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Relationships

Will you be my #BFF?

by | 2 August 2017, 6:04 PM

I was scrolling through Instagram when pictures of best friends began to flood my feed.

You’ve seen those pictures. They’re mostly fun snapshots of girls laughing and having fun, complete with cute hashtags in the comments – #overlyattached, #girlsquad and #friendshipgoals.

It seems like everyone has a best friend forever – a BFF  – except me.

I’ll admit it: I was envious of those girls. I wish I had close friends like that too! Someone I would have amazing chemistry with, someone who would go on random cafe dates with me. Someone to take silly photos with.

I asked God to bring me someone I could trust – someone to relate to. I prayed about it. I intentionally opened myself to people. I waited. And yet the person never came.

I felt confused and frustrated for what seemed like an eternity.

Isn’t God a giver of all good gifts? I seriously wondered why He would withhold this person from me since He was the one who declared it beneficial to have friends who encourage you in life (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)? It wasn’t as if I wasn’t trying.

In time, when the bitterness had passed – when I came to Him quietly – God revealed this to me: It wasn’t that He hadn’t sent friends my way.

I had simply dismissed the ones that didn’t fit my picture-perfect vision of friendship.

FRIENDSHIP UNFILTERED

Most of us have an idea of we want our friendships to look like. Mine came from the picture-perfect moments I saw on my Instagram feed. They were so candid and happy. So I based my definition of friendship on what social media portrayed it to be: Candid. Happy. Easy.

I only wanted to invest in people who could make me laugh. People who I felt I had an immediate connection with. I carried this mental list of criteria for potential friends – and I struck off many from the list simply because I didn’t click with them from the get-go.

I had prayed for a trusted friend, but in reality I was scouring my world for quick and easy friendships.

We want immediate connection. We want unconditional love – we want to belong. We want that idealised, final product of what we see on social media.

But social media doesn’t capture the life of a person in its entirety. It captures moments of a person’s life. And that’s just what they are. Moments. What we get at the end is a filtered TL;DR of the thousand things which have transpired unseen.

Friendships aren’t instantaneous and easy. They’re often awkward, especially when two people are just beginning to get to know each other. They’re often a little strange at first, as we shed cordialities – a little bumpy as we figure each other’s sensitive spots. Trust is built … slowly.

In this digital age, we often only see the mountain-top moments. The arduous struggles in the valleys aren’t quite there as much for the world to see. In truth, building a friendship requires effort.

What I’m seeing now is that no matter how high-res a picture-perfect photograph is – it can’t quite capture the rigour behind the friendship.

SWIPING LEFT AND RIGHT

In my search for friendship, I realised that while there necessarily aren’t a lot of people on my exact wavelength – I’ve found many other wonderful individuals.

These people are willing to avail themselves to hear me out. They send me occasional texts to encourage me. They may not be the funniest or the most charismatic, but they really care.

In their love and support for me, I realised this: so what if they don’t fit my 1080px by 1080px frame of what friendship looks like? Maybe I’m glad they don’t – the friendship we have is so much bigger than that. These people are truly worth investing in.

I’m so thankful for these friends whom God has already placed in my life. It’s not true that I don’t have good friends. I had enslaved myself to expectations of friendship based on social media, and ended up missing out on all I already had.

In this digital age, we often only see the mountain-top moments. The arduous struggles in the valleys aren’t quite there as much for the world to see.

I also realised that one of the reasons I felt like I didn’t have a true friend in my low moments was because I rarely took the initiative to be a friend to others.

God encourages us to carry each other’s burdens in difficult times (Galatians 6:2). Was I there for people when they needed me? Was I simply concerned with my own feelings and circumstances this entire time?

I pray we aren’t caught up in choosing best-fit friends, that the friendships of our life aren’t self-centred endeavours.

What if instead of praying to God, “please bring me a friend”, we prayed: “God, help me be a better friend to this person” (Luke 6:31)? What would the world look like if we gave before thinking to receive? I want to imitate how He loves.

