There seems to be two opposing views that persons of faith, any faith, seem to have when it comes to illness. The first is nature is the cause. This view that many Wiccans and Christians will subscribe to says that an illness is not because God or the Goddess made you ill, it is because in nature illness happens. It is the same as death and life. Death happens and life happens and neither is something to blame divinity on or even the person who has passed away for. Death is. In this view, the person experiencing the illness is blameless. They simply are ill.
However, no matter how often I hear someone tell me this view, I can't help but pick up the psychic undercurrents that suggest that an illness was caused by the person who is ill. Wiccans will never tell you to their face that they think a person is experiencing some karmic retribution that has manifested in a physical way, but they are happy to discuss this in the abstract or behind your back. Having been raised in a Southern Baptist church, I heard plenty about how those who were righteous and within the will of God prospered physically, financially, mentally and emotionally. The undercurrent was if you have problems physically, financially, mentally or emotionally, then you have some how gotten negative attention or even are simply being ignored by the Divine Creator and therefore these problems have manifested themselves in you life.
I was recently chided for not being a firm believer that I could "think myself well," especially given that I was a Wiccan. It has been a long time that I have had someone tell me that I wasn't spiritual enough. The last notable time was when I was a Christian and accused of not being saved because I didn't agree to church doctrine. It was later described as a "willful disobedience and unwillingness to subject her [my] will to the Church." Faced with the suggestion that I was not Wiccan enough to over come my disability, I was struck silent. What can I say to that, exactly? Worse, the person who suggested this wasn't even Wiccan. I was left wondering about how we, as mere humans, have earned the right to pass judgement on others' spiritual journey and it's inferred impact on our phsyical one.
In this same conversation minutes earlier, there was a deep discussion about a friend's cancer not resulting from God's punishment. The cancer was because something went wrong in their body. They couldn't think themselves well, they needed to take advantage of the medical advancements God has provided.
Moving from a Christian perspective to a Wiccan one, the introduction of spells and what some term "magical thinking" comes in to play. I firmly believe and have had first hand experience with a spell being sent to me and then rebounding on the person who sent it making them physically ill. I found this out because I eventually got a complete confession by the party that cursed me. They literally said, "You *&$% you were supposed to get sick, not me!!!!" OK, wow. So I was well and they were sick with a very specific affliction.
This incident taught me that the laws of karmic retribution does include physical aliments. The question then becomes is every illness, every sickness, every genetic disorder, karmic retribution, familial curses, God's reituation or God ignoring the unrighteous? More importantly how can the afflicted tell the difference?
This line of thinking can also include the ideas about mental and emotional suffering. Having been raised by a rapist, abusive pedophile, I was told once that I chose to be that man's child during my time between reincarnation because I wanted to gain the lessons living that life would give me. I have also been told that the abuse is a magical familial curse. Of course, it therapist have insisted that my abuse was part of the cycle of abuse creating a monster who then took out his predilections on me.
I think, then, this is the conclusion I have come up with. It is true that sometimes things happen. Cancer develops. Children are born with genetic birth defects. A child is born into an abusive home.
It is also true that sometimes things happen because something is a precursor. Cancer develops more frequently because of the carcinogens we are eating and exposed to in our industrialized society. Genetic defects are occurring with more frequencies because modern medicine is allowing those with these latent genes to live and be able to reproduce where in years before they would have died before being allowed to do so. Children who are beaten, raped and abused are nearly always abused by a person who was exposed to and forced to participate in the same behavior by another adult in their life. It is why abuse is often refered to as a cycle.
It is also true that the spiritual world does interact with the physical. It is completely possible that someone gets sick because the Law of Three bounces back on them after they attempt to curse another. It could be true that children are born with some defect because someone places a familial curse upon a descendant line. It could even be true that some children choose to learn specific lessons between reincarnations and then are born into abusive homes to learn those lessons.
I think, we, as a faith and/or magical based society lose our way when we decide to assess for another which of these root causes are at play. To suggest that someone has a better perspective on another suffering than the person who is suffering is to belittle and undermine the confidence of that person. In a way you are suggesting that they are not in touch with their own pain enough to come to some understanding about why they are in that pain. It is dangerously close to playing God and/or Goddess.
Most of us don't want to play God. We just want to find a way to support another human being. The woman who spurred this blog is a great hearted person who only wants to help. She was making suggestions without malice of intent. However, assessing judgement on the reasons someone is disabled or sick or having financial problems is not helpful. It is harmful. Which leads this disucssion to what is truly important. How can others help those they see suffering with long term illness or problems?
Recently, my sister and best friend, has been having a rough time, and I have found myself restricted by distance and financial constrictions in how I can help her. One day I asked her what I could do and she said, "Be present." Nothing more, no elaboration...just a simple request, "Be present."
After hanging up with her I wondered at her request. I couldn't show up at her house. I couldn't send flowers and gift baskets (although I would if I was financially able). I couldn't baby sit her kids, even though I know she needs that. So I racked my brain thinking about her request. "Be present."
I went to my phone and looked at how often I texted her. I then checked Facebook to see how often I had FB with her and whether or not I was up to date on her posts. Did I really know what was going on in her life? Why did it seem easier for me to keep up with my other best friend because she and I lived ten minutes from each other? That's when it struck me.
Text her and say, "I know you are there. You are important. You do great things. You're a great mother. Keep going."
Read her Facebook posts and make sure on the rare occasions that I talk with her I know what she has been up to. What were her most recent triumphs? Was she sad, tired, frustrated that day?
Find quotes that I can send that demonstrate to her I have an understanding regarding the struggles I know she is facing. I have read those blogs and posts and privately without anyone knowing, I am going to be present in the face of her personal fire and do what I can no matter how far we are parted.
I have suddenly learned that to truly help others, you must lay down your judgement of them in any form. You have to come to some understanding that someone else is not for you to fix. If they are sharing their pain, your job is to hear it, accept it and let them know you are empathic to it. If you want to be a good friend, then be supportive. Know what is going on with their life. Know what their triumphs are and know when they are struggling. Offer help in any way you can, via text or Facebook or even a call where all you do is leave a positive message. If you are present in someones life, you become a pillar of strength that begins to help hold up the burdens that person faces. You become an integral part of the structure of that person's life and the long term impact you have can never be quantified or measured.
Don't judge. Don't suggest. Don't fix. Be Present.