ADHD can make it tough to be a Christian. Two major components of a typical worship service are the sermon and the prayers. Participation in either takes major concentration. Most of the Christians with ADD with whom I have talked feel guilty about how little they participate in traditional worship. Many have abandoned the regular practice of their faith, not because of disbelief, but because of a sense of being ‘out of place’ in a worship service.
Before I was diagnosed with ADHD, I thought that some patterns in my life represented sinfulness, and they caused a perpetual sense of shame in my life. Christians are called to be patient, and I am often impulsive. We are called to pray and read the Scriptures, and I almost always have trouble focusing on God. We are called to think of others and I am often self-centered. Christians are instructed to live in communities and love each other, but I am not very good at the friendship, intimacy and commitment that requires.
But something remarkable happened when I began medication for ADHD. My patience improved, my prayer life got better and I could listen to sermons and remember them later in the week. I found myself more able to think about others and able to act in their interest with less regard for myself. It was hard to understand and characterize what was going on. Had a pill actually improved my morality, my spirituality?
C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, wrote about the difference between mental health and morality. A person’s morality has to do with the efforts made to do what is right. While mental health problems may hinder those efforts, God knows how much ability we possess to be good and expects us to exercise improvement beginning with what we are given. Improved mental health is simply more “raw material” available to do what is right. In other words, someone who is born with very little patience and who displays “all of it” is probably more morally advanced than someone who is born with much patience and exercises only some of it. (Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity, p. 71, 1943, Scribner)
So there is no morality in a pill. Medications only give us a stronger foundation upon which to base our efforts to become better people—IF being better people is what we were seeking even before the pills came along. I suppose they will give you a stronger foundation upon which to become more cruel or dishonest, if that is what you hope for, too.This piece is an excerpt from “Reaching for a New Potential: A Life Guide for Adults with ADD from a Fellow Traveler” by Oren Mason, M.D. Later this week, Oren will share how his faith brought healing to his ADHD. Oren Mason, M.D. is a father, husband, ADD patient, and physician at Attention MD. He wrote “Reaching for a New Potential” in 2009 after being diagnosed with adult ADD. He hopes this book can serve as a source of encouragement and hope for those traveling a similar path.