The Treasure of a Secret

"Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead."
-Benjamin Franklin
As a general rule, I don't trust people. This doesn't mean that I think everything everyone says is a lie, or even that almost everything everyone says is a lie, although I should probably discuss that in a future post. What this means is that I really don't tell people secrets. Any secrets. I am rather open about myself in general, because I don't have many secrets. But those few secrets I have are treasures that I guard. Not because I don't want you to know, of course. I'd be perfectly fine if you found out. Except that I don't trust you. Which means that I can't tell you. Sorry. In this post, I'll explain in further detail why I don't believe that people are trustworthy, and what could be done to change this.

To start off, I should make a clarification. As a general rule, I don't trust people. But, this is just a generality. That is to say, there are exceptions. Those exceptions are based off of what I know of the people, and how much I find out indirectly from other people. No, this doesn't mean that I gossip about them. This means that I talk to them. Imagine that I am talking to friend Alfred about topic Applesauce. We're having a friendly conversation that doesn't involve any real secrets. Sometime later, friend Bertha comes along and says, "You really think [insert opinion here] about Applesauce?" Now, this isn't a particularly big deal. After all, there were no secrets involved. But it does make me uncomfortable. Why? Because this means that Albert was talking to Bertha about me while I wasn't there. Were they just talking about Applesauce and my name came up? It's possible. In fact, it's likely. But my name was mentioned, rather than, "I have a friend who thinks [insert opinion here]." Which means there are a few possibilities. One is that more about me came up when my name was mentioned. Unlikely, but possible. But another possibility, far more likely, is that I was misrepresented. Albert spoke what my opinion was, but he spoke it from his own viewpoint. If he thought my opinion was stupid, he would have made me sound stupid for believing it while he was talking about the subject. If, on the other hand, he thought that my opinion was intelligent, he would have made me to seem intelligent. He may have even quoted- or misquoted- something that I said in our conversation. Even if he went back to find the conversation to be sure that he got the right words, he was taking it out of context, though the context may have seemed unimportant.

For these reasons, I don't like it when one person learns things about me from any person besides myself. I am guaranteed to be misrepresented, even if only slightly. Words may be twisted, phrases changed, and ideas called into question. Even in a situation where I am represented relatively well, I am still subject to Bertha's interpretation of Albert's interpretation of me. Kind of like the game Telephone. The first person whispers a phrase in the second person's ear. The second person repeats the same phrase to person three. It goes all the way around the circle until the last person says aloud what phrase they heard. The first person speaks the original phrase as well. The two phrases are typically very different. Interpretation upon interpretation upon interpretation. When this happens with people, I worry about what impression people are getting of me.

But, like I said before, it's not really a big deal. There was nothing secret involved, and I'm sure that nothing happened that would scar Bertha's opinion of me. It's a bit uncomfortable, but that's all. The real reason that any of this matters is because it tells me something about Albert. It tells me that he is quick to give away information. He gave my name, or enough information to tell that it was me, rather than just saying "I have a friend." It could be that Bertha asked, of course, which means that one scenario isn't going to tell me anything. But what if this happens over and over again? If, consistently, people come to me saying, "Albert told me [insert statement here]," then I know something about Albert. It doesn't mean that I hate him or that he's not my friend, of course. Odds are that if I talk to him all that much, I actually enjoy his company. What it means is that I'm not going to be able to talk to him about secrets. Not because he would intentionally give it away, but because he's used to giving away information by habit.

