Practical Thoughts on Faith & ADHD

The following is the final piece in a 3 part series on faith & ADHD by Oren Mason, M.D. Read part 1 and 2 at these links: “How Treating ADHD Helped Heal My Faith” and “How My Faith Brought Healing to My ADHD

If you are disillusioned regarding spiritual matters, ADHD treatment might give you a new opportunity to re-experience your faith. Disillusionment may represent frustration over how ADHD degraded the practice of your faith. Maybe you are a discouraged believer, not an unbeliever. If you have left a church or the practice of a faith because you did not “fit in”, that might not mean you have lost your faith. Maybe it means that you feel left out or disconnected.

Consider that some changes may help you find a more “ADHD-friendly” worship experience. Several years ago, my family began attending a non-traditional church. It is multi-racial, located in a struggling inner-city neighborhood. There are many mixed-race couples in the church along with residents from a drug-rehab house, college students, immigrant families, suburban families and everybody else in between.

Nobody is “normal”, so anybody and everybody fits in. The music is lively and varied, the sermons are brief and thought-provoking, and the worship sequence changes every week, so that it is not predictable. This novelty factor is tremendously helpful for me, and, I suspect, would be for most people with ADHD.

Forgiveness is a central theme in most religions, and I believe it should be a central theme in our healing as well. We blame ourselves constantly; life is better when we learn to forgive ourselves. We blame others quickly; we need to learn to forgive them more easily. The practice of communion has been a wonderful part of my faith. The message of the service is: “God forgives you, so follow his example by forgiving yourself and others.” It’s been revolutionary for me.

To everyone who does believe in God, even if it only seems a tiny and inconsequential part of you, I encourage you to return to your roots and re-examine your spirituality. Life is hard, even after ADHD is well-treated. By the time he was nine, my son, Ben (who also has ADHD), could already tell you how harsh this world can be, and how much we need an anchor.

Anchors are pretty small things compared to the boats they secure. The question is not how big our anchors are. The question is rather how solid is the rock to which they are affixed.

“May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace. Amen” 

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.

Oren Mason IMGOren Mason, M.D. is a father, husband, ADHD patient, and physician at Attention MD. He wrote “Reaching for a New Potential” in 2009 after being diagnosed with adult ADHD. He hopes this book can serve as a source of encouragement and hope for those traveling a similar path. 

How My Faith Brought Healing to My ADHD

The following is part 2 in a 3 part series on faith & ADHD. To read part 1, “How Treating ADHD Helped Heal My Faith” click this link

There are several themes in my Christian faith that have been especially helpful to me in dealing with ADHD (even during the 40 years before I knew I had it). Christianity begins with the notion that God has high standards for how we should live, and that we have all failed his expectations. It’s called “sin” in theological circles.

Some of us have pretty high defenses and hate to admit we’re ever wrong, but in honest moments, most people with ADHD feel right at home with the notion that we are error-prone and fall short of what we should be.The real magic of the Christian faith for me begins with the notion that God still loves me, despite my failures. This is where the healing effect of my faith on my ADHD really begins.

Self-esteem is a tough issue for most everyone with ADHD. Many of us are social misfits. Even those of us that are the “life of the party” find that there is a limit to how much of our levity other people want in their lives. Many are divorced—literally rejected by people who once promised they would love us until we died. The sense of loneliness that is so common for people with ADHD arises from the failure to maintain close relationships over the years.

There is little I find more affirming than to be desired. It is an antidote to the expectation of rejection experienced by many of us with ADHD. I am fortunate to have had parents who did a great job of instilling a healthy sense of self-worth in me from an early age, so I’ve suffered less than others. The basis of their attitude was their firm belief that God made me uniquely for His own purpose. Despite my flaws, they always helped me feel I was someone special—not just special to them, but special to God as well.

Now, think what it would be like if your favorite current or recent president knew you by name. Imagine you’re at a political gathering, and he spots you in the crowd of a thousand people and waves you to come over. He smiles broadly and introduces you to the other dignitaries.

Hey, everybody, I want you to meet [insert your name] from [insert your hometown], one of my favorite friends. I’m so glad you’re here. This really makes my day.

It’s hard to imagine just how good that would feel.

But this isn’t merely the president we’re talking about; this is the God of the universe, the One who is so powerful that He knows seven billion people by name and cares immensely for each one. I grew up hearing that He knew my name and smiled when He thought of me. Imagine what it does for me to think that God is happy to see me. He could be done with me. My behavior is not up to His standards. I’m not His type. However, for reasons that must have more to do with love than fairness, He wants me to come home in the end and live with Him forever.

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.

Oren Mason IMGOren Mason, M.D. is a father, husband, ADHD patient, and physician at Attention MD. He wrote “Reaching for a New Potential” in 2009 after being diagnosed with adult ADHD. He hopes this book can serve as a source of encouragement and hope for those traveling a similar path. 

Include Others – Jesus Did

Inclusiveness is a popular word with CLC Network and in our affiliated schools.  It is such an important part of what we do and what we stand for. What do we mean by the word “inclusiveness”? In its simplest terms it means nobody gets left out, or in more positive terms, everyone is included.

All Kids IncludedAs Christian parents, we very consciously teach our children certain truths and standards that we expect them to live by, right now and as they mature into adults. We directly teach them to tell the truth, not to steal, to show honor to God and to others, and so much more. But, do we really teach them directly about including others? Probably not as much as we should.  And our society is rife with examples of exclusion. Consider how poorly-integrated most of our cities are. Look at the disparity that exists between the rich and poor, and how little the two interact. Or, there is the social gap that exists between the well-educated and those with little education.  The examples of exclusion are countless and can even be seen in our churches, of all places.

Jesus gave us the perfect example of inclusivity.  Jesus never excluded anyone. In fact, he went out of his way to include the very ones that were excluded by most of society. He was frequently accused of hanging with the wrong people. He makes it very clear to us that we, as his followers, are always to keep his example, and that by ignoring or rejecting those we consider “below” us, we are rejecting him. “Insomuch as you have done it unto the least of these, my brothers, you have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

So how do we help our children learn this important life lesson? First of all, we should lead by example. Think about who you invite to join you at your family dinner table. How is your family involved with minority families? How inclusive is your church? You can also help children overlook perceived differences in others by the language you use. Remind your children that although we are all different, we are much more alike. Help them to look past the “flaws” in others and recognize the hidden gifts others possess. Remind them that we are all made in God’s image.

You can probably already identify those children who are not fully accepted in your child’s class. Help your child to understand why they are not and together try to discover the strengths these children do have. Discuss with your child how it feels to be left out. Encourage your child to ask these children over for playtime or for dinner or, include one of these children in a family outing.

Many of our network schools form what we call “Circles of Friends” for children with unique learning needs or those who may have trouble adapting to the classroom. Children who participate in such circles find that the experience can be life changing.  This is not an exaggeration; I know many of these children who, as adults today, are working in a field related to that experience.  If you would like to help your child’s school learn more about how to create and run these circles, check out the “Circle of Friends” manual.

Greg Yoder photoGreg Yoder graduated from Calvin College with a BA in education in 1972 and has since attained a masters in special education from Michigan State University with an endorsement in learning disabilities from Grand Valley State University. He has been an employee of CLC Network since 1981 working as a special ed teacher and as a teacher consultant.