Raise your hand if you have ever battled a potentially terminal disease or love someone who has or does? Now raise your hand if you struggle with the disease of addiction or love someone who has or does? And raise a hand if you’ve ever felt tormented by the effects of your own sin/evil/brokenness or have suffered from the effects of living in a world riddled with the effects of other people’s propensity toward sin/evil/brokenness? Anyone running out of hands?
Today I awoke with a fresh fervor for why I started writing and why I keep writing. I started writing because I had cancer. I keep writing because through that, and through throwing out my life on “paper”, I have learned a few things. I have come to believe, through a combination of reading and listening and experiencing, that most humans (at least in in the world I operate in—here in America) have three common strands woven into the fabric of their life experience:
- Disease (of the body and the soul)
- Drugs (and by this I refer to anything done addictively), and
- Deity (the pursuit of and issues with God).
I think we would be hard pressed to find an individual who has not spent significant time enmeshed in these overarching areas. I used to think that the majority of the awfulness of a disease or an addiction was reserved for the patient or person harboring it. Not so. I have watched my family suffer great sorrow and consequences from my leukemia. And I have been profoundly effected by the addiction of people I love, in ways that impact the way I behave in every other part of my tiny sphere of influence.
We talk about the God stuff (Deity) every time I write — but let’s take a few minutes to focus on the the other two. Disease and Drugs. Just to prove my point at how prevalent these two deadly animals rear their ugly heads, let’s talk about movies. I didn’t notice it so much until these areas were acute in my world. When I was in the hospital for 6 days at a time getting chemo, I watched a lot of movies. Almost without exception, at some point in the movie, one of the characters would deal with cancer or alcoholism/addiction. Even if I had seen the movie before and hadn’t recalled that being a theme, one of them would inevitably be mentioned or dealt with.
I remember renting a movie about a young woman’s battle with early onset of Alzheimers. That seemed safe to me. But No. Her father’s alcoholism came in to play, eventually. I think you would be hard pressed to find a movie that doesn’t address these two awful diseases, either living with them or dealing with the aftermath of them. And why is this? Because these particular struggles hit the heart of almost every movie-goer. Almost every person we know.
Because Disease and Addiction are so rampant, I believe it is not a stretch at all to say that every person has been effected by one or the other somewhere in their life. Even if it isn’t active, the coping mechanisms one develops to deal with someone else’s Disease/Addiction are often carried on generation after generation. And many of these skills we carry are not healthy or good for us or those we are in relationships with.
Often those affected by the diseases are even sicker than the Carrier. They can be angry, bitter, self-righteous, co-dependent, pessimistic, judgmental, etc. I guess my point in it all is that whether it’s our own personal battle or we are suffering from the “second hand smoke” of Disease/Addiction, there is much shrapnel still imbedded in us and how we behave. And we need to realize this about others and how they behave.
We are all doing the best we can, but to some degree we are all ‘sick”. Extending compassion, understanding and empathy for our fellow man is crucial. Extra kindness and gentleness are required for survival and healing for all of us. How people behave usually has less to do with us and more to do with what they are going through and have been through.
Therefore, be gracious to one another. Try your best not to take it personally. Treat your brothers and sisters like you would a “sick” friend. Because we all are.