Being on tablets is not an excuse for misbehaviour

I have read in the last few days about yet another scandal in the Christian world. I am not going to link to it here nor am I particularly interested in drawing attention to it. If you know, then you know.

The reason I mention it is because of one particularly interesting line of reasoning that seems to have been offered. The particular sins on display are mitigated, according to some, because said pastor was on a mixture of antidepressants and sleeping pills. Those tablets, they suggest, may lead to confusion and erratic, odd behaviour. Especially so, they insist, when mixed with alcohol. Let us not be so hard on a man who is suffering, in need of tablets and whose medication may have been the root of some confused, albeit ungodly, behaviour say more than a few people.

This is a particularly interesting line of reasoning. And it is of special interest to me, being as I am on long term antidepressant medication (probably for life) and have also been on sleeping pills along with that medication from time to time. I did not know – perhaps it is in the back of the Bible somewhere – that this gave me immunity from all ungodly behaviour. My wife will be thrilled that I might embroil myself in a sexting scandal, or harass a poor member of my congregation with adulterous advances, with complete and utter impunity. It is not my fault, of course. It is the pills. My mental health made me do it. Jesus understands.

Except, that is complete and utter BS. There really is no other term for it.

Never once has my depression caused me to commit adultery. Though a combination of sleeping pills and antidepressant medication might (and I strongly emphasise, might) lead to some confusion for some people, it does not lead to such abandon of oneself that I might make repeated attempts to elicit sexual favours from somebody. If anything, those things would make you more sleepy and less likely to be able to muster the energy to do such things. When I was on a potent cocktail of meds – including antidepressants, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety meds – they were prescribed specifically to stop me from mustering up the energy to top myself. They did largely dose me up so that, despite my raging desire to do so, I lacked the wherewithal to be able to actually do it. It is hard to imagine that it wouldn’t have the same sort of impact on other sinful behaviours we might wish to indulge shy of offing ourselves.

Even aside from all that, poor mental health and prescription medications are not an excuse for sin. There may be all sorts of reasons why our mental health may make us behave in odd ways. We may even find our mental health puts us in such a state that makes certain sins more tempting to us. And let’s recognise that we won’t all be tempted to the same sins in the same way for the same reasons. But none of that changes the fact that we are still responsible for choosing to sin nonetheless. Our sin does not become okay because we can blame it on our mental health or our medication.

The particular case in question was arguing that the medication caused such confusion. But these things went well beyond a bit of confusion and ran headlong into thoroughgoing sin and abuse. Pretending that it is anything else does nobody any favours. And trying to use medication or mental health as a get-out for it is both sinful of itself and extremely offensive to those of us who have mental health problems, are on long-term medication, and have never done these sorts of things.

There are enough people in the world who are already skeptical about mental health issues. Trying to suggest our own flagrant sin is a result of either mental health or long term medication will only serve to add to such views. It implicates many others in behaviours they have never done and it is a self-serving attempt to offset sinful behaviour for which people rightly ought to be held to account. Hiding behind mental health and medication is an ever-present temptation for people, as though it means they can behave badly without consequence. As one such sufferer, we should not permit such a get-out clause. It doesn’t serve anyone well, least of all those trying to do use it that way.