If I talk to someone and seem to trust them so far, I may tell them about something that needs to be kept quiet. Something that isn't really a secret, but that I still don't want spread around. At this point, mutual friends will begin defending the secret-keeping abilities of their friends. But in my eyes, this does more harm than good. "I'm sure Andrew just let it slip. It wasn't intentional." "Beth and Caroline are best friends, so she had to tell her because she tells her everything, but don't worry, she's trustworthy." Everybody seems trustworthy to somebody. But I don't know Caroline, and Andrew's job is to not let it slip. There's a saying that I heard when I was competing in Speech&Debate. "How you practice is how you perform." If something is to be kept quiet, that doesn't mean that you can tell people but can't shout it from the rooftops. If everybody only tells one person, eventually everybody will know. It's to be kept quiet, meaning, I don't want people talking about it, but I thought that you should know. So Andrew let it slip, showing that, although I'm sure he had the best of intentions and will still be my friend, I apparently can't trust him with a secret. And Beth told Caroline, who I either don't know, or didn't trust enough to tell in the first place. Either way, she shouldn't be told. But I now know that anything Beth hears, Caroline hears. Do I trust Caroline? If I had, I would have told her myself or told Beth that she could tell Caroline. In some situations, this type of thing is understandable. For example, with a married couple, it would be expected that they not keep secrets from eachother. But even then, when telling someone something, they need to take into account if they trust both their friend and their friend's spouse.

This is why I don't trust people. In each case, you have to decide if you trust not only the person's intentions, but also their ability to keep it from slipping, their ability to keep secret the fact that they have a secret in the first place, as well as their willingness to tell the people that they trust, and their willingness to trust people at all. Each of these factors, at the minimum, must be weighed before trusting someone. When these factors aren't taken into account, secrets are lost.
"What happened down in the dungeons ... is a complete secret, so, naturally, the whole school knows."
-Dumbldore (by J.K. Rowling)
Even among those with good intentions, all it takes is for one person to slip. Even if Dilbert needs to be told, it's best that I tell him in my way, rather than that he hear in a biased way. And if Dilbert doesn't need to be told, it's best that he not know. As a society, we must treat information as a treasure. At times, it makes sense to give out information. Not everything is a secret. But we've grown accustomed to giving out information when it isn't needed- specifically, information about other people. While it often isn't too much of an issue, it forms habits that are hard to break. These habits escalate without our realization, and form unintentional gossip. In order to break the habit, we must view secrets as the treasure that they really are. Even though your bestie may be trustworthy, you're not giving her a piece of your own treasure, you're giving her someone else's treasure.
"Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none."
-William Shakespeare

On Introverts and Extroverts

"In an extroverted society, the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that an introvert is often unconsciously deemed guilty until proven innocent."
-Criss Jami
A topic that comes up often in today's society is that of introverts and extroverts. While this is discussed often, I get the sense that people still don't what understand what the differences are. Each term has been given a stereotype, similar to ADD, dyslexia, and OCD. People look at one very broad generalization of whatever it may be, and use it as another label. "People with ADD are hyper and easily distracted." "People with dyslexia have trouble reading." "People with OCD need everything to be organized just right." While the stereotypes are there for a reason, they are still just stereotypes, and don't show a true understanding of the issue. I have ADD, and while the label is true in a sense, it isn't entirely accurate. So today, we'll be looking at the labels of introverts and extroverts, and what it is that they're saying. Again, remember that the mind is a complex topic. I don't have a degree in psychology or anything like that. This is based off of logic and what I know of the subject.

The labels themselves are rather simple. Extroverts are outgoing, while introverts are more reserved. However, depending on who you talk to, one side or another may seem to be a bit... bedazzled. For example, in our internet culture, introversion has been glorified. Extroverts are often seen as, or at least portrayed as, intrusive and obnoxious. On the other hand, extroversion is promoted by extroverts just as much. Introverts are seen as reclusive, unable to emerge from their holes to talk to anyone. In a way, we have drawn up battle lines and are prepared to go to war to defend our ways of life.
The extroverts seek to preserve true human contact. To get us out of our shells so we can interact with real human beings instead of simply staring at a screen. The extroverts understand that humans are social creatures, and that we need eachother in order to live.
On the other hand, introverts understand that life isn't all fun and games. It's important to slow down and think things through. Humans need time to rest, to think, to learn. In order to develop our minds, we must learn to use them properly. We can't be dependent on other people, because sometimes, other people won't be around. We need to be able to take care of ourselves.
Considering the fact that I'm writing a blog, online, called Overthinking Nerdiness, I think it's fairly obvious which category I fall into. And indeed, I can bash extroverts with the best of them. Those slow-witted party goers never know what hit them. ...Or do they?

