How to turn bad into good

Have you seen all those ads for Le Vian’s “unique chocolate diamonds”?

The only problem is that brown diamonds are a) the most common and cheapest diamonds, plus b) they look like shiny poo! But those clever Le Vians decided instead of calling them ubiquitous and virtually useless brown chunks of compressed dinosaur doo-doo, they hyped them as magical chocolate diamonds—and everyone loves chocolate! And so, the Le Vian family has been making a whole butt load of money from shiny poo ever since!

Or maybe you have seen the ads for Snyders of Hanover’s “Flavored Pretzel Pieces.” The TV ad claims that they contain so much “intense flavor” that no one can eat a whole pretzel. Another genius marketing plan! They’re selling off the broken pieces from the pretzel line.

Kellogg’s did the same thing with “Corn Flake Crumbs.” I worked at the cereal company four summers while I was in college. One night, I worked the corn flakes line. (There is nothing better than hot, crisp corn flakes right from the oven.) But what do you do with all the broken flakes? You install a giant vacuum over the line with the suction carefully calculated to suck up crumbs and dust, but not the whole flakes. Voila! Corn Flake Crumbs!

What once were considered rejects, scraps, damaged goods fit only for the dumpster, are now proudly marketed as something truly wonderful. (You know where this is going, don’t you?)

What in your life is a brown diamond? A broken pretzel? A Corn flake crumb?

We all have areas in our lives that are not perfect, investment-quality Grade-A Fancy. But often our weaknesses turn into our strengths, our failures into our successes, and our worthlessness into our greatest value. The apostle Paul writes:

    That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).

How can you turn what appears to be a dark, cold “shaft” into a diamond mine?

I’m on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder spectrum, but am considered “high functioning”. I have managed to turn “quirky” into creative. I’ve used my clinical depression as motivation to write with hope and humor. (Check out my encouraging video on The Gift of Depression. And my OCD seems to balance out my ADD, so I am extremely organized and, thus, extremely productive: over 20 books, 2,500 articles and hundreds of blog posts, along with hundreds of speaking engagements. (I don’t suffer from mental illness, I thoroughly enjoy it! And I think my readers do as well.)

So, how about you? How can you turn dinosaur doodoo into “chocolate” diamonds?

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

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Thanks so much for the support and encouragement in my honesty about my own mental health issues. However, a good friend loving emailed me to say, basically, “Don’t call yourself—a creation of God—mentally ill.” I so appreciate that, but one of my “hope and humor” goals is to educate the church on mental health issues affecting God’s creations.

Telling someone with depression to get off anti-depressants and “just have a positive attitude” is like telling someone with high blood pressure to get off their meds and “just think lower BP thoughts.” Those “voices” probably need Haldol rather than an exorcism. And someone born with a propensity to addictive behaviors needs support and encouragement rather than condemnation. It’s often bio-chemical imbalances not sinfulness.

If we have cancer, the whole church will rally behind us. If we have schizophrenia, most of the church will stay clear of us. But mental illness is not a “spiritual” issue any more than a broken leg is a sign of lack of faith. We live in a fallen world that causes brokenness physically, socially, spiritually . . . and mentally. Help is available, so see a licensed professional if you’re struggling with mental health issues. And find a Christian group or a trusted friend from whom you can receive prayer, support and accountability. Prozac and prayer is a powerful combination!


Author and speaker

7 thoughts on “How to turn bad into good

  • February 24, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Thanks. I am so glad God often chooses unlikely people to do great things! (Proof? He chose me!)

  • February 24, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Jim, you are very right, as a clinical neuropsychologist I truly believe the church as a whole needs to be educated. There is a higher rate of death by suicide in this country than death by motor vehicle accidents. And there is an increase in the suicide rate among pastors. Let’s get educated and show some compassion folks. If you haven’t gone through depression, you may not be able to relate to it, just like if you haven’t gone through divorce or cancer or war. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

  • February 24, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Thank you. For your transparency and mission to change how the church looks at mental illness. You said it well here: “We all have areas in our lives that are not perfect, investment-quality Grade-A Fancy. But often our weaknesses turn into our strengths, our failures into our successes, and our worthlessness into our greatest value.”

  • February 26, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    God stuff Jim! I once (naively though honestly) thought “depression” was having a bad day, or week (month?) Then, during a low time in life, discovered that even things I loved held no interest for me, and a search began that ended in the office of a neuropsychologist (who became a good friend) and discovered not only what depression was, but that I suffered from it. No shame, just one more thing I needed to come to understand, and overcome with my friend Jesus. Today, I experience occasional brief bouts, but mostly not. Which I like because it was no fun. But looking back, I don’t think I’d “wish away” the experience, or the insights and strength that came from going through it. 🙂

    • February 26, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      Thanks for sharing. I think it’s especially difficult for men to admit to depression. So glad you found help, friend.

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