When you are chronically sick or pained, people stop caring that you are always, constantly, without a break, unwell.
As Job puts it, “Those who are at ease have contempt for misfortune as the fate of those whose feet are slipping.” Job 12:5
How this rings true for those who have been met with the misfortune of chronic pain, of no fault of their own. We might rewrite Jobs words as so: Those who are healthy have contempt for the misfortune of chronic pain as the fate of those whose feet are slipping.
When pain is a constant in your life, people wonder what all the fuss is about when you mention that, yes, you are still in pain, or when you mention that the pain has worsened or changed.
“Aren’t you always in pain?” they seem to be thinking. Aren’t you always in pain, so what’s all the fuss about that you are still in pain?
“Can’t you stop being in pain, so we can be normal friends?” are the words behind the silence.
“Can’t you just be like everyone else, because your sickness is an inconvenience to me,” is the unspoken refrain.
“Can’t you just stop suffering, because it is really uncomfortable to me when you just never stop struggling.”
At least, I imagine people thinking these things. I suppose I should give people the benefit of the doubt. Not everyone thinks these things, but I am certain that some people do. Even some of the best of people.
The words are not actually spoken, but become apparent at that moment when you realize that someone has stopped caring. There is that moment when you talk about your pain, and there is no response. That moment when you have a bad day, but realize that most days are bad days, so that’s not really news that people want to hear anymore.
That moment when you realize that your pain has become such a part of you, such a non-surprise, that people, one by one, are slowly losing their compassion.
It is such an irony that human nature work this way, that we so easily and naturally abandon people at their times of greatest need. We so quickly change with the shifting shadows. When life is going well, we look with contempt on those who are suffering, those who are in pain, wondering what in the world they did to land in such an unfortunate place. It is such an evil part of our human nature that we begin to attribute suffering to some fault of the individual who suffers, and then slowly but surely leave. This is a part of our human nature that we must fight against with all that we are worth.
But the people who leave – or stay only in complacency – make me even more thankful for the people who hang on and actively care. The people who stay around only for the good pain days make me even more thankful for those who keep caring through both the ups and the downs. I am thankful for those who keep caring when the pain doesn’t go away, when life doesn’t resolve into neat and tidy answers and solutions.
May we all be faithful and loyal friends who stick around through both ease and misfortune.