Licensed therapist Mark Means facilitates a sensitive discussion around the whys and whats of our culture’s suicide crisis and how community can help. His singing son-in-law Wes Hampton of the Gaither Vocal Band sensitively highlights the conversation with music. Don’t miss a single episode of Dinner Conversations — subscribe below!


TRANSCRIPT FROM THE SHOW

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Mark: I was reading an article on Facebook by Mark Means, and he was saying lines like “faith grenades” and talking about suicide, and I thought what a perfect person to come on Dinner Conversations. He’s a therapist. He just happens to be Wes Hampton’s father-in-law, so we could maybe make Wes come too and sing, which he did, and I thought it was a great episode.

Andrew: Yeah, it’s a hard conversation to have for a lot of people. Even just the word “suicide” can be a trigger, and so we are grateful to have the safe space. Mark is such a… Mark Means. What a safe person. Wes, what a fantastic person. So we can’t think of two better people, and Wes gives us music.

Mark: Yeah.

Andrew: And music is such a helpful part of having these deep conversations. So what a fantastic two people to have around the table and on set today,

Mark: And there’s one seat left at the table and it’s yours, so let’s join the conversation.


Mark: I was recently doing a concert, and I tell this story about how, when mama died, the thing that I learned is you don’t get to plan your entrance or your exit. And then I say, well, you can plan your exit, but that’s called suicide. And then you get to heaven, your mansion’s not ready, you gotta go live with your in-laws, you know, and everybody laughs. Because I’m trying to make the point that I don’t believe suicide is fatal in eternity.

Andrew: The unpardonable sin or whatever.

Mark: Right, no. And everybody laughs, and then I moved on, all right. Now, I get a letter from a father of a young man who just committed suicide, and the way he heard it is that I was making fun of suicide, so I called him and said, “How can I do that better?” And what can I do because my intention was to let people know that your child is safe in the arms of Jesus. Don’t worry about that child. What have you learned in your years of this?

Andrew: Practicing as a therapist.

Mark: How would you do that better?

Mark Means: Talking about suicide?

Mark: Yeah. How do you talk about it?

Mark Means: You know the most important thing is talk about it. I mean, that’s it. When we have friends that we’re worried about, the thing you do is you ask them about their… People, they will talk about it. One of the first questions we ask people when they come in is are you thinking about suicide? Because–

Mark: No matter what the problem is?

Mark Means: No matter what the problem is because we hide it. There’s so much shame, stigma. You don’t ask for help. It has these things that you just said. People feel, you know, if I commit suicide, I’ll be in hell forever. And for me as a therapist, I can’t worry about that theology. I just tell them that God loves you, but we have to ask that. In the ethics of therapy, there’s two things we can break confidentiality for. One is if you’re gonna kill yourself, and two, if you’re gonna kill somebody else.

Andrew: Is that the second question you ask them?

Mark Means: No, no. The second question I ask them is do you have a friend? A close friend? It’s shocking how many people say, “No, I don’t have anybody.”

Mark: So you say, “Are you thinking about suicide?” And no matter what their answer is, “Do you have a close friend?”

Mark Means: Yeah.

Andrew: Well, community, like I know, I remember getting out of a counseling session one time after a very difficult counseling session and a game-changer for me, and him saying, and my counselor saying, “I want you not to isolate when you leave here.” I didn’t even feel the need to isolate in that room.

Mark Means: Absolutely.

Andrew: But I remember when I got out to my car, I thought, all I wanna do is drive. I want to get out of here. I don’t want to talk to anybody. So I just started texting people who’s around and found some church friends who were at a happy hour, but anyway, so um… I think like with suicide it’s interesting culturally today, like the reason we’re even talking about it is because it is a present conversation, and I was reading an article that said it’s up 28% over the past couple years and that some of that has to do with celebrities taking their own lives and the energy that the media gives that around it, that it actually impacts the suicide rate. And then they said that demographic is not a discriminator anymore, successful, unsuccessful in the eyes of society.

Mark: I just read today someone put a picture on Instagram of a beautiful family, a pastor, and his wife, and three or four children standing there. It looked like a Wes Hampton Christmas card. You know how those Christmas cards always look like the perfect family? And the father had just committed suicide.

Andrew: So why, why suicide?

Mark Means: I saw that same thing and then yesterday our good friend Sue Buchanan posted another kid here at a church just impact him, committed suicide. And then I got to looking further into that, and there’s a guy who’s a pastor who started a ministry. I think he had a son that killed himself. He started a ministry for suicide victims, and he killed himself.

