Writing in last week’s Guardian, Clare Allen, who has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, says this:

‘Diagnoses of mental health problems feel personal in a way that physical health problems don’t…a personality disorder is precisely that, a disordered personality; the problem is not an illness, the problem is you.’

Names are important.  They not only describe, but circumscribe.  They explain, but they also imprison.  When we label others, we ‘re often making value judgements not just about them, but ourselves.  As Allen notes, a ‘personality disorder’  is a diagnosis with the potential to change more than just your medication.  Yet what’s the alternative? Without designations, the world remains a mystery.  In naming, we colonise and inhabit our universe. We capture part of what it is to be not only human, but made in the image of God. We start to understand the nature of life itself.

So how can we relate to others as they really are?  Without classifying, limiting or retreating behind easy categories?  Perhaps it is in recognising that what we share is much greater than our differences.

We all have personality disorders.  And the problem is with ‘us’. Not ‘us’ the ‘mentally unstable’, but ‘us’ as humans.

The one work  Adam performed in his unfallen state was the work of naming.  Since the fall, we have continued to name.  But we get it wrong and we cause a lot of damage.  Yet Christ came as the second Adam, to rename us (Revelation 2:17).  Therefore we are not our diagnoses.  We are not our personality types.  But neither are we self-made.  And nor are we unknown and unknowable.  Christ  has the measure of us. His name for us is our true identity.  And to be known by Him is true freedom.

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