Thoughts About Compassion: Blame the Victim or Encourage the Survivor?
“There is a member of our community who is a smoker. He has lung cancer.”
“No wonder he has heart problems, look at how he eats!”
These seem like reasonable statements. In fact, we hear them all the time. I heard both of these, verbatim, recently. In each case, the speaker was a healer, and in each case, the statement tendered blame rather than compassion. The first statement came from a Reiki healer, the second from a crystal healer.
I always hope that the first priority of a healer is compassion. Healers sometimes need to find a cause to find a cure. But finding a cause can be very different from casting blame. It is easy to blur those lines.
Now more than ever, we are fortunate to be educated about the serious health effects of smoking, alcoholism and poor diet. We can make a different in our health. But it seems that the more we know about physical health, the less compassionate we are with those who struggle with mental health issues such as eating disorders and addictions.
One reason for this lack of compassion is obvious. Health-conscious people like to think their lifestyle guarantees them immunity from bad health. While it certainly stacks the cards in their favor, there is never complete control or a full guarantee. This thinking causes the healthy to feel superior to the sickly.
It’s not only about physical health. The situation is worse because of the popularity of TheSecret, a watered-down and simplistic take on magick, visualization and the Law of Attraction. Briefly, The Secret tells us that we can and should have whatever we desire. If our intentions are clear and our energy is good, we will get what we want, be it health, love or money. Our ability to manifest these things is proof of our spiritual prowess.
The new Christian Prosperity Gospel preaches the same idea. If God is happy with us, he makes sure we are wealthy and healthy. If we are sick or impoverished, it is because have offended God.
Then there is karma. A common misconception is that we are punished in this lifetime for our mistakes in a prior life, as if there is some sort of cosmic scoreboard. This becomes another spiritual reference to corroborate the idea that one should be blamed for their misfortunes.
I believe we need to be proactive in our lives. We need to try our best to improve our health, both mental and physical. We need to be positive and grateful in our outlook, because positive thinking attracts positive things. I believe in the power of magick, the power of words, the power of thoughts, the power of prayer, the power within, and the power of the divine.
When I was a freshman, a motivational speaker came to my inner city high school. His name was Jesse Jackson. He made us chant things like “If I can conceive it, I can believe it. If I can believe it, I can achieve it.” I believe that message now, and I believed it then.
Here’s what I don’t believe.
I don’t believe we are effective healers when we hold the person we are trying to heal in judgment.
I don’t believe that health and wealth is a measure of a person’s spiritual grace.
I don’t believe that any of us are immune from misfortune, no matter how hard we pray, how well we eat, how much charity we give or how many candles we burn.
I don’t believe that a loving Higher Power creates our misfortunes, or abandons us in the midst of them.
I do believe that misfortune is often necessary. It brings us as a lesson, or makes way for a needed next chapter. Sometimes it brings us strength, compassion and wisdom.
As we continue to evolve as a conscious planet, I hope that healers and teachers are able to rise to a place of compassion rather than blame. As healers, let’s work to empower those in need to see themselves as brave survivors, rather than simply victims of their own bad choices.