Mark: It’s contagious. There is a contagion of that.

Mark Means: There is a contagion. That’s right, that’s right.

Mark: When someone commits suicide, sometimes in a school they have to be careful that other children aren’t affected.

Mark Means: Um, you know, oh my gosh, this is so complex, but if you don’t mind, I’m gonna dive…

Andrew: Yeah, just dive in.

Mark Means: They did a study of suicide notes left behind. Twenty of them were people who attempted suicide, their letters they left, and 20 suicide notes of people who completed suicide. And they wanted to compare them to say–

Andrew: What’s the difference?

Mark Means: They had five variables to them. 69-year-old brain’s gotta work on it.

Mark: I know what, oh, tell me.

Mark Means: Five variables to them. One was a sense of burden was a huge issue.

Andrew: There’s just weight.

Mark: That they’re burdening someone else.

Mark Means: We’re burdening someone else. My depression, my financial problem, my sexual, my sex addiction, my addiction has cost my family.

Mark: They’re afraid that if they leave, if they get out of the way, everybody will be better.

Mark Means: Absolutely. And that is a thought, and I have a friend that’s contemplated suicide for several years. I have breakfast with him and I love him so much, but he, you know, you think about it and, uh, they get stuck thinking the world would be without me, but you wanna tell him, “But did you realize the damage it leaves behind?” But they’re in so much pain they can’t see that.

Mark: They can’t see it.

Mark Means: So then the relief. And you’ll hear this: “I’m a burden. I’m a burden to you. I feel like I drain you when I’m around you.”

Mark: How many people never think about suicide? I mean, how many people it never crosses their mind? I mean, I have thought about dying. I’ve said, “Lord, when you’re ready for me, I’m ready for you.” You know, that type of thing, but I would never, I’ve just never thought about hurting myself I don’t think. But I do believe there is medicine for it. You can get help.

Mark Means: Yes, yes. Wow, a lot there. Um, suicidal, we call it suicidal ideation. In other words, we wanna ask people have you thought about it, and just having thoughts, it gives us an alarm, but it doesn’t give us the five alarm.

Andrew: Okay.

Mark Means: Next thing is do you have a plan? In other words, have you bought a gun?

Andrew: Thought through it?

Mark Means: Yeah. Are you gonna go somewhere and drive off. And then, thirdly is do you have the means? When those all add up, you go, okay. And again, that’s where it clicks for a therapist. If all those line up, we say, “Look, we have to intervene.” There’s some thought right now that says don’t worry so much about the history somebody has. The biggest thing is intervene on… There’s a 15- to 20-minute window when someone’s thinking about this that they cross into a place of, boy, I wanna do something.

Andrew: This is reality now where it’s gonna happen.

Mark Means: This is reality. Our intervention of knowing what to do… Most people who think about suicide don’t have the skills. You know the difference is maybe a Mark Lowry, and I’m not saying you haven’t thought… I mean, who knows who hasn’t thought about suicide? I mean, you can’t know.

Andrew: Or even started that path.

Mark Means: The only way you can know is have a relationship of connection. And of course that’s one of the things we will get to is connection.


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Wes Hampton singing “I Will Go On”

I repent for moments I have spent

Recalling all the pain and all the failures of my past

And I repent for dwelling on the things

Beyond my power to change those chains that held me fast

I will go on, my past I leave behind me

I’d gladly take His mercy and His love

For He is joy and He is peace

He is strength and sweet relief

I know He is and I am His

I will go on

Go on

Ooo

Now I give up all the bitterness and hate

All the blaming it in fate

For all my discontents

The guilt and pain I empty from my cup

So that God can fill it up with His peace and sweet content

I will go on, my past I leave behind me

I gladly take His mercy and His love

For He is joy and He is peace

He is strength and sweet relief

I know He is and I am His

And I will go on

Go on

Go on


Mark Means: Now emotional pain is very different for different people. What’s emotional pain for you? You know, I know some people who will look at you and say, “Well, you just need to grow up,” you know? “You just need to get in the Word.” We Christians, we fundamental Christians, tend to say if you pray more, that’ll take care of it, that’s the thing, and read your Bible more. That will answer these problems.

Andrew: So you’re saying those are triggers in and of themselves?

