Why Pastors Hide Their Depression

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I’ve had a lot of conversations this week with the release of the book. They have been online, telephone, email, wherever. The contacts have been from pastors, teachers, spouses, friends from college, and pretty much across the board. I’ll comment on some of those at another time.

One theme that resonates through so many of the conversations is that pastors don’t want to reveal that they are depressed. This is also true generally, and especially in other service fields. But it seems particularly true with pastors. They mask their illness.

I know I did. I worked my tail off to put on a happy face, a “game face” with my congregation and family. It took incredible amounts of energy, and really made things worse.

But if possible what is even sadder than our self-inflicted super-pastor mindset, is that we are afraid of reprisals. I am afraid that I might lose my job, be kicked out of my congregation, that my district president won’t support me. So the very people who can and should and generally would try to help, are the ones who are kept in the dark.

Why? Why do we hide? And what will happen if we reveal to our families (Who probably already know), our congregation, and our brother pastors what is going on?

-DMR
aka Todd Peperkorn

9 thoughts on “Why Pastors Hide Their Depression”

  1. After 19 years in the Ministry, Pastors are not phobic. They hide it from their brothers, parish, and DPs because they will be removed, shunned, and harried. Sometimes it is necessarily because of their illness, nevertheless, it is not irrational when you see others receive the coup de grace to hide your weakness. Until the leaders on the Synodical, District and Circuit level show that they will minister to the weak rather than dismiss them I would never counsel full disclosure to Circuit, District or Synod.

  2. After 19 years in the Ministry, Pastors are not phobic. They hide it from their brothers, parish, and DPs because they will be removed, shunned, and harried. Sometimes it is necessarily because of their illness, nevertheless, it is not irrational when you see others receive the coup de grace to hide your weakness. Until the leaders on the Synodical, District and Circuit level show that they will minister to the weak rather than dismiss them I would never counsel full disclosure to Circuit, District or Synod.

  3. You said that we fear reprisals. Many of us know that there are congregations and/or DPs who look for any excuse to be rid of a pastor. So pastors have to keep on pretending to function so that they are not charged with malfeasance of office. But you're right — it probably does make things worse.

    You are in a congregation where the people had been taught the Gospel. If the people believe in mercy and undeserved kindness and God's grace to them when they are downtrodden, they will respond to Pastor's illness with mercy and kindness. But because our Old Adam believes in the law, and because some congregations have a more law-oriented history, and because synod itself tends toward programs that "measure success," we have reason to wonder whether those around us will respond to illness with mercy or "Just buck up, will ya?"

  4. You said that we fear reprisals. Many of us know that there are congregations and/or DPs who look for any excuse to be rid of a pastor. So pastors have to keep on pretending to function so that they are not charged with malfeasance of office. But you're right — it probably does make things worse.

    You are in a congregation where the people had been taught the Gospel. If the people believe in mercy and undeserved kindness and God's grace to them when they are downtrodden, they will respond to Pastor's illness with mercy and kindness. But because our Old Adam believes in the law, and because some congregations have a more law-oriented history, and because synod itself tends toward programs that "measure success," we have reason to wonder whether those around us will respond to illness with mercy or "Just buck up, will ya?"

  5. Thanks for writing this book. I have just downloaded it, and I look forward to reading it. This is an ongoing struggle in my own life. I thought I had it beat at one time, but over the past few months it has reared its ugly head again. It scares me to think of where it might lead. I am very grateful that you are willing to share your journey with us.

  6. Thanks for writing this book. I have just downloaded it, and I look forward to reading it. This is an ongoing struggle in my own life. I thought I had it beat at one time, but over the past few months it has reared its ugly head again. It scares me to think of where it might lead. I am very grateful that you are willing to share your journey with us.

  7. Reason 2: It’s about protecting other people.

    Depression is a great burden. It is something that people who experience it would not wish on anyone. By sharing this burden with others, it feels like you are also inflicting your situation on other people. In many ways you are. People have their own problems to deal with and the last thing they need is to worry about you too. I don’t know if it is worse to keep someone in the dark about what you are going through so they have to guess what’s wrong or forcing them to endure your sharing of what you are going through… which can be more than what they can deal with. It can go badly either way.

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