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Maybe You Don’t Have A.D.D.

I believe God created the heavens and the earth. But I struggle to understand the broken parts of creation. For example, does God create people with A.D.D.? Do some of us come out of the womb with a “distractibility gene” that makes it hard for us to learn or focus? Or is it really a different ki…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I believe God created the heavens and the earth. But I struggle to understand the broken parts of creation. For example, does God create people with A.D.D.? Do some of us come out of the womb with a “distractibility gene” that makes it hard for us to learn or focus? Or is it really a different kind of perception that he has gifted some of us with?

How many of you have been defined at some point as ADD? I know I have. But I don’t have too little attention – just too many ideas for the attention available to allocate to those ideas. So, I struggle with the ADD label. In America, as many as one in ten have it and five times as many boys as girls are diagnosed ADD.

ADD posits that we need a certain amount of attention to complete tasks. In school, these tasks may be studying, reading books, and writing papers. As adults, our work requires completing certain tasks, tasks that we may struggle to complete. If you often have difficulty keeping attention during your work, you might be ADD.

But some psychologists like Thom Hartmann see the issue differently. They say that while it is an issue for some, for many people, it’s not a disorder at all. Rather, it’s the result of a natural division of labor between men and women in generations past where men have historically been hunter-gatherers who needed to scan the horizon for game and move into action quickly.

This contrasts with women who historically have minded the nest and maybe watched the family farm. They were able to focus for extended periods of time on relationships and nurture. Their neural wiring fired across synapses that required predictability, while their hunter-gatherer mates had to adapt to an unpredictable environment.

Coincidentally, farmer-minded people became our school teachers, teaching students according to their standards and ways of learning. Typically, little boys didn’t fare as well as little girls in their classrooms.

Einstein, Franklin and Edison were all labeled ADD, outliers in a farmer-run world. But were they broken or just different? Their quick-react brains were perfectly suited for the task of creating the modern constructs that we now take for granted.

In saying this, I don’t want to diminish the real problem that some struggle with. And whether it’s a disorder or not, clearly, to be effective in our modern world some people need help focusing more.

But for others, it may help to know that they are not broken, just different. Perhaps they have struggled to understand themselves and will find solace in escaping the labels of others. And if you’d like to delve deeper into the subject, I recommend you read Hartmann’s book, A.D.D.: A Different Perception.

*        *       *        *       *        *       *        *      

Now, having broken free of the shackles that the experts have put us in, I’d like to return the favor. In the spirit of better understanding where we’re all a little broken, I’d like to propose a disorder of my own.

I call it L.O.D. “Labeling Obsession Disorder.” – It’s the need to categorize things and people in tidy little boxes so that we don’t have to deal with the messiness of how we are different.

I’d like to suggest that some of the experts who live life according to these boxes are not any healthier than those they put in the boxes. Perhaps they are just L.O.D. sufferers who are projecting their issues on the rest of us.

In fact, maybe we’re not ADD at all. Maybe it’s just them inflicting their brokenness on those of us who are different. Perhaps the reality is that by studying and researching the issue a bunch, they acquire the title of “expert” and get to declare that those who are different than they are in fact have a kind of illness.

Or maybe this line of thinking is just the addled result of me needing the Ridlin I was never prescribed in the first place?

What do you think?

Comments (14)

  • Was recently thinking about the “strangeness” of us all, or the “strangeness” we think we are to which God has clearly spoken in my spirit and replied, “You (all) are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Accepting ourselves, even if we’ve been labeled with this or that disorder, as possibly how God made us is both comforting and freeing.

  • Seth, I sit here in the Hope House with 10 girls and many things, dreams and vision on my mind. I’m not satisfied with 10 girls rescued from the sex trade. I see 2, 3, 4 and more safe houses here in Manila. I see cities here full of safe houses. I see countries full of safe houses as we wipe tears on this side of heaven.

    I see discipleship of Americans, Filipinos, Cambodians, Thai, and I see, and see, and see and keep seeing and dreaming of all sorts of things.

    Oh how I relate to your “I don’t have too little attention – just too many ideas for the attention available to allocate to those ideas”.

    YES, THAT IS ME ALSO! I’ve been labeled ADD by so many, but I simply press on to those things that are in my heart, and I will keep dreaming.