This is where our understanding of the topic tends to end. We think through our own side, without regard to the people on the other side. Fortunately, our society hasn't broken out into war over extroversion and introversion just yet. But I do see subconscious prejudice against one side or another. The tone in which one person will say, "Oh, he's an introvert." The condescension in the phrase, "He's very... outgoing." It has so infected the way we think that often, we don't even notice it. What we need to remember is that people are still people, and thus, a label is rarely, if ever, an effective method of description. In an effort to show this, I would like to go over what the difference is, when you look at the subtlety of the topic.

Introversion and extroversion have more to do with how a person feels than with how they act. How a person feels will certainly affect how they act, but in a less direct way, since a person can act against their feelings. Also keep in mind that the way things play out may not always be exactly like you'd expect. For example: as an introvert, I am not a naturally "popular" person. However, I do enjoy being on a stage. Performance is fun for me, and I like being the center of attention. This is not contradictory to my introverted nature, because I don't see a stage and an audience as being interactive. For me, a stage is perfectly comfortable. Even interactions upon a stage are merely a show, and therefore, nowhere near as draining as actual interactions. Because of this, I have, at times, been what some have referred to as "popular." I was in Drama Club in high school, and even played the part of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. As a result, I was fairly well known. I sang the part of Jean ValJean in a Les Miserables flashmob, and after singing John 3:16 in Greek at AWANA Camp, my little brother grew annoyed as people began referring to him as "Jared's brother." Indeed, I have had people come up to me as I was sitting alone and express wonder that I wasn't in a crowd of people, mentioning that they've never seen me not talking to someone, and can't imagine that I'm an introvert. But remember that introversion affects how I feel, not how I act. Performance may be in the spotlight, but since I don't register it as true interaction, it doesn't affect me in the same way.
Keep in mind as well that humans are indeed social creatures. I need human interaction just like anybody else, and I do get lonely. But for me, human interaction is draining. So rather than starting up a conversation with just anyone, I very rarely seek out interaction, and reserve those times for the few people that I believe will enjoy my company as much as I enjoy theirs. It will take energy, but it's worth it to spend that energy. When people approach me, I enjoy their company, as long as it's a real conversation rather than just small talk, and as long as it isn't a crowd that will take my energy quickly. Introverts will often sit by themselves not because they want to be alone, but because they want someone who, A, is worth spending energy on (i.e., very little small talk), and B, will enjoy their company. This means that an introvert will wait for you, because they would rather be lonely than spend energy on someone who doesn't want them around.

I am not an extrovert, and therefore, I have not experienced the ways in which the stereotypes are inaccurate. However, based on my extroverted friends, and based on what I know of the failures in the introverted stereotype, I can see areas where it would be problematic to make assumptions. For example, not all extroverts may be comfortable on a stage. And just like introverts need people, extroverts also need time to themselves. Extroverts may not mind small talk, but that doesn't mean that they don't need or care about deeper and more meaningful conversation.

I know extroverts who often act like introverts. I know introverts who often act like extroverts. What we need to keep in mind is that, while introvert and extrovert are parts of our personalities and help make us who we are, they don't control us. Introversion and extroversion are aspects of a person's personality, and nobody should be judged by that, even subconsciously, and even with a positive judgement. Those words are simply tools that we use to help us understand the nature of a fellow person. They are not a complete description, and each person has their own personality.
"There's a difference between preferring books to parties and preferring sixteen cats to seeing the light of day."
-Lauren Morrill

