Watching is dangerous.
It’s not very “politically correct” to talk about morals when we discuss suffering. Ethics, certainly, but morals? They’re a bit more personal, a bit more offensive. After all, how can you suggest that someone in pain is responding the ‘wrong’ way?
At the same time, I think it’s essential. As a Christian, I want to become more like Jesus – and so it’s important to me to acknowledge the overt temptations I encounter. Even if you do not share my faith, I think we all would like to ‘build our character’ and ‘become a better person’ or ‘live up to our own standards’. It’s part of being human.
It’s important than, to acknowledge that Watching or care-giving can be morally dangerous. This because it contains the two ingredients which are often present when something good turns sour.
They say challenges make us stronger, ‘better’ people. The truth is, they can also degrade us. And when something difficult is also of great importance, several dangers arise.
1: Watching leads to pride
Because Watching is valuable it can lead us to cultivate a sense of undue importance and pride.
We may become proud of our unique position or proud of our abilities to cope with it.
This is dangerous for two reasons:
Pride only exists in community
Firstly, pride never exists in a vacuum.
It arises when we compare ourselves to others.
‘Look at us! We are much more aware of the reality of suffering than them. If they had a life like mine they would have fallen apart by now. I’m much stronger than them because of this.’
I’m not sure comparison is ever helpful.
I suspect it will ‘out’ itself eventually, either in our conversation or actions.
And nobody ever liked a condescending, patronising person.
Pride from comparison will eventually result in us heaping scorn or pity – depending on our temperament – on those who do not Watch, who have not suffered as we suffer.
Perhaps we will be tempted to ignore them when they talk of ‘their’ suffering, thinking it in comparable to our own.
Pride is almost always false
Secondly, this pride is dangerous because it is a lie.
Perhaps we have suffered more than our neighbour, perhaps we are stronger than them because of it, more capable, more loving.
Even if this were all true, we would still have nothing to be proud about.
We did not choose our position – so it is not ours to be proud about.
Any abilities we have are God given and God cultivated. To be proud of Watching is to deceive ourselves.
2: Watching makes us feel entitled
Because Watching is hard it can lead to a sense of entitlement. We may become bitter or defensive, believing we are ‘hard done by’ and ‘deserve’ much ‘better’.
Entitlement also exists in community
Again, such thoughts are dangerous because they arise from living in community with others, and so will also impact this community.
We believe we are ‘entitled’ only because we compare ourselves with others.
If everyone Watched, we would see no reason for us to deserve anything different.
We can thank God that not everyone Watches, because such a world would be very sad.
Nevertheless, we only have to look around us to see what others receive from life. Often it is very different to our lot.
This too impacts our relationships:
We may be tempted to cease listening to others when they tell us of their ‘problems’ – certain that they cannot possibly measure up to our own.
We may become unteachable, refusing to learn from those around us. Surely we are the more experienced ones. What can those who have not Watched teach us?
False entitlement is a lie
Secondly, like pride in our position, a sense of entitlement is a lie.
It is irrational.
We may harbour the belief that we ‘deserve’ better. That may be a valid point.
Let us continue with it to its conclusion, and ask ourselves: who do we ‘deserve’ better from? Others around us? Our neighbours, our families, our Loved Ones?
Why do they owe you? What debt do they have to you which must be discharged? What can we claim from them?
If it is not from others we deserve this ‘better’ from, then who? God?
Would we go up to God and demand that we deserve better than what He has given us? Can we even claim that we know, absolutely and finally, what ‘better’ is?
It’s a fine line.
Let us search our hearts and ask why we feel entitled to a ‘better’ life.
Is it because a world free from pain is God-honouring – or because we believe that God has wronged us, and we deserve much better from His hand?
There be dragons (Yes, Watching is this dangerous)
Watching is also dangerous because it may lead us to enjoy what is not natural.
In Watching we may find ourselves in control – minutely, partly, or absolutely – of someone else’s life.
We may discover that our Loved One is depending on us more than they would if they were well. This is not wrong. It is a natural product of the situation we find ourselves in. It may be necessary, it may be helpful. But let us never forget that the situation itself is not natural.
“All power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
(or so the Acton’s quote goes…)
Let us accept but not enjoy our unique circumstance. Let us not take comfort in our control or our position.
Being a Watcher is part of us – but it is not our sole identity and never should be.
To draw our sense of self from our position in another’s misfortune is unhealthy and wrong.
Where is our dragon slayer?
Oh my friends, my friends.
The valley of death is not only dark, but marauders surround us on every side. We must not only walk without stumbling, but also walk in the right direction.
This is difficult.
Dangers threaten our very souls. Watching is important and hard. Pride, entitlement and corruption make war against us.
Yet God is good, and will bring all who turn to Him safely through. So let us turn to Him.
// Do you struggle with any of these dangers? What does it look like to trust God in them?
Join the conversation, don’t just read silently! Comment below!
the companion post to this is:
The benefits of “being there” for someone with a chronic illness
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5 thoughts on “The moral dangers of “being there” for someone with a chronic illness”
Very insightful! How easy is it to think “What would God do without me?” He chooses to use us to help and support and watch those who are struggling. But…. oh humble thought…. he doesn’t need us! His hands are not tied without us. (I thank God for that!)
Yes – such a hard truth some times (I want to be important! The hero!), but SUCH a liberating and valuable one. Isn’t God good? Thank you for taking the time to comment!