    God is bringing others into my path to help me fulfill the dreams, and they are saying “Coach, you keep dreaming and being who you are and let us do the stuff to get us there…”

    Your post today encourages my heart – that I am NOT alone.

    Thank you Seth Barnes. I am so thankful for your ADD!

  • Good article, I have read hartmanns books, they’re good.

    I was labelled add/ADHD and medicated etc…

    I agree with your thoughts here, believe God made us this way for a reason.

  • Good article, I have read hartmanns books, they’re good.

    I was labelled add/ADHD and medicated etc…

    I agree with your thoughts here, believe God made us this way for a reason.

  • As one who was prescribed every kind of medicine possible for his “ADD” that turned me into a zombie and made me feel like a machine just getting through life… I couldn’t agree more with this.

  • I was labeled a non achiever who cared more about daydreaming than school. With unidentified learning disabilities, dyslexia, especially with numbers, l strived to make average grades in elementary school. Words like lazy, messy and inattentive filled my teachers comment spaces.

    While getting my degree of Masters in Mental Health Counseling I was able to recognize and diagnose ADD and sought professional help. Twenty years later I am still thankful daily for the medication that allows me to remember that my laundry needs to be taken from the washer and placed in the dryer. I can complete tasks, remember where l am going and drive there without too many detours.

    Now I have the capability of making my many creative and amazing God given dreams happen. I still struggle with ADD even on meds and I would love for the Lord to remove this thorn from my flesh…but His answer is always the same. My grace is sufficient.

  • Seth,

    I believe you have a great perspective on this issue! My thoughts are that we live in a world full of advertisement campaigns that focus on cutting all the information into 30 seconds which trains are mind to have a short attention span. Bilboards… Commercials… Blinking lights… and the list goes on.

    I really like your thoughts on the L. O. D. I couldn’t agree more that others want to stick a label on us very quickly. I think these labels are one source of why people are so broken. They are told they are messed up with a disorder and eventually believe they are messed up. Of course, we are all messed up in some way but I think our dad sees us just the way He designed us. I believe it was His perfect design.

    I believe some of us have a natural ability to focus on one subject and others have a natural ability to focus on 100. ( Analytical vs. Visionary) I also believe we can learn from one another and need to recognize our differences so we can work together effectively.

  • Seth; WE are normal, its all the folks who can’t seem to flit from thought to though quickly that are loosing out.

    In working with lots of boy scouts over the years, I heard the therm A.D.O.S, which stands for “Attention Defficit–Oooh! Shinny!”.

    Seriously, if God had made all of us exactly the same, no matter the pattern, this ‘d be a pretty dull place. I mean, can you imagine 7 billion Pauls or 7 billion Jesus’ even! Who’d he save?

    And so many of us ‘so called ADD’ folks are better spatial thinkers, can navigate almost with out a map, take apart and put back together things without a manual, have the ability to ‘see’ the lumber pile as a house in the tree, etc.

    You are right, the poor L.O.D.’s have issues and need our prayers even as they think they are helping us with definitions.

  • Great post. I have been labeled ADD many many times. Even every week to this day. My parents luckily did not give into that though. They knew we were different and gave us extra things to do to busy us. Thank you for posting this and making me realize that I am not this label! .

  • In part, we live in a world of excuses. We all want an excuse or mitigating factor to explain our poor/dumb/sinful choices.

    When we quit making excuses for our behavior we can then own our stuff and move forward.

    My kids get tired of hearing this, but they certainly aren’t hearing it in too many other places so I repeat it often.

  • A brief quibble – historically, men weren’t “hunter/gatherers” while women tended the farm. In hunter gather societies, typically men hunted and women gathered. Surely they probably developed different skills due to this division of labor, but I would imagine that gatherer women also needed to quickly assess the changing environment around them, particularly in scenarios when they were vulnerable to wild predators. When such societies progressed to agriculture, both men and women tended the farm. Not sure how this would affect your conception of the evolutionary basis for what we now call ADD.

  • This needed to be written, and I would only suggest that you don’t suggest or get opinions, but speak it more boldly!

  • I just to thank you Seth for your words and making me realize im not alone. I could only wish I could have friends like you all, for I know u all are good people . Just thank u very much. And all of you here.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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