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Rick Warren Lost His Son and I Judged Him

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Wendy Kelly
Wendy Kelly


There's a church pastor named Rick Warren. I honestly would like to challenge you to find blame with him. Okay, he's a "Boomer" — and yeah, sure, you can call him out on his dad jeans, perhaps. Maybe you could say that in trying to be well liked as a pastor, he has hewn toward easy subjects a bit too much? Certainly, you don't have to like him.

But really, I mean, he's a bit Fred Rogers in the way that it's pretty hard to find dirt on the guy.

So it's with quite a bit of chagrin and even some well considered shame (that I am working through) that I confess that when his son died from suicide I immediately thought to myself, "Well, I wonder what his family did to make that happen?"

No Shame

My thought wasn't that explicit. The idea was definitely there, though.

And I had kind of tucked that thought away until now.

Our family is facing a serious mental illness in our teenager. Bipolar 1 is very, very serious. The severity, the quickness, the fact that our teenager is in fact, blaming us, all points to the possibility that it did originate in the family.

Ask, Question — With Kindness

And to a certain degree, when asked with compassion, I think the question is valid. I actually welcome it.

The judgemental tone I took with Rick Warren's family is not that. What I did, really, is reprehensible. It's not like I cared about the family and looked for ways to offer help and support. I actually felt a bit hawkish, finding the blemish in the perfect family. It kind of sickens me, to be honest, that I did that.

Family Origins

I have spent many long hours considering our family dynamics, our family culture, my behaviour as a mother, and I feel quite good about how I raised the kids and the family we created for them. Perfect? Of course not. Perfectly imperfect? Yes. Very.

But are there family origins? Yes. Absolutely. Was I open with the kids about the connection between my Dad's schitzoaffective disorder diagnosis and the possibility of early onset schitzophrenia if they used weed? Did they do it anyway? Were they fine? Well, three out of four certainly got away with it.

The lineage is there, on both sides of our family. On all sides, really.


So - here's my postulation. Often, untreated parents with untreated mental health disorders raise children in a rather unhealthy way. I think that is safe to say.

However, treated, healed parents with treated, healed mental health disorders might raise children in a rather healthy way but the children may still suffer from the disorder due to genetic factors and the trauma life deals out. I think that also happens.

I welcome scrutiny in our case but I have come to the conclusion that we're the latter case. As is Rick Warren's family, likely as not.

I love that we live in a time where we believe children. We attempt to honor children (though we could do better). Caring for children, caring enough to ask difficult questions even if it makes families/parents uncomfortable is wonderful and welcome.

Gossiping, slandering, and judging a parent in his darkest hour (even if only in my mind) because it somehow helped me feel vindicated was not okay in the least. I am truly sorry for that and will work to ensure that families are more well cared for in the future in order to make amends.