Mark Means: No, I’m just saying those are the answers. Those are sort of the faith grenades we throw at people that the simplicity of that. But what we know is when you ask layers of questions and people begin to reveal this deeper stuff that’s going on, you connect to somebody and you get this wonderful permission to say, “Hey, are you suicidal? Are you thinking about that?” We have this sort of entree to. If you don’t build a relationship with people, you don’t have that. 

“But what we know is when you ask layers of questions and people begin to reveal this deeper stuff that’s going on, you connect to somebody and you get this wonderful permission to say, ‘Hey, are you suicidal? Are you thinking about that?'” – Mark Means

Andrew: Take us into those trauma triggers though because you said that’s very important when you’re, as a therapist, but even maybe as just people who are going to be in relationship with people, that these trauma triggers. That what helps pave the pathway for someone contemplating or actually trying to achieve suicide has to do with mental, physical, emotional trauma.

Mark Means: I had a guy come to me. He was a Afghanistan war vet. He came to sit on the couch over there on this right end, and I said, “What brings you here?” And he said, “Well, my wife says I’ve become crazy.” He said, “All of the sudden in the middle of the night, I’m up screaming,” and he says, “Sometimes I’ve hit her.” He said, “Honey, you gotta…” He said, “I go out in public and things happen, and I just break down and cry.” He said, “I have wet my pants before.” I said, “What happened?” He said, “Well, 14 months ago I was in a foxhole and an RPG came in,” and he said, “It killed one of my buddies, and the other guy his arm and leg was torn off.” And he says, “Shrapnel. I’ve been in the hospital for 14 months. I’m just out recovering.” He’s telling me the story. Next door a therapist buddy of mine is doing therapy with a kid, and they’re rallying around over there and all of the sudden I hear this, “Bam!” The wall, you know, these kids are rowdy or whatever. I look and my guy is under the couch. I said, “What are you doing under the couch?” He said, “Oh man, when I hear a sound like that,” he said, “I come unglued.” He said, “Any kind of sound.” I said, “Well, that’s ridiculous. “That happened 14 months ago. You need to grow up, man. Stand up here. Sit in the couch.” He said, “Mark, I can’t help it when I hear these…”

Mark: You really said that?

Mark Means: No.

Mark: Oh, okay.

Andrew: Culturally, maybe that’s what we’re saying.

Mark Means: These are sort of a faith grenades I talked about, but there are things that we say to people. You know, “That’s silly. Why would you think? That happened 14 months ago.” He said, “But I can’t help it.” And so, you know, we now begin to see as he talks about it. He says, “You know Mark, things that happen in the present that look like or feel like the past, I react to them as if they’re still happening.” So you talk about triggers. Now we call this in people, in war vets, we call this PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. So when you ask about trauma and trauma triggers, it’s different for everybody. You know, a little kid who’s 5-years-old, he comes home every night and his mother’s an alcoholic, slaps him around. His dad comes home and he cusses at his kids. The kid feels neglect. And by the way, the number one child abuse, you know, sex abuse is awful. I’ll tell you about how much sex abuse goes on. But neglect is one of the worst forms of child abuse. I’m just not here. I’m not important enough to care for, to dress. I go to school. My clothes are the same clothes every week. But that little child who is a 5-year-old and his mom and dad’s this way, an alcohol… He can’t go to his father and say, “Dad, quit treating me this way.” You know, you guys, you’re… Snap out of it.

Andrew: Yeah, he doesn’t have that maturity emotionally yet.

Mark Means: And he can’t go down the street where Johnny’s parents are. Man, they’re nurturing and they sit around a table and everybody’s nice and they say grace. He can’t. His fight or flight, what does he do?

Andrew: Right, he has nowhere to go.

Mark Means: He freezes. And so he, as he grows up to be an adult, has these frozen emotions. And toxic families have three rules: Don’t talk, don’t feel, don’t trust. That’s the rules of a toxic family. And he learns these rules. Don’t talk about things, don’t feel. If you do feel, those feelings are incorrect. Don’t trust because who can you trust? And so he learns these feelings, suppress. And as he gets into relationships later, sex addiction, alcohol. One out of every three women are sexually abused. 81% of those women will have an addiction, and 80% of them will marry an addict or an abuser. So when you ask about triggers, there’s so much involved, and if you’re a pastor–

Mark: So you have to take it case by case?

Mark Means: You have to.