I want to love people – even before they’ve loved me.

/ siqi@thir.st

Siqi loves to eat. Except for peas, egg yolk, cucumbers, livers, intestines. Among others. She also happens to be a writer.

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The day I lost my dad

by Jolynn Chia | 18 October 2017, 1:06 AM

I have been a control freak most of my life.

My core belief was in the importance of control. If I lost control, I’d lose everything I’d ever worked for and wanted. I believed I deserved everything I had because I’d earned them with my very own hands. I didn’t have a personal relationship with God then, and it was a false sense of security.

That life fell apart the day my Dad had a heart attack and passed on.

Even during the funeral, I was still trying to control every aspect of it. I had to. Who could blame me? My Mum was so depressed she couldn’t do anything, my two younger siblings barely knew what was going on and my relatives were either overseas or busy with work.

In reality, I was reluctant to do anything because all I really wanted to do was to sit at home and cry.

I especially hated having to arrange the funeral because I found Dad’s sudden death unbelievably ridiculous. He was just cycling two days ago, and he had never complained of any heart issues. I was so angry at God. How could He punish me like that? Why?

I tried my best. I wrote the eulogy while settling endless administrative matters. I hosted guests whom I appreciated but could not welcome heartily because I had just lost my parent and felt utterly deprived of space to weep. I was exhausted sharing anecdotes of my Dad to people who might not have met him in person. I even tried to ensure that the eulogy was delivered calmly, yet mildly humorous so as not to bore my audience.

Control, control, control. I didn’t sleep a wink.

But even in that dreadful week, God showed His faithfulness to me. Every day, I received encouraging and comforting text messages. Friends and church mates whom I thought I never had a connection with came regardless and grieved with my family and me.

The second night, I dreamt of my Dad queuing at Heaven’s gates. And when choosing the Bible verse for my Dad’s plaque in the niche, my sister and I searched randomly on the Internet until we chose Daniel 12:3 for its beauty. A week later, I found out that chapter features the archangel Michael, which is my Dad’s name.

“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)

If you’ve ever had to purchase a niche position, you’d know that the eye level ones are the hardest to get. All the eye level niches were crossed out from the availability chart by the time we received it.

Nevertheless, the day we went down to the columbarium we learnt that the number “0414” was the only eye level niche not taken up. April 14 was Good Friday, the same week my Dad passed away in. I think he would have liked it. It was a divine gift.

I knew all these things happened because God wanted to reassure us that even the suffering of life is part of His divine plan, and He is with us every step of the way. He would never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

But this truth felt far away on the darker days.

I came to harbour a quiet bitterness towards people who did not understand my pain. I mean, how many people in their mid-twenties have had experienced their parent dying overnight of a heart attack with no warning signs at all?

How many people could truly comprehend, empathise with and relate to the deep regrets and self-hatred I had in my heart? How many friends could I cry with? How many people saw how it fractured my life?

Even my Mum and siblings had different ways of dealing with grief, oscillating between denial and distraction.

My grief was uncontrollable. It would come like a thief in the middle of the night, in the day, during bus rides.

I did not trust that anyone would understand my experience, and most people understandably did not have the courage to probe. My grief was uncontrollable. It would come like a thief in the middle of the night, in the day, during bus rides.

But just when I thought the darkness would never end, God mercifully brought two sisters-in-Christ who had similar experiences to journey with me. They graciously saved me from falling into the Devil’s crafty lie that no one cared – not even God himself.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Over the months that have passed, God has met me personally in my grief and hopelessness. He’s been there in my loneliness, purposelessness and anger. I can say this with all my conviction: It has been an arduous process, but He has not let me go. Though my whole world might fall apart – I know I will never fall out of His love.

As a former control freak, I’ve now accepted that I cannot control everything that happens to me. But I do know that all that has happened is of His divine will, and I’m letting that be enough.

