Be kind and gentle — with yourself! — Neziswa Kanju


A monthly column on marriage, family and relationships.

When it comes to studying love Christians always refer to 1 Corinthians 13.This scripture gives us an outline of the basics of love.

If one wants to be more loving to others or if they want to understand love, they study this famous Bible passage. It is one of the most quoted passages in the Bible.

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Most of the time when we quote that scripture it is in reference to others…. We quote it when we are teaching on relationships; on marriage and on conflict resolution. It is always about love directed to other people and never at ourselves.

We are patient with others. We are kind and gentle to others but there are times when we are not as kind, gentle and compassionate with ourselves. We remind ourselves not to keep a record of wrong done to us and to forgive but it is rare that we afford ourselves the same grace.

People in general are quick to look at their flaws. Satan also feeds into our insecurities by amplifying our sins. He keeps a record of wrongs and we are quick to listen to him and to agree with him.

I have been going through trying times these past few months, struggling with depression. There were moments where I felt as if I was in a dark pit and I could not see any end in sight. I felt helpless hopeless and alone. I could not make sense of anything.

Feeling despondent
Normally I am one who is full of smiles, jovial and happy and all of a sudden here I was feeling despondent. I am no stranger to feeling under the weather, but those moments always came just before my period and were soon gone.

The depression that came at the beginning of this year and that has lasted this long comes and goes at different times of the month and it is not linked to hormonal changes associated with menstruation.

I lost interest in many things and disassociated myself from the projects that I was involved with. I could not keep to my weight goals as I found myself eating more than I intended, to numb the pain.

I am sharing all of this because as the church community I feel that depression is an area we are still in denial about. We do not want to admit that there are some (many) of us that are struggling in this area. We are quick to say just “pray about it”.

Praying about it will help but one who is depressed needs more than prayer. They need understanding, loving care, support and a welcoming community of believers that embraces them.

We have a lot of wounded souls walking around in our churches and we need to find ways and answers on how we can reach them.

Suicide among young people in our university campuses is on the rise. A person who ultimately commits suicide is someone who has been through severe depression and they do not see a way out. They have gone through such levels of despondency and loneliness that they just want the pain to stop.

Soul healing
We have a young generation that is crying out with hurting depressed hearts and all we want is to focus on soul winning. It is time we also put some effort in programmes of soul healing. There are so many broken hearts that are crying out for such programmes.

Going to Sunday meeting alone will not help. We need to create support groups where those who are brokenhearted, hurt and despondent can go for help.

For a long time depression has been looked down upon as a character flaw by the church. There is shame attached to it and one is expected to “snap out of it.”

Rick Warren the author of The Purpose Driven Life and his wife Kay lost their beloved son Matthew to suicide. They shared that for many years, Matthew always spoke of death. He wanted to die as he could not handle the mental struggles he was going through.

When he returned to the pulpit after Matthew’s funeral Pastor Warren taught a sermon series on grief and started a campaign to help churches address mental illness.

I look back at my own experience with depression and I realise that even at my lowest, my heart was so eager and willing to reach out to others. I was there for other people to counsel, to love on them but then when I was by myself I would feel helpless and hopeless and utterly in darkness.

I became more and more depressed when I could not find ways and means to carry out the purpose and assignments I believe God has on my life. Quite recently I had a revelation about my struggles with depression. The word of God says to love the Lord God with all your heart, mind and soul and to love others as you love yourself.

Love is all
Our faith starts and ends with love. I have loved others but I have not really been loving and kind to Neziswa. If I had, I would have been more patient with myself.

Love is patient and kind. The depression came because I was partly impatient about how slowly things were happening in my life and because I want to please the Lord I felt that I was failing in carrying out the assignment that He has on my life.

Neziswa was unkind to herself. She was impatient. She wasn’t gentle. I didn’t love me. I was always ready and willing to help others. If they needed help in any way I was there, being compassionate but I was not compassionate to me.

If I was counselling anyone else in my life I would have reached out with such tenderness. I would have told them: “Its ok. God loves you just as you are. God loves you. Just as you are! You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you”. I would have been compassionate.

The commandment that faith hinges on is the commandment to love — to love God and to love others as you love yourself. Love others as you love yourself. It starts with loving yourself.

You and I are not going to have all the answers we want. There are many things that will leave us feeling helpless, hopeless and despondent.

No answers
We do not have all the answers about why evil things happen. Why did this tragedy befall such good people? Why do we have such darkness in the world where brother kills brother? Why are women raped and brutally murdered? Why are precious children kidnapped and killed? A world ehere evil hearts can plant a bomb that kill hundreds of people or floods that wash away homes; where a loving father can be shot and killed in front of his children for a car…the list is endless.

There is no shortage of evil in the world and it can leave one in a state of hopelessness and depression as you think of the future and see it as bleak. We do not see the future and we will not have all the answers we want. We are not God. He has all the answers and we have to be willing to be patient with ourselves until He reveals all that He has called for us from the beginning of the world.

He says He has good plans for us. He has given you and me the future. You were not meant to figure it out for yourself. God is willing and waiting, yes patiently waiting because He is love and He is patient, kind and gentle. If only we could be patient, kind and gentle with ourselves just like our Father.

This Christian walk can be trying sometimes. You might feel that you are failing miserably sometime in being a good husband or a wife. In your heart you know what to do, you know how you are supposed to react, what is expected from you but you feel that other people are further along in their Christian walk.

Other people are kinder, you snap, you have an anger problem. Hallelujah does not seem to come as easily to you as it does to other people. You acted in a way that did not make you feel proud as a Christian. In this walk there will be moments where you stumble but the beauty of the Lord is that He is patient with us.

What we do most of the time though is to listen to the accuser of the brethren Satan who goes out of his way to make us feel guilty about our actions. We need to remind them of God’s love for us that He does not keep a record of wrongs. Our Lord is kind. He is gentle. He is love. His love for us is not depended on anything we have ever done and anything we will ever do. He just loves us.

Be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be gentle with yourself Neziswa!


One Comment

  1. Hi Neziswa
    It takes a lot of courage to open up as you have done. What you have to say makes so much sense. Thank you for sharing.