Andrew: Here’s where relationship is important. There’s, you know, especially as children, you’re dealt the circumstances you’re dealt with. Like you said, that child doesn’t have an option to fight or flight, so they freeze, but that takes us into our responses in my mind. So for instance, what brought you to this table was a Facebook post that Mark Lowry had read of yours, Mark Means.

Mark: It was brilliant.

Andrew: About faith grenades, about how we respond to people who are in vulnerable situations or coming out of vulnerable places and are stuck, and some of that stuck-ness can lead to suicide, but you called them faith grenades. So tell me what a faith grenade is. What is it that we’re placing and pulling a pin that can explode?

Mark Means: Well, this boy here has taught us years in his concerts, but it’s these silly, legalistic phrases we throw at people. Just pray about it, and it will go away. In the mighty name of Jesus, things are gonna…” You know, it’s all this everything is gonna be all right.

Andrew: Platitudes kind of?

Mark Means: Platitudes. It’s phrases that have shame with them. That drip with guilt, that drip with “I hear you, but I’m not listening to you.”

Mark: Or so arrogant as to think you’d have the answer.

Mark Means: So arrogant.

Mark: How would I… A mother loses her child, right? Just grabbed that out of the air. What do I have to say on that subject other than I’m here for you? How can I help you? Can I bring you some food? I mean… I lost a dog, that’s it.

Mark Means: The worst thing we do to people is try to fix their problems. The best thing you do is you listen to people. You know, you just, you have to build those… Back to the 20 notes, one of the key issues in that was isolation, you know? Is that people feel so isolated, so disconnected. But the number one thing of the people who killed themselves, that they wrote the most about, was the sense of burden. That was the biggest thing.

Andrew: But would that be heightened by these faith grenades, by “just pray about it”? I mean, doesn’t that just further isolate him?

Mark Means: Absolutely.

Mark: Like that pastor. How could he have…? I mean, he must’ve felt like he was… I mean, they’re all hopeless. They’ve lost hope. How do we not lose hope?

Mark Means: Hopelessness is just one of the issues.

Mark: How do we keep from losing hope? And especially in this political environment? In this day and age that we’re living in where, I mean, everything is upside down.

Mark Means: I know. We’re in a culture… Our culture is killing us from every direction. From social media and we’ve become more and more isolated.

Andrew: So as we try to be connected, we’re becoming more disconnected.

Mark Means: We’re so disconnected. In fact, another one of the first questions… You know, I ask people do you have a friend because most people don’t have a good close friend that you can be naked with, and I’m almost saying literally. I mean, but you can strip down and have authenticity and transparency. You don’t have it. Lloyd Ogilvie said most of us will only have one to two close friends in our entire life. That you can be that kind of close. People, in a world where we think we’re connected, we’re most disconnected. And people can’t, you know, particularly in this world–

Mark: It’s hard to be healthy if you’re not connected.

Mark Means: Of religion and faith, we wear this persona, you know, we’re hiding in plain sight. We’re telling people, “Yeah, I’m okay, you know Jesus–“

“Particularly in this world of religion and faith, we wear this persona. We’re hiding in plain sight.” – Mark Means

Mark: How many do you think you have? Like that?

Mark Means: Friends?

Mark: Those kinds of friends?

Mark Means: I have just two or three close friends I’ve had throughout my life, for this last 30 years.

Andrew: How have you fostered that? Because I don’t think it’s… It’s easy to say we need friends.

Mark Means: My best friend Wayne and I, we literally sound like two girls on the phone every morning. I mean, we’re silly, we talk about sex, we talk about God and religion, and what we’re pissed off at, and what we’re angry at I should say, of things that we’re angry about.

Mark: If Paul can say dung, we can say piss.

Mark Means: Well, there you go, there you go. But the gamut, and it’s somebody that I can decompress with and talk about and know he’ll be there, you know? And I’ve got girlfriends. Sue Buchanan is a wonderful girlfriend of mine that I can talk to. Wes’s mom is great. But you need a guy friend that you can just be, you can talk and cry with, and they check on you. If Wayne, my good friend, if he doesn’t pop up, we’re hollering at each other and we’re very forgiving. If we can’t answer the phone, we go, “Aw no, I’ll get him tomorrow.”

Mark: I was just gonna say about friendship. Of course, I have deep friends. When you stay single, you better build a friendship family. And I never intended to get married, and I have built, I mean friends, Deena, Colleen, Bubba, Shelly, that are… I mean, when I broke my leg, I couldn’t shoo them away. They were on me like white on rice. And you gotta have that. No one can be healthy, mentally, alone.