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What if I’m just a calefare?

by | 12 October 2017, 3:48 PM

As you scan the crowded bus for a seat, you see a familiar book cover. Ah, somebody’s reading the same book as you! At the cinema, the crowd’s in-sync surround-sound laughter triggers a split second where awareness meets detachment – you’re again reminded that we’re not all that different.

We co-exist in the same time and space, together with a lot of people. We are passersby in the blurry background of a stranger’s story – hundreds of times a day – but that sense of vagueness is easily broken by a smile, a collective chuckle in a movie, a “today weather very hot ah“, a shared interest with a fellow human …

These connections tug on our heartstrings to the extent that you allow it. And if you do, the music that it makes cannot be ignored. There is something grand and poetic about our existence –  listen close enough and you’ll hear it. 

But life is never easy to navigate. It’s like buying furniture from IKEA, you have to assemble it, put things together. And you cannot opt for assembly service.

Top of the World” by the Carpenters was my favourite song growing up. Back in the day, home printers weren’t a thing yet so I would hand-write the lyrics on paper and sing my heart out to it.

“Such a feeling’s coming over me, there is wonder in most everything I see.”

That was my favourite line (if I really had to choose one) from the theme song of my childhood. When I first stepped foot into primary school, I was that kid who was always filled with wonder and ready to conquer the world.

And you can probably guess what’s coming next.

The rose-tinted lens through which I saw life began to lose its sheen. Nothing seemed to be happening for me anymore.

I didn’t feel as special as I used to, my family was falling apart, and I was lagging behind at school.

The new recurring theme of disappointment in my life made me consider if perhaps I was born just to be a film extra – a calefare, a nobody – in the grand scheme of things. Maybe I just wasn’t main-character material.

Yet in my heart, I knew that it wasn’t so. There was a gulf that had to be bridged – one within my very conscience. How could I possibly feel like a nobody and a somebody at the same time?

“You’re nobody till somebody loves you
You’re nobody till somebody cares”

(Russ Morgan, Larry Stock, and James Cavanaugh)

These lines are from the famous pop song first published in 1946 and made popular by Dean Martin. It’s one of those things that sound like a truism. But is it?

If a child came up to me, crying, saying that he feels unloved, I probably wouldn’t tell him that there is a possibility he might be right, even if I felt that way about myself sometimes.

I would ask him about his parents, his friends and his family. And even if the evidence shows that that child is indeed unloved by all the people who should have loved him – we know in our hearts that he should be loved. 

Some of us would rather be convinced that we are not nobody, but isn’t there greater comfort in knowing that we’re loved by somebody?

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

God, the King of all Heaven and Earth, fought to be our somebody.

Regardless whether you believe in God, the fact remains: God loves you and so gave His life so that you may know His love for you.

And if there’s even just a smidgen of hope in your heart that you are not nobody, despite what circumstances might suggest, would you consider the possibility that it is because God – the greatest Somebody – first loved you? 

Even before your parents could, even before anyone else did, He loved you.

When someone says that “Jesus died on the cross for you”, it can sound quite jarring. I used to think that it was a bit uncalled for since I didn’t ask Him to die for me! But if Jesus didn’t die for us (John 3:16), we cannot say for certain that He loves us.

Would you consider the possibility that it is because God – the greatest Somebody – first loved you?

We are all valuable because God first loved us. And that is the firm foundation for our worth, one worthy to build our lives upon (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

What are the things that give you a sense of security in your worth as a person?

Is it a big loving family? A great group of friends (#squadgoals), a 10/10 spouse, or a promising career?

If there is even a chance – no matter how slight – that those things may fail you, then it is at best shifting-sand when compared to the security that God’s love promises us.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Knowledge of this Love frees us to persist in wonder, no matter what life throws at us.

You’re somebody because God loves you!

/ fiona@thir.st

Fiona is secretly hilarious. One of her dogs thinks so too. She loves a good chat with strangers, store assistants, and fluffy dogs.

