as more of a human construct than a divine one because it marginalizes people from other people, and last time I checked, God doesn’t marginalize anyone for the ground is level at the foot of the cross.

So to you the reader who believes in the existence of an afterlife conscious torment-filled hell, I give you permission to question this- why? You don’t have to post anything if you want to, but still give yourself space to explore the ins and outs.

– Nathanael –

The stigma inside, the stigma outside; how mental health affects everyone

As someone who has worked in the field of behavioral health for nearly 5 years I realize something that is disconcerting; there is a lot of stigma about mental health, both those affected by it and the public.

I kind of was aware of this before getting into the field, the media has a cruel trend of making issues of mental illness and those who have it heinous monsters. It appears to me that it is little more than sensationalism much of the time. This stigma brought about by the media it is ill-informed and doesn’t do more than sell newspapers.

But the truth of the matter is that there isn’t just stigma on the outside, there is a lot of stigma on the inside. Since I have a perspective of one who works with those who have different mental illnesses, social-emotional disorders, etc. I feel a responsibility to rectify the stigmas where I can. I know that my words won’t shift the public perception completely, but to you the reader I hope you learn something from what I’ve gleaned in my time invested in this field.

People have mental illnesses, they are NOT their mental illness:
All too often people who have mental illnesses are classified by what they have as if they were the proverbial “poster child” of bipolar, schizophrenia, schizophreniform, borderline personality disorder, etc. Even the people who have this will say (whether intentional or not) that I am bipolar, I am schizophrenic, and so on. Some people I have met who have mental illnesses have used this as a way to self-identify, others have used it as a cop-out for their behavior (usually in light of something negative).

No person no matter how debilitating their mental illness is in fact their mental illness. I can sympathize with those who do feel this way, but I usually steer them into a mindset of what I’ve just made known, that people have mental illnesses but are not in fact their mental illness incarnate. My apologizes in perhaps beating the proverbial dead horse, but I want this point to be made perfectly clear.

It is better to listen than to talk and give out unsolicited advice:
As obvious as this might seem, it is still worth pointing out. To those in the fields of psychology, sociology, and any other field that requires interaction with people who have mental illnesses, take time to develop active listening skills as well as a good bedside manner, it will make all the difference in the world. Certainly take in what you hear with a grain of salt (at the very least) but you’d be surprised at perspectives that might not be “by the textbook”.

If I hadn’t taken the time to listen to one of my former residents, I would never have gotten an in-depth perspective of what life is like when you have auditory, visual, and tactile hallucinations. This and other perspectives I have gleaned over the years have caused me to think and re-think what I personally know, and by far I have insight that I once didn’t have simply because I chose to listen and not impose what I think.

Sometimes you are the only “family” a person with mental illness has:
I have seen a lot of this and it still bothers me, family members not showing up or having little to do with their mother, father, son, daughter, brother, daughter because of their mental illness. Unfortunately I am whomever is working with that person is left to handle the damage control and whatever fall out that might ensue because of that family member’s failure to show up. In these instances I take time to listen, take time to BE with that individual, and sympathize with them and what he or she might be feeling.

Now I understand that “life happens” all the time, but for some individuals I have worked with the failure to show up on their family’s part was all too common. It’s heartbreaking for me to bear witness to someone who has been overlooked by their family. Please, for the love of the person, do NOT do this please.

Treating mental illness calls for a holistic approach:
The thing is that we’re treating a human being who has a mental illness, NOT a mental illness that has a human being. With that being said I find that a holistic treatment plan should be in place for that person. Why, you might ask? Well the thing is, medicine (provided the person is taking them) is NOT enough, and as I have told those I worked with in the past as well as in the present a holistic treatment plan I perceive a holistic treatment plan to look a little something like this.
– take your meds when you have to
– meet with your doctors and therapists when you need to
– get out in the community (provided this is an available option to the person)
– talk to staff in general, but also talk to them when you are having difficulties
– be honest with yourself about what you’re going through in life. do not sweep it under the carpet, do not stuff it down and repress it.
I have communicated this to my residents because I’ve worked with individuals who have thought they’d be “cured” of their mental illness by medicine alone. I do explain that mental illnesses cannot be cured, but managed well provided the individual puts in the effort to getting help and allowing themselves to being helped where needed.

As I go back to college very soon (more on this for my next post) I plan on continuing on in the field of behavioral health, and it is my intention to be more of an advocate and ally of people who have mental illnesses.


Commitment as a spiritual exercise; day 22 of Ramadan


When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.” – Howard Schultz
Earlier today I was hanging out with my bro Mark and we spent a good deal of time being and talking amongst ourselves. One of the things we discussed at length is the nature of commitment and how it seems that sometimes in our culture we sometimes have a reluctance to remain committed to a person, an organization, a place we worship in, and so on.
Commitment to someone or something is a good thing, it causes us to remain faithful and keeps us in check for the long haul. Because it is very easy to stick with something or someone in the good times, but what about the difficult and trying parts of life? Are we going to leave simply because we or it or they are going through a rough season of life? Would we want that to happen to US if we were in their shoes? Probably not and that’s why I think it is so vital to stick to something through all seasons of life- ours as well as theirs!

Now I realize that we all live self-defined busy lives and obviously we cannot commit to all things, which is why I propose we take the time to examine what’s on our plate of things we do and start clearing it; while it might all be good, it’s prudent to find the great and commit to that.

Why some and not all you might ask, very simply; time management and personal health. We are not defined by our jobs, our labels, our doings as well as our beings. And subsequently the multitude of things we might undertake feed into a false sense of who we are. Plus everyone who lives is given 168 hours of life per week, and if we’re fully committed to a LOT of things where’s the time we can call our own?

We should want to give of our time and our lives to others and causes we align ourselves with, but we also need to find space within all that to recharge our batteries lest we fall prey to compassion fatigue.
I work a job in the behavioral health field and I see compassion fatigue all around me, and if I am honest with myself I am in the throes of it myself, but I have learned (and relearned) over the years to detach myself from it all when I am not there.

Otherwise I am prone to think that my coworkers aren’t able to do as good of a job as I can and that shit will hit the proverbial fan in my absence. This is unhealthy to my coworkers and residents alike, and it fuels my ego in the most perverse of ways. So when I am not at work, I am not at work period! Life will go on without me, and all I can do is hope that all is well and if it’s not it will be rectified by those who are working when I am not.

So examine your life, your plate, and start the process of clearing it. Figure out what are the good things in your life and weed them out and commit to those great things instead! It might be frustrating to get to the place of identifying and pursuing the great things in life, but trust me it is well worth it to get to that place in life.
So with all that being said, commitment is my keyword on this 22nd day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God, The Committed One, who is faithful and loving and compassionate to all of mankind. May we take time to figure out what’s worth committing to in our lives, to our personal benefit as well as to the benefit of others.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,