Victims no more

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

A few years ago, an editorial in this paper commented on a medical research team's findings reported in the British medical journal The Lancet. These findings continue to have relevance today.

The researchers studied the cases of 202 Lithuanian drivers involved in rear-ended car accidents. Neck pain and headache problems were reported similar to those of a control group not involved in auto accidents. But none of the collision victims reported the kind of pain associated with whiplash.

The editorial stated, "Almost no private auto insurance is available in Lithuania. And people generally haven't heard of whiplash. So the researchers drew the ... conclusion that chronic whiplash exists only where people are mentally conditioned to expect and/or benefit financially from it. And also where the insurance and legal system provides a framework to nourish its supposed existence .... the study in Lithuania provides a healthy reminder to Western societies that a heavy price is paid when a culture of self-imposed victimhood and self-serving litigation develops" (May 14, 1996).

The phrase "self-imposed victimhood" caught my eye. Whether we're talking about whiplash or disease, this piece raises an important question: If victimhood is self-imposed, can it be self-unimposed?

Leaving the arguments of blame aside for a moment, this situation can be addressed, not from the basis of victimizer and victim, but by looking to our own thought to see what we are accepting as normal. Many cultures accept certain types of victimization as normal. Others might reject one type, but accept another. This points to the conclusion that what we accept to be the norm becomes the norm, and what we mentally reject as the norm ceases to be the norm. Why? Because our thoughts determine our experience.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this paper, wrote, "All disease is the result of education, and disease can carry its ill-effects no farther than mortal mind maps out the way" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 176). To some, this statement could be quite jarring. Disease and sickness are the result of education? And they can carry on their victimization only as far as we mentally paint the picture of disease and sickness? What does all this mean? To me, it means that, through learning the laws of God - His care for us and His goodness - we can, through prayer, reject the sentence of disease and sickness. We can self-unimpose the difficulty.

Not long ago, our daughter had been enjoying a summer of swimming. But after a few weeks, she had a painful ear infection. I remembered that many other parents had been talking at the pool about the virtual inseparability of children and ear infections. It seemed as if children just couldn't help being the victims of this discomfort and fear.

We kept her out of the water. But we also prayed for her, using the laws of God that Mrs. Eddy illustrates in her book Science and Health. I prayed to understand our daughter in God's image, rather than as a vulnerable child. She is God's child - perfect and healthy, because God maintains her that way. Her fun in the pool was powerless to produce sickness and pain. This was an example of false education that we had to reject. It was not given of a good God. We rejected any mental "map[ping] out the way" of sickness and self-imposing of discomfort. Rather, we spiritually saw her divine protection from all illness. At one point, the infection looked very severe, but she was not in pain. We sat together quietly, praying with these ideas, for about 40 minutes. During that time, she was completely healed.

No one is meant to be a victim. Whatever injustices we face, we can and do have a response - prayer based on God's laws of goodness. This response is available to each one of us, 24/7. It begins with a spiritual sense that disease and sickness are not God-ordained. Then it grows into a spiritual understanding that God's laws protect us, and that the laws of matter are overruled by God's laws. The application, through prayer, of God's laws then destroys whatever ills we're facing - thoroughly and permanently. Why? Because we are each God's child, perfect and healthy. That's God's law. And nothing can break it.

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