Andrew: But you gotta have that is different than how do you have it. I don’t think people know how to have a lot of friends.

Mark Means: There’s the thing. You know, we talk about suicides. There’s a skillset that you and I would look at, well, how could they not feel life… I’ve got my wife and kids and this… But there’s a skillset, and it comes from this trauma stuff a lot. Now there are other variables, family, history, financial crisis, birth order, you know, all those play, and for people who are healthy, they kinda go psht, push-ah you know, why do they just not get over it? And people, I’ve got a few good friends who have had a good life. They’ve never had a lot of trauma. They’ve never had those–

Mark: The holy rub.

Mark Means: Oh gosh. And felt abandoned by God, and I love it that people say, “Oh, you know, Jesus has been with me every minute, and it’s been hallelujah experience.” I usually go, “Are you serious?” But there are some. But learning to be a friend and learning to ask for that, I think we have to sometimes intrude on people when they don’t have a friend. You have to press in and say, “Look, I’m thinking you’re needing–” I try to text people. I try to leave a voice mail. I intrude on some people because I say, “Look, I know you may be struggling.”

Mark: But how many friends can you really have? How many real, seriously? I mean…

Andrew: Well, good friends, you can’t have that many.

Mark: I don’t know how you can… It takes… You gotta manage them.

Andrew: But you say like learning to ask, you know, like say do you need a friend right now or whatever. Like my dad, we were talking, is a marriage and family therapist. A compelling kind of desire to isolate is definitely my tendency, and so I have to seek community, and I have to do the work and the effort, that kind of thing. And he would say, “Don’t be afraid to ask from those you already trust who have some level of foundation or friendship and relationship with them, say what you need.” Do you need to be with someone tonight? Do you just need a phone conversation? Do you… And, you know, sometimes you might need to be alone as well. But that’s the other thing, like I don’t think we want to intrude or impose or, you know, right. Like ask for what you need.

Mark Means: Yeah, but you know a lot of times you don’t know how to ask. Harville Hendrix talks about isolators, and there’s three skills that really fit this, and this is one that I mention in my article, is that when you’re with people, these three elements are important to listening. Number one is mirror what people say. When people talk about their sadness, we say, “Hey, I can tell that you’re sad. You’re really struggling.” Don’t try–

Mark: But that’s how you mirror?

Andrew: Like affirm what they’re saying.

Mark Means: Absolutely. When somebody says, “Man, I feel like financially I just feel like I’m sinking.” You know, to mirror that is I hear that–

Mark: You wouldn’t just say, “Well, I’ve never had a financial problem.”

Mark Means: Never. No, those are grenades. You know what you need to do is see my financial–

Mark: I don’t know what’s wrong with you. No, I, yeah…

Mark Means: No, you need to put money in the savings or whatever. Do not try to fix people.

Andrew: Because that’s the shaming aspect of it.

Mark: My mother loved that, and I tend to do that. Like, you know what you need to do? That comes out of me a lot.

Andrew: The church tends to do that even from the pulpit.

Mark: But I really mean it.

Mark Means:We have these simplistic answers, you know.

Mark: It’s not like I’m trying to grenade them. I really think if you would do this, you would get out of that mess.

Andrew: But that’s not necessarily what someone… What you’re saying is that’s not what someone needs in that moment. There will come a moment when you can say, “Here’s the next step.”

Mark Means: We Christians tend to simplify the complicated and complicate the simple.

“We Christians tend to simplify the complicated and complicate the simple.” – Mark Means

Mark: Interesting.

Mark Means: And it happens over and over. If a person doesn’t feel like you hear them, they say, well, that’s not what I mean.

Mark: But how does hearing help? I’d say give him money would help if they’re struggling.

Andrew: But that may not be what they’re asking for.

Mark Means: I would disagree. I think giving them money sometimes can be enabling and almost shaming a person, and what we do is just help them get the next junkie fix. Now I think there’s a point… You know, there’s an old saying that says, “Rescuing somebody one time is mercy. Rescuing them a second time is enabling.” And you gotta be careful. But mirroring… The second part of this process is validating. And validating is, “Hey, it makes sense you feel that way. I can see why that would be.” If I say to you, “I’m really discouraged today.” “Hey, I hear you’re discouraged today, and I can see, Mark.” Now it’s hard for people who when things are going good say, “I don’t understand. Why would you feel that way? There’s a million blessings,” you know. “Look at all this. You’ve got this house.” You know, “you’re sitting with these great people. How could you?” Well, you know, that won’t work.