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I’m way too bad at goodbyes

by | 9 October 2017, 4:20 PM

Sam Smith says he’s too good at goodbyes. Me too.

I used to pride myself on being the stronger person – that I’d be the one who would get over a relationship faster. I’m the one who feels less. I’m the one who loves less. I’ll get out before it’s over.

In the game of relationships, I had to be the better player.

But in the pursuit of proving myself, I forgot to ask: Even if I win, what’s the prize? So I found out the hard way, one day, when it was Game Over and I didn’t get to say goodbye first.

Player 1 left, and I was left hanging.

Everything people said about breakups was true. There’s nothing more maddening than to have clichés come true in your own life. I finally understood why people use the term “heart-wrenching” – it felt that way.

Even the air I breathed felt thinned out – it was suffocating, and I didn’t know if I could ever recover as all the lights in my world started to dim.

I wanted time to stop. I wanted everyone else to stop what they were doing. How could life go on like that?

But on the outside, I tried my best to function. I smiled, I ate, and I worked. But with my bedroom door closed, in the very room where I heard him say goodbye, I could barely manage to stand.

For days, I laid on the floor in my room because I couldn’t do anything else. I don’t think I’d ever felt this much pain in my life. I was angry and I was mad. But I knew I had to stay alive.

So I ran to a quiet room – to meet with God. It sounds like a cliché, doesn’t it – “Yeah, go to God.” But it was the only thing I knew could save me from the overwhelming grief that threatened to swallow me up.

I sat there with a box of tissues. I didn’t ask for answers, I didn’t even ask why it had to happen. I simply asked for His presence.

God didn’t show up like a genie, because my pain didn’t go away immediately. He didn’t come in a rushing wind, or in any dramatic fashion, and my heart was still in pieces.

But in my brokenness, I saw my desperate need for God. God was my lifeline and I refused to let go.

You will cry a lot, but don’t let go.

My road out of the confusing fog of pain was a long one, and it wasn’t always clear if I really was walking out of it. But I was thankful for the drab routines. It was in the winding journey of showing up for work and my small conversations with strangers that life began to form again in the shell of a person I had become.

Everything in me screamed for isolation, but God knew that I needed people. So at my new workplace, without even mentioning my newly-broken heart, I began to experience healing – just by being in the company of people.

In the months ahead, I learnt to laugh again. And I learnt to feel. The raw and fierce pain wrapped up in my heart helped me to empathise with others who are also hurting, others who are also in pits of despair of their own.

In the messy aftermath of aborted relationships, failure and regrets are never far away. But I now know that grace and mercy are also never far away.

There are days when I felt like I’ve moved on, and then other days when out of nowhere, my old friend grief comes by and reminds me of the things I don’t need. Don’t you wish for complete closure? Don’t you want more answers? You’re a failure!

When anxiety wants to take over and replay the unpleasant memories, I’ve learnt that the only way out of it to refuse going down that path.

Unlike Sam Smith, I don’t think I need to be good at it, but I have to say goodbye.

Heartache is always just one ingredient in the nasty concoction of lost love. In the messy aftermath of aborted relationships, failure and regrets are never far away.

And from my own experience, I know that grace and mercy are also never far away. It came in the form of work that kept me occupied. It came in the quiet knowing that I’m going be okay. It came in my resolve to want to be okay. It came in God’s outstretched arm to me.

I don’t know how He did it, but God used every bit of my pain to bring me closer to Him. It wasn’t wasted. I could have easily gone the other way – further away from Him and deeper into the grave of self-pity – but I’m grateful that He saved me from that.

The girl who wanted to be good at goodbyes was simply afraid of being unloved. I used to believe that I wasn’t worthy of love because I’m not pretty enough. I believed that who I am wasn’t enough. I believed that I had to carry my family baggage of divorce forever. 

I wanted to be proven wrong – to find someone who would never leave. I had to learn that that’s a job only God can do. He alone can love us perfectly and give us worth.