On the Correlation of Books and Movies

"An unread book does nobody any good. Stories happen in the mind of a reader, not among symbols printed on a page."
-Brandon Mull
When people think of art, the first thing that will come to mind will often be a painting. Then, perhaps, some type of sculpture. The types of things that are typically found in a museum, or even on the door of the fridge. But as I'm sure you know, there are many different types of art. Simply look up the definition in the dictionary, and the descriptions will go on and on. Art can include not only paintings and sculptures, but music, dancing, even public speaking. One very popular form of art is the art of storytelling. And in the art of storytelling, two forms rise to the top: books, and movies. Both forms are indeed types of art, and it takes great skill to properly construct either one. However, they are two different forms of art. Today, we will be exploring the differences between books and movies, and the stories that are told within. This will, of course, be focusing on works of fiction, though other styles of books and movies could be analyzed in a similar way.

Books and movies each have their own strengths and their own weaknesses, which must be taken into account when writing a story for that particular medium. To begin, we'll look at some of the strengths of movies. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I would heartily agree with the intention of this statement. When describing an image, it may take a thousand words to build the proper view in the listener's mind. But to show them the image directly will accomplish the same task with far greater accuracy and in far less time. Movies have a great advantage at their disposal, as they need not spend endless pages describing scenery that they can show instead with a single sweep of the camera. The viewer can see exactly what's going on. Another great advantage is the audibility of the characters, and indeed, the environment itself. We can hear the tones of the voices, the environment that the characters are in, and even music to help set the mood, making the entire scene more dramatic. If something bad is about to happen, haunting music may play, while sweet romantic music plays as two characters begin to fall in love over the course of a montage. The visual and audible aspects of a movie make it a very powerful method for storytelling.

However, books haven't been eliminated from the storytelling world yet, and for good reason. They have a number of strengths of their own. While it has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, I believe the opposite to also be true. A word is worth a thousand pictures. Imagine a room filled with a thousand people. Each person is equipped with a piece of paper and various tools for coloring; from pens to pencils, from crayons to pastels, from watercolors to acrylics, these people are equipped to lay down a masterpiece. Before these thousand people, you step up onto a stage before them, and speak a single word. "Tree." Immediately, before your eyes, these thousand people begin to work in their favorite form of art. And when they have finished, you have a thousand different pictures, of a thousand different trees. A picture is indeed worth a thousand pictures, when what you desire is accuracy. However, in terms of imagination, a word is worth a thousand pictures and more, for each person will have a slightly different thought for each word spoken. For a writer, this is not only a benefit, but a test of skill. The writing must be clear enough that the important aspects of the situation are understood, while keeping in mind that in any situation, the reader will be imagining the scenario and applying their own ideas wherever they're allowed.
Another strength is the use of adjectives that convey ideas rather than appearances. Imagine a room that is described as being beautiful and magnificent in every way. Imagine a chest at the end of the room, described in detail, with the color listed as a lovely shade of red. Now, imagine the same situation, but with the chest instead having been described as being a haunting shade of red. The chest is exactly the same. The room is exactly the same. The only difference is the emotion of the character which is being cast upon an object in the room. Since a movie shows us everything, this type of description is not possible.
But one of the most major strengths of a book is the length. Books can be hundreds of pages long, and as a series, can contain a story even longer. A person can read a chapter at a time, or several. They can use bookmarks and continue the story whenever they're ready, as opposed to being limited to 90-120 minutes, with three hours being extremely long. Therefore, they have room for more detail, more events, more characters, and more depth.

A very common practice these days is for popular books to be remade as movies. However, I believe that, as two different art forms with different strengths, this ought not to be the case. This is not a popular position. But the most common argument I hear against my case is, "You're overthinking things," which was previously shown to be an invalid argument. Therefore, I will be analyzing the situation here in detail.

