Christianity and Mental Health: The “FAT” Connection

Words by Morris Murray | Image by Al Blanton

The gospel of Jesus Christ and mental health are not in competition. Mental health may be defined as “the state of being well mentally, characterized by soundness of thought and outlook, adaptability to one’s environment, and balanced behaviors and emotions.”

The gospel advocates this also.

For mental health to be as healthy as possible, it must be based upon thinking which is solid, sensible, and realistic. It is precisely in the gospel of Jesus Christ where the foundation for such balanced thinking is located.

Regardless of one’s gender, geographical location, age, financial income, or educational status, all human beings are FAT organisms: Feeling – Acting – Thinking beings.

According to the very nature of our humanity, it is consistently proven that how we think is the primary driver of how we feel and act. That is, our actions/behaviors and our feelings/emotions always coordinate with and are a result of our thought patterns.   

How does mental health, as defined above, occur? How can one experience soundness of thought and outlook and have balanced behaviors and emotions which are productive and not destructive?

The first thing is to accept the reality of this “trio” (FAT) as stated above. Has anyone ever been able to counter or invalidate this connection? In other words, are our feelings and actions always traceable to the thoughts which produced them? Yes. Pro. 23:7, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (i.e., behaviorally and emotionally).

The second thing is to actively recognize and resist thought patterns which are irrational, illogical, or insensible. Some examples include: (1) all-or-nothing thinking (perfectionism); (2) deciding that a single negative experience is overgeneralized to indicate a never-ending pattern of failure and the corresponding lack of trust in that person; (3) refusing to accept compliments due to suspiciousness of motives; (4) jumping to conclusions about happenings and people without solid facts; (5) magnifying the negative/miniminizing the positive in oneself and others.

The third thing is to adopt thought patterns which are rational, logical, and sensible. This begins with a healthy, balanced form of self-love. We cannot love our neighbor as ourselves (Mt. 19:19; 22:39; Mk. 12:31, 33; Lk. 10:27) if we do not have self-love (self-respect, honor, humility, appreciation). The little word “as” indicates this. It is a sad thought that we who profess to have received unconditional love from God find it so difficult to render unconditional love to ourselves and others. It also involves refusing to demonize every person who disagrees with us. Just because they may not see or know what we see or know is not necessarily a negative and may be viewed as a learning adventure – for them and for us.

Finally, practice forgiving others, even when they don’t deserve it – just like God did for us (Eph. 4:32). Mental health and Christianity are seen – or not seen – in the home, the church, the school, and everywhere else that people interact with others. So, be aware of FAT and its connections with both. WL

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