When everything fell to the ground, I was destroyed. But bit by bit, over 6 months, God spoke His truth into me. He relaid my foundation when He told me that I am loved by Him, no matter what happened in the past.

He got me to rethink the notion that I had to carry my family baggage forever, because it just wasn’t true. So I surrendered it and finally accepted the new life that He gives, and left the old one behind – for good.

So … I don’t have to be good at goodbyes anymore.

And neither do you. If you’re going through a similar experience – you’ll be okay, because God loves you, and His love is a dependable one (Romans 8:38-39). If you doubt that God loves you, ask Him to show it to you. Let God– not another woman or man – prove it to you.

/ fiona@thir.st

Fiona is secretly hilarious. One of her dogs thinks so too. She loves a good chat with strangers, store assistants, and fluffy dogs.

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I’m an introvert, but I won’t let that be my excuse

by | 9 October 2017, 4:17 PM

I’m a claustrophobic introvert and it’s pretty obvious.

Me-time is my favourite time of the day. It’s when I just lie on my bed and read, or watch some YouTube videos. Just me and myself.

Needless to say, the days I dread most are the days when I have gatherings or events to head to. People. Humans. They drain the life out of me.

My closest friends know this: I hate socialising and meeting new people.

For instance, I was on my way to a church retreat after work one evening, when the sudden thought of having to interact with many strangers scared me. I made a U-turn and headed home instead.

I love solitude and silence. Left to my own devices, I would just stay at home forever — and I know I’m not the only one.

THE FRIEND WHO GOT AWAY

I got to know Janice (not her real name) in JC. We quickly became close friends because we were so similar. Janice was easily exhausted from being surrounded by people and overwhelmed by the tasks she had to do.

She began skipping classes once a week. Then it became twice a week. Eventually she was just never in school.

She kept retreating to her safe space and comfort zone.

I love solitude and silence. Left to my own devices, I would just stay at home forever — and I know I’m not the only one.

It became increasingly frustrating for us as her friends because we were constantly trying to track her down. We had to call her at home every morning to get her to come to school, and every night to make sure she got her homework done.

There was Project Work to do, and there were SYF selections coming up. But Janice just stopped showing up.

She ended up repeating JC1, but eventually her escapism got the better of her and she dropped out of school altogether.

No one from my circle of friends in JC has managed to get into contact with Janice since.

THE INTROVERT’S ESCAPE

I totally understand the motivation behind Janice’s tendency to run from everything.

My current workplace has an “open desk” concept. That means there aren’t any cubicles or partition. Also, the office is basically housed in a renovated storeroom, so there isn’t exactly a lot of space.

I’m sandwiched between people and our team isn’t exactly the quietest and tidiest one around. It’s an introvert’s worst nightmare.

So when the option to work offsite came up, I jumped at it immediately. It felt like cold water for a thirsty man.

I was more productive at home. It was tidy, quiet and spacious. I got more things done and I saved time on commuting and lunch breaks. It was a win-win situation.

I rationalised my decision with the cold, hard statistics I could see tangibly. I mean, being in my comfort zone helps me!

Until I realised that it was becoming poison for my heart. On the days when I had to come into the office, I was filled with dread and frustration. I couldn’t wait for the day to be over so I could quickly get home to my safe place.

Work became merely a routine of tasks I had to complete. I didn’t know what was going on in my colleagues’ lives and how they were doing. Constantly retreating to my comfort zone, I switched off my interpersonal skills completely.

But it wasn’t supposed to be like that. Whatever happened to team spirit? Whatever happened to being there for one another? What happened to relationship building?

WHY I SHOW UP

Eventually I decided that I would show up in the office every single day. Even on our stipulated offsite days.

If I continued to stay in my comfort zone, where was the reliance on God? Where’s the room for God to move in unthinkable ways? Where’s the trust in God?

