Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Q: How to handle well-wishers when you’re ill

[Note: I’m changing format on the titles of these, because “question” was taking up too much space.]

This from an inquirer (slightly edited):

How can I express my experience without reinforcing error? I’ve been suffering [with some symptoms] this past week, and sometimes people who know I’ve been having trouble will ask how I’m doing.

The (human) truth is I feel lousy, and haven’t been able to get relief (yet). The capital-T Truth is I’m doing great and have never suffered and I am perfectly well.

I feel uncomfortable saying either of these! The first, because I don’t want to strengthen the error, and the second because it’s not my experience (yet).

How can I be both authentic and spiritually minded? How do you handle this?

As always, would be great to have the responses of blog readers!

I have a few things to say about situations like this.

First of all, Christian Science doesn’t accept any belief in voodoo. Sometimes I’ve felt that the hesitation to talk about what we’re experiencing comes from a fear that by talking about it, we’ll increase the power of the “evil spell,” or something. But the more I’ve come to understand that we can’t strengthen something that had zero power to begin with, the more relaxed I’ve become on this issue.

Second, the dear people who care enough to inquire how we’re doing are expressing Love, which is just as important as Truth in healing. And, I’ll take all the Love I can get when working through something. In fact, I’ve often leaned on and gained strength from those expressions of Love. When someone shows their concern, I turn instantly away from thinking it’s making a reality of the situation to an uplifted recognition of the Love being expressed. And I thank them, wholeheartedly, for their support. Once that’s acknowledged, I can then perhaps explain that I’m fine, or things are getting better, or whatever other words might ease their concern. What’s important is the support being expressed, and accepting that support.

Third, there are practical issues associated with not feeling 100%. Sometimes we have to ask others to cover for us in our obligations, or they have to know we’re not entirely focused on a shared project. I think it’s important to be honest while being Truthful, if you know what I mean. Needing time for “rest” (when we mean focused prayerful study and treatment) makes sense to others and they will support it.

This isn’t to say I advocate the tell-all policy that many adopt when facing a physical crisis—long descriptions of suffering or medical procedures or comparing notes. This is not always helpful and can solidify the error in thought, although it does provide a form of support.

But I don’t believe normal humanitarian concern falls in the “harmful” category. From a public relations standpoint with regards to helping people see that the practice of Christian Science is rational and normal, I’d recommend being as normal as possible when hearing from well-wishers. Accept the love and support, and use it as a springboard to increase your confidence in ultimate healing.

Thoughts? Love you guys! Be sure to go back to prior questions this week, too, and check out the amazing comments. Great stuff.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 4/04/2007 10:06:00 AM, Blogger Kate said...

I'm with you Laura...there is no superstition in Christian Science...we are not creators...we cannot create a vulnerability that undermines God's all-power...

When someone asks me how I am... I just tell the truth and then thank them for their loving concern...assuring them (and me) that it is that very love that heals...because it brings to bear on my view of things another further glimpse of God's presence in my life...and the problem, sickness, or "whatever" is only a suggestion that God is absent...everything that reminds me that He, Love is helping me stay focused on His presence in my life...and since God is All...if He is at all present...He is all can't get a lesser portion of All...than all!

Every glimpse of Love expressing itself as just the "Oh my goodness look there is God in your life" that I need at that moment...the words "sick, ill, hurt, etc." are not going to distract me from the substance of what is being offered...LOVE!!! so I say...bring it on!!

At 4/04/2007 01:04:00 PM, Anonymous Emily said...

My colleagues know I'm a Scientist, and although they don't understand exactly what that means, they know I don't take medicine and don't like to discuss illness. My assistant is especially good about showing concern and compassion without interfering. If I'm obviously not firing on all cylinders, he'll say something like, "You look like crap. Go home and call your practitioner. I'll cover for you."

If you think about it, there's a lot of Truth in that: "You look like crap" is just another way of saying, "I see the illusion of illness."

"Go home and call your practitioner" is a way of saying, "I'm not a Scientist, but I know this works for you, and I respect that."

And "I'll cover for you" is an expression of love: "I care about you enough to handle this practical stuff at the office so you can take the time you need to get better."

On those rare instances when I find I need to call in sick, I usually say something like, "Hey -- I've got a bit of a situation this morning, and I need to take care of it before I come in." It probably helps that I'm the highest-ranking employee in my particular office, so people generally don't question me if I take the morning off, aside from the occasional, "Is everything OK?"

Of course, my position also allows me to kind of set the tone for how we handle illness -- I'm usually the one people talk to when they call in sick, so I can choose my words carefully to let them know they're supported without reinforcing their fears.


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