Mark: Those are the grenades.

Andrew: So affirming through the mirroring is actually setting up community for them in that moment because it’s doing like what you said your friends did with you when you broke your leg. Just say I’m here or what you would say to a mother who’s lost a child: I don’t understand that, but I’m here. So it’s saying I’m here. So how is at church? Take that to the church, and when I mean the church, I mean we as individuals of the church. We know every church is not toxic. We know every Christian is not toxic. But as a whole, I don’t feel like we’ve fostered great community. Otherwise, people on the precipice of suicide would be darkening our doors to say, “I’m about to kill myself.”

Mark Means: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Andrew: What can I do? Where’s help? Where’s hope?

Mark Means: And your question is?

Andrew: The question is what can we do to foster more community within the context of our churches?

Mark Means: Well, you know, my answer is like a therapist, of course. What slays me is we put a gazillion dollars into production that goes on in church. We put gazillions of dollars in associate pastors and teaching pastors and all this. I don’t understand why churches don’t have licensed therapists on their staff.

Mark: Interesting.

Mark Means: That are there to help with groups of doing this very stuff. I hear small groups. I go to an incredible church. We have 5,000 small groups that go on every week, and it’s amazing. I always worry though about the quality of those. What’s going on…

Andrew: In the community, in those small groups?

Mark Means: Yeah, it’s a skill to form community. You know, if you got your own stuff, you don’t really know how, but I think, you know, I go back to this. When you mirror people and you validate them, “Hey, it makes sense you feel this way,” and empathize with them. “It must be difficult to feel that.” To go through it, man. And your tendency is you want to fix, fix, fix at each stage. The greatest gift you can do is don’t try to fix it. We’re gonna pray. We’re gonna be here with you. I wanna be here with you. This must be tough. Now look, I’ve heard your story. Let’s get together, you and Phil and Bob and I, on Saturdays. Let’s sit down and look at your problem, and let’s see maybe there’s some solutions to this. Maybe we can figure out something. But if you try to throw in solutions up front, you’ve loaded into it, people gotta be heard. That’s what therapy… The one good thing about therapy is that people often walk away feeling better. Well, why? It’s because this has happened.

Andrew: Because they’re heard.

Mark Means: Somebody mirrored me. Somebody validated me.

Mark: So you think if you had good friends, real true friends, you wouldn’t need therapy.

Mark Means: This is what they do. This is what good friends do is they mirror and validate and they empathize.

Mark: And they will tell you you’re crazy, I think.

Mark Means: And tell you, yeah, truthful.

Mark: That’s the reason I’ve never had any yes-men around me because they’ll tell you what you wanna hear rather than what you need to hear.

Mark Means: I know, I know.

Mark: And a good friend will do that and say, “Man, this isn’t your best.”

Andrew: And a good friend will withhold what you need to hear in the moment because they’re sensitive enough until you’re ready to hear.

Mark: Where they won’t embarrass you in front of people.

Andrew: Yeah, or shame you.

Mark: Well, don’t commit suicide, and if you’re thinking about it, call the number on the screen and also tell somebody. Tell them, tell them. Once you put a light on it, I believe it gets smaller.

“Once you put a light on it, I believe it gets smaller.” – Mark Lowry

Mark Means: That’s right.

Mark: It may not go away, it may not fix it, but the minute you bring it out into the open, put a light on it, tell somebody, you’ll find out you’re not alone. Half the people at this table are on medication.

Andrew: Half?

Mark: This half. Listen, don’t be ashamed because you have to take medicine. I take a little bit.

Mark Means: Medicine is extremely important.

Mark: It’s very important.

Mark Means: But if you do call, the suicide hotline is amazing. They get 5,000 calls a day. 123 people kill themselves a day. It’s…

Andrew: But the fact that they get 5,000 phone calls a day is the key that is you’re not alone.

Mark Means: Absolutely, you’re not alone. They help people.

Mark: Yeah, you’re not alone.

Mark Means: Because when you’re in that desperate place, you need intervention, and they will help you immediately.

Andrew: And at some point in all of our lives, no matter how dramatic or nondramatic, we all need intervention. We all have, and at the heart of it, people who are in need, we’re all people in great need of redemption. We all require the intervention of God through Jesus. I mean, that’s the–

Mark: And He will never shame you. He will never shame you. Haven’t you found that to be true about Him? He’ll convict you, but He won’t shame you.