Any story written as a book is designed to use the strengths of a book, and to account for the weaknesses. In the same way, any story written as a movie is designed to use the strengths of a movie, and to account for the weaknesses of a movie. Because of this, the stories don't cross effectively from one medium to the other. The most obvious application of this is of books to movies. For example, the Harry Potter series. While the first movie was technically accurate in the events that happened, it had a very rushed feel in my mind, and other aspects were left out entirely. For example, the design of the costumes left out an entire aspect of the novels: the confusion of wizards about non-magical clothing and customs. That was an important part of the novels, and yet, never addressed in the movies. The first book was the shortest. After the first movie, they began cutting out scenes and changing things around. This is a common complaint from book lovers, that movies cut out and change important scenes. The common response is that the movie would simply be too long if they left everything in, and they're absolutely right. This is one of the weaknesses of movies, and a strength of books. However, when scenes are cut, the story changes, and it no longer sends the same message.
In this case, we'll look at Lord of the Rings, which cut out the character Tom Bombadil. Tom Bombadil is seen as a joker, whose only real value is for comedic purposes. However, upon closer examination, we can see that he is much more important than that, as he is the only character in the books to be stronger than evil. Frodo gives in, and the ring is only destroyed because of the self destruction of further evil. Good doesn't triumph. Evil is stronger than good, and only a mistake allowed good to end up on top this time. That is the message of the movies. The books differ. Tom Bombadil shows that not only does evil not have power over him, but he has power over evil. He is the only character that does this. The movies were unable to account for this.
Time isn't the only factor that keeps movies from telling the same stories, though. While books need to keep readers interested throughout, movies often seek to keep them interested in a different way. We see this happen many times in The Hobbit. One example is of the troll scene. In the book, the dwarves send him because they think it's such a simple situation that even he can handle it. They don't know about the trolls yet, after all. Bilbo, upon discovering the situation, attempts to prove himself to the dwarves, and to himself. While he claims that he doesn't care, we see that he really does want the respect of the dwarves. But he fails. He messes up, putting everyone in danger, and he has to be rescued by Gandalf. This is very different from the movie, where the dwarves send him after knowing about the trolls already. They weren't trying to protect themselves, because if he failed, they would have to step forward anyway. So they sent him because they trusted him to get the job done. And he would have, too, except for the random chance of the troll reaching back, through no fault of his own. The dwarves came forth to try to protect him, resulting in a fight scene. At the end of the scene, Bilbo is the one who outwits the trolls and saves them all. Let's recap. In the book, Bilbo wants respect, but neither has it nor deserves it. In the movie, Bilbo doesn't care about the respect, but both has it and deserves it.

We can see that seemingly unimportant scenes are actually very important. A good book doesn't add unnecessary details, which means that anything removed or changed will affect the story in a negative way, even if it doesn't seem like it at first glance. But the exact same thing happens with books to movies.
The book Star Wars, written by George Lucas, for example. While a book has enough space to show every event in the movies, it doesn't have enough space for every detail on the sets, just like the movies have room for descriptions, but not events. The book Star Wars was accurate in every way, but didn't have the same effect as the movie. The descriptions weren't as complete as in the movies. It didn't have the same feel. It, quite simply, wasn't as good. Because books and movies are two different forms of art. They're two different forms of storytelling.

My belief is that books should not be made into movies, and movies should not be made into books. Each story is designed to be told in its own way, with its own style. When people attempt to put one story into the style of the other, they mutilate the story, and end up sending subconscious messages that they didn't mean to send. These messages affect our culture, and the way that people think. We need to be constantly on guard, watching for the messages that stories send, even stories that we think are good and pure.
"Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes."
-John LeCarre

The Depression Culture

"Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. . . . It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. . . . Sad hurts but it's a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different."
-J. K. Rowling
 I, and many people that I know, have struggled with depression. Most people deal with minor depression at some point in their lives, but severe depression is something different. Severe depression is something that follows a person throughout their entire life; it's something that they will never be rid of, or at least, not entirely. However, that doesn't mean that these people are without hope. People who deal with depression have their own unspoken culture. There's a certain way that they, or rather, we, think of things. In examining the culture of depression, we will not only expand our minds, but hopefully, will be better equipped to interact with those among us who are depressed. I should note, however, that since this is a culture, there are exceptions. Not everyone who deals with depression is exactly alike, and there are differences. This is the general behavior, not the specific behavior. Also, this is my opinion. It is based on logic and experience, not books of psychology or medicine. With that in mind, let's begin.

