A friend posted something on Facebook that really touched me, because it is an aspect of our culture that has always bothered me, and seems to be getting worse. Her comments focused on some of the things people say about her daughter, who has dyslexia. I have been thinking about this for a long time, especially in connection with funerals, but in other ways as well. For example, here are some of the inappropriate things I hear being said all the time:
- God needed another angel
- God needed (him/her) for a special reason
- God has a plan
- You are so strong, caring for a child with __
- Did you gain weight?
- You are too skinny!
- Better hold the church walls up – its been a long time since you’ve been to church!
Where do we get the idea that we have the right to make comments about people like this? How is it any of our business? These comments are often insulting, insensitive, and rude – they are also judgmental. None of us knows what people are going through – what medication they take, the struggles they have, the loss they are feeling. So often, these comments only add on to the struggles people are going through, and they add to their despair, solitude, and negative feelings.
So – what should we say?
- I am praying for you in your loss
- I can’t imagine what you are going through
- Your child must bring you so much joy
- I like your shirt
- I’m so glad to see you this morning
It is so easy to be positive and supportive of people every day. It is so easy to not pry into people’s lives, but to leave the door open if they want to talk. Nobody has the right to say insensitive judgmental things about other people when they are minding their own business and living their lives the best they can. We do have the right to protect ourselves and others who cannot protect themselves. We have the right to offer assistance to people in need. We do not have the right to be condescending or critical. Those words only bring people down – they don’t lift them up.
So please, think twice before you comment – it could make all the difference in the world. Peace!
Steve Ohnsman has been the pastor of Calvary United Church of Christ in Reading, PA since 1999. He has a BA in Religion & Philosophy from Wilmington College (OH), an MDiv from Drew Theological Seminary (NJ), a DMin in Christian Ethics from United Theological Seminary (OH), and a PhD in Leadership from Alvernia University (PA).