So I mentioned a little bit ago that I have a friend who’s dealing with brain tumors. They’ve set up a FB page to keep everyone posted about what’s going on so I’m getting to see not just updates by friend and their partner, but also what others have to say about it. Now, this is an eclectic mix of folks. Yogis and skydivers and people from all around the world.
I have to bite my lip a lot and try to keep my own issues separate from my friend’s illness.
Because there’s a lot of “if you just eat enough tumeric those tumors will go away” or “if you just put all your faith in God he will carry you through this” or just “you’ve spent your life jumping out of planes, you can easily beat this.”
And I get it. I get that people want to be positive and give encouragement. No one wants to be the asshole who says, “This is serious shit. You might die. Or be forever changed.” When someone is facing something like this, there’s this desire to be encouraging. To tell someone it will get better. That they can make it through if they just…whatever.
But that’s not always true.
And I’m not sure how helpful it is to tell someone these things even if it’s something they believe in. My father was a man of God. If he could, he dragged himself to church every single Sunday. And he prayed. And he believed. (And, more surprisingly in this modern age, I think he actually lived a truly Christian life down to loving your fellow man and forgiving people their sins.)
But praying and believing didn’t change the fact that he didn’t have his kidneys. And that he couldn’t have another transplant. And that he was in a slow, decades-long decline that was going to ultimately kill him.
Yeah, sure. Sometimes it works out. I’m sure there were folks with AIDS who feel their prayers have been answered. Because it was a death sentence when I was in middle school and now people can have a normal life expectancy with it.
But to imply that “all you have to do is X” makes people who are already in a shitty situation feel worse because maybe they aren’t doing enough. In my father’s case, maybe he didn’t believe enough. Maybe he’d sinned by marrying a woman who wasn’t a God-fearing person. Maybe he’d failed by not raising children who shared his faith. Maybe, maybe…
Maybe life is just sometimes shit. And it’s not the fault of the person who is sick that they were struck down by this. And it’s not their fault that they can’t be the one that recovers from it no matter what they do or how hard they fight.
I get that people want to be encouraging and positive. I do. But…I don’t know. Sometimes I’d rather just hear people say, “This sucks. And it may for a long time yet. But I’m here for you.”