The first thing to note would be the depression scale. Again, this is my scale, and I have not seen anywhere else use a scale like this professionally. I am attempting to explain how depression works, and am using whatever tools I think will be beneficial. My scale is of one to ten. One through three can be called mild depression. This is experienced by most people at some point in life. Four through seven would be the next level of depression. This is a more extreme level of depression, but still not at the same severity. The depression I'll be discussing in this post will be levels eight, nine, and ten. At level eight, a person allows depression to affect their life, their behavior, and their personality. Depression is a part of who they are, and there is nothing this person can do to change that. This is where I am. I'm a level eight. I'll explain more on that later. For now, I should cover levels nine and ten. At level nine, a person starts cutting, or physically harming him or herself in some other way. Level ten is the most extreme level. Suicide. The highest level a person can get without actually attempting suicide is 9.5. At 9.5, a person wishes that they were dead, and may even begin to plan it out, but for one reason or another, doesn't actually go through with it. In my experience, the 9.5s that I know have chosen not to go through with it because of friends, or even a friend.

People who struggle with depression are not constantly depressed. I do have genuinely good moods, good days, happy times, etc., as does anyone with depression. But at some point, the depression will come back again. I'll see myself as worthless or annoying, or whatever else. This is what I mean when I say that the depression follows a person throughout their life. Not that it's constant, but that it always comes back. I have ADD, which has been shown to be commonly linked to depression, and there are other situations which can contribute to it. Depression comes back because it's a medical condition, not a spiritual condition. Of course, it can be a spiritual condition, but spiritual depression is, I believe, different from medical and psychological depression. I would point, for example, to kings David and Solomon. One, a man after God's Own Heart; the other, the wisest man who ever lived. Christians can be depressed. In fact, I believe that in my case, God used the depression for good. After all, He does use all things for good. Later, I'll go into that a bit more. For now, know that the depression is not constant, but it does return consistently.

Since depression isn't constant, this can make it harder to identify who exactly it is that gets depressed. Odds are, however, that you know at least one person who struggles with depression. But you won't know it. Why not? Because they don't want you to know. When someone is depressed, they typically don't display it. This could be for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the person doesn't want to seem weak. In other cases, the person may not trust you with that information. For me personally, it's usually because I don't want to dump my problems on someone or cause them any trouble. But whatever the motivation, we're pretty good at hiding the depression. A smile isn't always a smile. A smile is a mask, and we're very good with masks. You see what we want you to see. Another part of depression culture is the excuse, "It's a greeting." I call it an excuse because that's how it typically starts out, but I believe that this so called "excuse" actually flows logically. The idea behind this excuse is that when people ask, "How are you," they're not actually asking. It's just a greeting. It's relatively common for people to say something, or even post on Facebook, that "when I say it, it's a real question, not just a greeting." However, while this is a nice idea, nobody who struggles with depression will buy it. If it's automatic, then it's just a greeting. If I then ask if it's a real question, you would respond with a "yes." At that point, since you're now thinking about it, it has become a real question. But originally, it was just a greeting.
Now, don't go thinking that you can amend it so that it's a real question every time. Let's say that you started saying instead, "How are you? And yes, that's a real question." At first, it may work, but after a while, it would become a habit. That's just what you say as your personal greeting, and it's still just a greeting. But someone with depression typically won't ask if it's a real question. Why not? Because you're socially obligated to say yes, even if you really don't care. Maybe you do care, but there's no way for us to tell you apart from the people who are just saying that.

If you notice someone that's let their guard down and exposed their depression, and then proceed to ask if they're doing okay, it's likely that they'll put their shields back up and say that they're fine. If you ask if they're sure, they'll respond that yes, they're sure. Again, these are seen as automatic responses to socially required questions, and therefore, the depressed person probably doesn't see this as a lie. I personally will give the socially acceptable answer for quite a while, so that the person doesn't feel obligated to sit and listen to my problems.

