Pushing Back, Part I (a new series for Thanksgiving week)

17 Nov

Ephesians 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:15, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ:”

Case Study, Tactless Speech:  Don’t defend the indefensible.  Have you ever said that?  To yourself?

I do it a lot.  It is when the Holy Spirit starts to convict me, right in the middle of something I am saying, that I am wrong and need to back up.  I try to listen to Him immediately and yield my will to His.  Life goes so much better that way.

Some things are not wrong, just vastly insensitive.  I heard one of those today.

At the risk of having the friend involved read this and recognize herself, I am going to say it anyway.  She alone will know who she is, if she does figure it out.  So this is not gossip.  But I do heartily disagree with what she said.  I would even call it indefensible.

She has been in Weight Watchers, off and on, for about the past six years.  I have seen her there and in a Bible study we both have attended.  She has another thing in common with me.  She is a fellow cancer survivor.

She ran into me in Panera today, having not seen me for five or six months.  She and I had both attended the Weight Watchers meeting this morning, but had only had a chance to wave at each other across a crowded room.

The first words out of her mouth were, “You are sooo thin.  Is it intentional?”

Ya’ll realize the shorthand that statement represented, don’t you?  She was asking if my cancer came back.

After I walked away from her, I nearly cried.  I nearly cried telling Noel about it at our table after she had left the restaurant.

You see, once a person has had cancer, the thought that it could recur always runs, like an invisible program, beneath the surface of her awareness.  And another cancer survivor would know that.  And should avoid tactless lines of questioning about it.

If a person is worried that someone else is unhealthily thin and might be sick, there is a way to find out.  It is called investing time in that person’s life and listening to her for a while to see whether anything comes up.

Asking a person in a ten second conversation whether she has cancer, even if you use shorthand to ask, is really, really hurtful.

Believe me.  I have just been there!!!

Last time I lost a significant amount of weight (55 pounds in 1997), I was in charge of a dinner at my church to raise money for meal deliveries to people living with advanced AIDS.  Someone actually asked me, back then, whether I too had a “chronic illness.”  And, yes, it was not hard to figure out that I was being asked whether I was fundraising for AIDS because I was myself a victim.


Really, there is just one thing to say to a person whom you know has been trying to lose weight when you see her and she is thin.  Even if you personally think she looks too thin.  That word is “congratulations.”

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