HOW much does human pity help? Is there a better way to show we care? Do we enjoy being pitied? These questions often carry many subtleties that need to be considered honestly. When I was a student in high school, I had to stay home and inside for two weeks because of an accident. Since many fellow students were aware of this, I received so many notes, visitors, and gifts, I was overwhelmed by the sudden attention.
One day my best friend told me, as best friends sometimes do, perhaps with a tinge of envy: ``All this attention has gone to your head. You were a nobody before the accident, and you will be a nobody when you recover.''
It was a rebuke I needed. I was enjoying the prestige of being pitied. I had thought making friends was difficult. Now suddenly I was popular, but for the wrong reasons. I recognized that I needed a more worthy reason for making friends. Loving attention is one thing, but indulging in the distinction of a physical problem sometimes delays healing.
The gift I remember most was that of the Christian Science nurse who read to me from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy1 and frequently turned my thought to the immediacy of God's healing power by quoting the Bible passage ``Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.''2
When the healing came, I did find a better basis for friendship. I learned to see that I reflected, as God's likeness, spiritual qualities that friends could appreciate rather than pity.
Clearly, Christ Jesus didn't simply feel sorry for those with physical troubles. He saw disease as illegitimate; he saw that it was as much in need of healing as sin. He healed both through an understanding of God's supremacy and evil's fraudulency. Self-pity itself is a sin that needs to be healed, since it would separate us from God's love and hinder us from proving His omnipotence. It would prevent us from discerning the truth of our being as His image.
Mrs. Eddy tells of a child greeting a doctor at the door with the words ``I've got cold,'' as though a cold were something to be proud of. Mrs. Eddy explains: ``Her apparent pride at sharing in a popular influenza was comical. However, her dividend, when compared with that of the household stockholders, was new; and doubtless their familiarity with what the stock paid, made them more serious over it.''3
Some time later, when I was the one doing the caring, I saw more clearly the importance of not allowing oneself to enjoy illness or to be dominated by weakness. A member of my family was in bed and had little desire to eat. I put frills on lamb chops, a rose on the tray, until the patient seemed to sigh with satisfaction, though she was not responding by improvement. She needed to be making some efforts for herself, not succumbing to the pleasures of attention. Not that the loving attention we give another isn't helpful; but it is only a crumb of comfort compared with the gift of healing. Being content with attention delays healing. It makes illness seem legitimate, a stubborn reality. It also enslaves the one who is doing the caring.
Once I had been anticipating with great dread an awkward situation. I mused, ``If only I could be a little sick, I wouldn't have to go.'' I knew better than to pretend I was ill. I just hoped some discomfort would come to my rescue. What could be wrong with that? Much!
My spurious rescuer came, but as no mere slight illness. It appeared aggressively serious. Recovery began as I saw the fear I had harbored and looked to God for help. The healing was completed as I faced the fear and went forward. As it turned out, the event provided a helpful proof of God's loving care. Disease did not offer escape from the thing I dreaded. God did.
Each problem requires a healing solution. Sin, disease, and death are not problem solvers. Healing is. And we find healing through a perception of God's supreme power and of man's wholeness as His spiritual image.
As healing comes, both misguided pity and self-pity are released through God's loving care. God's pity--His mercy-- heals. His healing offers the worthy prestige of receiving His great love.
1The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 2II Corinthians 6:2. 3Miscellaneous Writings, p. 239. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. Psalms 103:13