Something important to note is that often, people can even become proud of their depression. I have this instinct as well. I mentioned before that I believe God has used my depression for good. Part of this is because I understand it better now, and can relate to others who struggle with it. And part of it is because of the particular way that it affected me. Since I was depressed, I didn't want to feel anything. It was easier to not have to deal with emotions. So I devoted my life to logic and reason, and the eradication of all emotions. Eventually, I snapped out of it, and that's no longer my goal. But during that time, I did become very familiar with logic, and I got very good at not letting my emotions control my actions. This is a personal effect of my depression, but people in general will be proud of their depression for another reason. This pride is not named or stated directly, but rather, is instinctive. While I do believe that God has used my depression for good, my instinctive pride over it is something that I have to regularly fight against. Many people may not even realize that they're proud of it. But if someone without depression talks to someone who does have depression, the instinct of the person with depression will be to react in a manner similar to, "Oh, well look at you. Your life is all sunshine and roses, huh? You'd never survive if you went through what I had to go through." This is not a good response, but it's the instinct, and that's something to take into account when you're interacting with them.

People who have depression typically feel alone in some sense. They may feel like they just annoy people and should stay out of their way. Or they may feel as though they're inadequate in some important sense, and aren't worth anyone's time. This is the nature of depression. A feeling of worthlessness. The thought that nobody wants me around.
"Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike."
-Albus Dumbledore; J. K. Rowling
Humans are social creatures, and we're meant to interact with other humans. A survey was done of people who attempted suicide and failed. There were a couple of interesting things about what they said. First, they all said that they were glad to be alive. Suicide is never the answer, and we need to make sure that people never have a reason to think that it is. But the second thing is that almost all of them said that if some random stranger had even just smiled at them -a real smile- it would have helped, and they wouldn't have attempted suicide.

I remember one time when our family had just moved to a new church. Again. I was in a particularly bad mood that day, and had just decided that I wanted nothing to do with the people there, because I would just end up getting hurt again. At least, I thought that I didn't want anything to do with the people there. I was very depressed. And then a boy about my age walked over, shook my hand, introduced himself, and asked me what my name was. That had never happened before. We'd been to so many churches that I can't even remember them all, and that had never happened before. That action meant more to me than I can possibly describe. That was the beginning of my climb out of the deepest depression I've ever had. Because one person treated me like I was valuable. I've never told him how much that meant to me, mostly because it's just never come up. Maybe I'll tell him someday.

But at each of those other churches, something was wrong. Because, as I said, it had never happened before. Ignoring someone is worse than hating them. Saying hello with a genuine smile is a good place to start. Giving them a hug hello is even better. I should also note, one of the most depressing things for a guy to hear is, "Hugging guys is weird." I don't care if you're a girl or a guy, I still want a hug, and it hurts if you think it's weird to hug me. If you're not willing to hug someone, it's best not to hug other people when that person is around. A hug is one of the best ways to show someone that they're important. Compliments are also very good, especially since depressed people tend to feel worthless. Keep in mind, though, that they usually won't know how to accept the compliment. Don't let them pass it off as nothing. Give someone plenty of opportunities to talk about depression, but don't bring it up yourself. People with depression are ridiculously good at blending in, so you probably won't even know someone is depressed unless they bring it up. If they do bring it up, understand that they're trusting you. Be sensitive, and don't offer advice unless you have to. It'll come across as arrogant, especially if you haven't struggled with depression. But also don't treat them like they need you to baby them.

This is the essence of depression and its cure. They need love, and you need to give it. If you don't know how to recognize the signs, then love everyone. It can't hurt. And girls, I'm not talking about your bestie. Love her too, but don't love only her. Make a point of going over to the guy in the corner and saying hello.
Sincere love. Not condescension. Not arrogance. Not pity. Truly valuing the person for who they are, depression and all.
"Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend."
-Albert Camus