Mark Means: My childhood Jesus was a shaming Jesus, but my adulthood, my adult, yeah…

Andrew: Is more the real one?

Mark: I love what Russ Taff said. His therapist said this to him. If your Jesus is a condemning Jesus, you need to fire Him. You’ve got the wrong one.

Mark Means: I love his therapist.

Mark: Oh, do you know his therapist?

Andrew: Oh, you do? How do you know that?

Mark: Who all needs therapy? I don’t think I need it.

Andrew: And I love it.

Mark: Does everybody need to go to therapy?

Mark Means: No. I think your therapy is truth-telling, but it does it in a skilled way. And I think many people… I think your comedy, music, is therapy for people.

Mark: Therapy for me.

Mark Means: That something transformative happens. I tell Wes all the time, I say, “Man, when you go out and sing…” He sings a song “I’ll Pray For You,” and for me it just… I mean, Gaither songs are all therapy to me.


Wes Hampton singing “I’ll Pray For You”

I’ve been there right where you are

Your heart is so broken and God is so far

And sleep won’t come and the tears won’t quit

Can you remember I won’t forget

When you can think and you can’t even pray

Please hear me when I say

You may not have the words but until you do

I’ll pray for you

Until clouds clear and you start to see

Know that I’ll be here down on my knees

Just hold on to one thing that’s true

Know that all this time He’s holding you

When you can’t think or you can’t even pray

Please hear me when I say

You may not have the words, until you do

Know that I’ll pray for you

All those answers one day they’re gonna come

But until they do know that I’ll pray for you

Yes, I’ll pray for you


Dinner Conversations Sponsorship Message

Mark: You can help change the life of a child today by partnering with Andrew and me and supporting a boy or girl in Guatemala through ChildFund today.

Andrew: Your sponsorship will not only improve the future of one child’s life, your child sponsorship will promote communities in Guatemala, the communities that Mark and I just visited. Where we saw parents who are learning to value and to protect and to advance the worth and rights of their teens and children. Who through your child sponsorship are literally changing the culture of each child’s community from the inside out.

Mark: Perhaps, you already sponsor a child. Would you consider sponsoring another child in Guatemala? Maybe in honor of one of your children, a new grandchild, a special niece or nephew. It takes so little to make such a profound difference in the life of a child. 

Andrew: Your sponsored child is a real kid with real dreams, just like the dreams of your children and grandchildren. We know because we met them. Kids that will want to be doctors and lawyers and teachers, even musicians, kinda like us. Your sponsorship gives these children their chance to achieve their very unique dreams.

Mark: You may not be able to change the whole world, but you can change the world for one child. Visit childfund.org/dinnerconversations to sponsor a child in Guatemala today. As a small way to say thanks for your child sponsorship, we will send you an autographed Season Two DVD and Songs From The Set CD.

Andrew: Yes, plus a special item made just for you by the communities in Guatemala.

Mark: And every sponsor and a guest is invited to a Dinner Conversations Friends & Family Weekend in Nashville.

Andrew: Hey, now. Which includes mealtimes with Mark and me, private little concerts and chit-chats with our friends, and a special Sunday morning service that will happen right before you head out of town.

Mark: And if you sponsor more than one child, you will have the opportunity to be a guest on an actual episode of Dinner Conversations during the Friends & Family Weekend in Nashville.

Andrew: It doesn’t get better than that.

Mark: No.

Andrew: Does it, Mark? Does it? Stay tuned for exact details, and don’t forget to visit childfund.org/dinnerconversations to sponsor your child today.

Mark: To learn more about Dinner Conversations, visit dinner-conversations.com.

Andrew: And while you’re there, check out some of our friendly merch. We’ve got show mugs and Season One and Two DVDs, and we got these little note cards so Mark can write me a note that says, you’re the best co-host ever.

Mark: Oh yes. Well, you know, you get that after every episode. And what about this mug with our faces on it?

Andrew: What says good morning better?

Mark: It’s like we’re on both sides, so lefty or a righty, you get to see us every morning.

Andrew: You know, I think it’s time we get back to those guests.

Mark: Yeah, probably.


Mark: I think we’re finally getting more and more comfortable with showing our scars, and when we show our scars is when everybody’s like, oh my gosh, I got them too. You know?

Mark Means: But I think, as therapists, you may not be licensed, but when you’re out there doing music and we’re teaching people, demonstrating, modeling it, it helps people come out.