It would be so easy to live my life the way my personality would otherwise dictate. But I can’t let my introversion be my excuse that keeps me from living life to the fullest.

I still don’t go to gatherings as often as my friends would want me to, but I try. It’s difficult, but I ask God for help. For strength. For patience. For endurance. For joy. I ask Him to expand my perspective, that even in overly-social functions I can find meaning and purpose over sheer reluctance.

It would be so easy to live my life the way my personality would otherwise dictate. But I can’t let my introversion be my excuse that keeps me from living life to the fullest.

Maybe I’ll bless someone with my presence. Or maybe, I’ll be blessed by something someone will say to me.

I choose to show up. Not because I am obligated to. I know that doing things out of a spirit of obligation will eventually burn me out. But I see the greater picture: Christians can’t be light in a dark world without showing up. I cannot be a light in the world by hiding at home (Matthew 5:14).

Jesus first showed up for me.

This is why I choose to lay my introversion down at the altar. This is why I show up.

/ christina@thir.st

Christina is a designer and a writer. She is an INFJ who loves matcha, beautiful typography, good books and sad music. She also dreams of raising her own pet penguin one day.

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You’re 50 shades of blue, what can I do?

by Shiyun Yong | 8 October 2017, 11:59 PM

In 2009, I visited a friend in hospital for the “blues”. I was 17 years old and stood at the door clutching a bunch of flowers, not quite comprehending what had just happened.

In 2015, I lost a friend to the blues. He was smart, young, talented – I stood at the door of the casket hall hugging myself, again, not really understanding what I had just lost and would soon continue to lose.

In 2016, a month before the first death anniversary of that friend, I lost another friend to similar circumstances. This time there was no door to stand by, or lean on for support.

This year, I’ve walked alongside a few close friends struggling with the blues. We’ve walked from doctors’ offices to counselling rooms and back again, but thankfully, by God’s grace and deliverance, today the darkness seems further away.

The “blues” is a term I personally use to describe all the various challenges people have with mental health and wellness. In the short time I’ve had my encounters with the “blues”, I learnt quickly that the terms “mental illness”, “depression”, “anxiety” or even “mental health” trigger many different reactions and emotions from people, often a reflection of existing stigma and prejudice towards the topic of mental health.

So here are a few things I’d like to share from what I’ve learnt on the journey.

4 THINGS I’VE LEARNT ABOUT THE BLUES

1. They cannot be “snapped out of” or “just moved on from”

All you need to do is just suck it up and move on. I’m quite sure these words are familiar to you. Perhaps you’ve heard a parent say it when you’ve tried to tell them about a friend who has depression. Maybe your supervisor at work made a similar comment when you tried to point out that a colleague seems to be particularly blue.

Till I had the chance to walk with someone with the blues, I too, once believed that it was something you could will yourself to move on from. Mind over matter right?

Not quite.

According to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), based on a study conducted in 2010, 1 in 17 people in Singapore will be diagnosed with clinical depression at some part of their lives. While no new study has been undertaken since then, IMH estimates that there’s been a steady increase in the percentage of people being diagnosed with clinical depression – an annual 7 percent increase.

In fact, the lack of statistics around this topic speaks volumes about the existing stigma and gaps of understanding about mental health.

2. Mental health is a Pantone palette, not a single colour

Perhaps the first thing to leave behind when you encounter someone with the blues is to acknowledge that there is nothing that you know about the blues. Especially if you’re blessed to have never experienced it yourself. This was an early lesson I learnt.

Leaving behind your perceptions and knowledge about the topic allows you to connect with someone with an open heart and mind. It allows you to learn, to be a friend, an ally – the person they need at this time of their lives. It puts you in the right posture to serve, to hear and to do for them as God asks of you.

In the face of the blues, patience, love and openness is what you’re called to.

They’re not here to hear you extol the glorious clear-headed days you have, nor hear you dole out well-meaning but often ill-fitting advice. It’s not your fault you don’t know better; it’s also not your fault that you’re feeling helpless and inadequate in light of this.

But it would be careless to think that one case of the blues is equivalent to the other, or that there is an immediate answer to the situation. Take the time to appreciate the situation and the person, to acknowledge what you do or do not know, and simply take the chance to learn and be present for the journey.

Surely we know for all His purposes, one day the answers to all your questions will be clear. But in the face of the blues, patience, love and openness is what you’re called to.

3. Jesus is the answer – but don’t just say it, show it

The theological aspect of mental health and wellness can seem like a bit of a dark abyss itself – fixations with definitions, principles and maybe often too many good intentions and not enough love in action.

While there is no doubt in my mind that God can heal and deliver in any and every situation, the little I’ve learnt is that sometimes a reassuring hug or sitting with someone in companionable silence can do as much good as a reminder to pray or a Bible verse.

Sometimes as Christians, we are keen to solve a problem, eager to see someone step into the light, to conquer evil and receive deliverance. We want to see lives transformed. Yet for all our pure intentions, we often don’t recognise our role in the situation, which is that of an instrument rather than the musician.

The dictionary definition of an instrument is a tool that is used to do careful work for a particular purpose. To be an instrument is to accept that you do not know the final outcome, perhaps you don’t even know the next note that will be played, but there is submission and acknowledgement that God is in control.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

Knowing our role as an instrument is so important because it helps us to keep ourselves in check too. We avoid ‘preaching’ and do a little more listening and caring. We stop trying to control the situation or the person. It’s also important because we don’t take on more responsibility than we should. Sometimes, despite our best efforts and intentions, the outcomes may not be as you hope for.

4. If all else fails, just be kind – especially to yourself

When I did a quick straw poll among friends about their perspective on mental health and wellness, most of them said – just as the dated statistics did – that they didn’t know much about it and don’t feel people talk about it at all. They felt a bit helpless about the topic and tongue-tied around those who do have a case of the blues.

If there’s anything I’ve learnt, it’s that kindness is a core ingredient in the face of the deep blue unknown. It sounds like a horribly cliched and obvious, but it is in dire need of practice.

Being kind to yourself is probably the best investment you can make – it not only helps you to build empathy, but it also empowers you to share that kindness.

Being kind is not just an act onto others; it is also an act you need to practice with yourself as well. You’ll be surprised how unkind you are to yourself on a daily basis. This was something that struck me each time I sat with a friend who was walking through the blues – the kind of things they would say of themselves, there was so much unkindness.

I learnt that being kind to yourself is probably the best investment you can make – it not only helps you to build empathy, but it also empowers you to share that kindness with others.

Being kind is also an uncomplicated reaction to the blues. It’s not about grand gestures of service or some elaborate strategy to show support. If you’re feeling helpless, awkward, frustrated or just stressed out by someone with the blues, kindness is probably your best friend.

Through it all, this is what I’ve learnt about kindness:

Kindness is as small as an acknowledgement of the blues someone is facing and your confession of not knowing quite what to do to help.

Kindness is sitting in silence and listening.

Kindness is having the courage to ask if someone is feeling okay and what can you do to help.

Kindness is about conversations with no set positive outcome, a process to allow someone to talk and allow someone to receive and to learn.

Kindness is self-control and consciousness of language, of what we say and to whom we say it.

Kindness is about casting an eye out for one another, whether via a text or a cup of coffee.

Kindness is small, consistent demonstrations of love, an attempt to shine a light into the darkness – no matter how small it may be or how much it flickers.

It’s your best ally against the blues, both for you and for them.

“The light shines in the darkness, the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)


The month of October is Mental Health Awareness Month. Shiyun is involved in Campus PSY, an initiative started by a group of youth volunteers from IMH to raise awareness on mental health issues and to rally like-minded young adults in tertiary institutions towards the development of a more supportive and inclusive society. For those interested to help advocate for mental health awareness, please visit their Facebook page

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