Andrew: That’s contagious too. We talked about in the beginning how suicide’s contagious or thoughts of suicide. Well, I think on the other hand, equally hope is contagious and telling your story and saying, “Hey, I deal with this too,” that’s contagious.

Mark: It’s scary the first time you do it, but then it gets easier.

Mark Means: And let me say something too, and this has a vast well in it. But people who are gay, people who, and I’m not trying to put them in the same category. Sex addicts, alcoholics, the people that we have… Fundamentalists are binary. It’s all or nothing, black or white, yes or no. Never either or and some.

Mark: Until one of their children become–

Mark Means: You’re in my tribe or not. I was raised, if you weren’t in my tribe you’re… You know, when you talk about that, I go, man, we went to the same church. You have a high suicide rate in Christian kids who are gay and families. I’m always amazed at some of these pastors. I mean, they rail against homosexuality, and I get a phone call. And I’m hated often because I’m a therapist and too accepting, but I get this call. They said, “My son’s wanting to come out. What am I gonna–” And all of the sudden, they have to learn to love their son. And paradigm shift. And you know I’m not gonna get into the theology of that. You can wrestle it all day. I just, I feel sorry that there are communities of people who are not allowed to be in this family that we’re in by stupidity. And I’m sure that’s not a thing that people like to hear, but if we don’t take care and love these people, we’re gonna be judged by it.

Andrew: Wrestle with our theology all day long, but I’m not gonna wrestle with people. I’m not gonna throw them to the ground, you know?

“Wrestle with our theology all day long, but I’m not gonna wrestle with people.” – Andrew Greer

Mark Means: You know, we used to divorce people, kill them, or now, you know…

Mark: We used to have slaves.

Mark Means: Five or six wives. Yes!

Mark: And the church condoned it.

Mark Means: I know, I know.

Andrew: We still do.

Mark: Huh? We do?

Andrew: I said we still do.

Mark: Don’t touch me. Touch not thine anointed, do thy prophet no harm.

Andrew: What verse is that?

Mark: Are we done?

Andrew: Yeah, you know what else I think that’s very helpful is the WEScipes. If you have a lisp, it helps you know you’re not alone.

Mark: Wescipes.com, isn’t it?

Mark Means: Yeah.

Andrew: Yes, this is a honey caramel glaze that your son-in-law made.

Mark: And you wait till you see his nude calendar.

Mark Means: My son-in-law makes all kinds.

Andrew: Should everyone taste this, there will be no need for hotlines in the future.

Mark Means: Put that on a hot biscuit and you’ll think you’re in heaven.

Andrew: Put that on my hot little lips. It’s out of this world.


Mark: Well, we’d like to thank Wes Hampton and his father-in-law Mark Means. What a brilliant man.

Andrew: Yeah, what a poignant and important episode. You can find some of the great songs that Wes sang on his product in our Amazon affiliate link in the episode description below.

Mark: And if you wanna binge watch past episodes and new ones of our program, Dinner Conversations, you can go to Amazon Prime right now and do that. Dinner Conversations is brought to you by ChildFund, a community development organization that has been envisioning a world where every child is free to live with their fullest potential no matter where they’re from or what challenges they face since 1938.

Andrew: Partner with us and our good friends at ChildFund to change the world and the life of a child by considering sponsoring a child today.

Mark: It really does take so little to make a difference.

Andrew: Visit childfund.org/dinnerconversations.

Mark: A child is waiting.


ChildFund is a community development organization that has been envisioning a world where every child is free to live at their fullest potent no matter where they are from — or what challenges they face — since 1938.

Partner with us and our good friends at ChildFund to change the world in the life of a child by considering sponsoring a child today. It takes so little to make a difference. A child is waiting. And remember, every one who sponsors a child is invited to a Dinner Conversations Friends & Family Weekend in Nashville, plus receives an autographed Season Two DVD, CD and a special item handmade for you by our communities in Guatemala.

Learn more here: childfund.org/dinnerconversations.


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Watch Our Other Episodes:

S03, E01: Orphans No More featuring Lisa Harper
S03, E02: Perfectly Imperfect featuring Wynonna Judd
S03, E03: Surviving Miscarriage featuring Jason Crabb and Sonya Isaacs
S03, E04: Fear Factors featuring Patsy Clairmont
S03, E05: A New Normal featuring Jaci Velasquez and Nic Gonzales