You may recall that way back, I did a post called Things PWDs Are Tired of Hearing. I’ve also done posts talking about how Christians and the Christian church should treat people with disabilities, rather than doing what they’re doing, which often does not work. However, there is, I think, a separate category for things Christians should stop saying to PWDs, even and especially when those PWDs are Christians speaking to each other. What do we need to stop saying, and what do we need to say instead?
Here we go.
- Stop telling me I’m selfish. No, you would never outright say that. But every time you say to me, “Yes, you can’t do X, but thank God for what you have, because He gave you food and clothing and a house”, that is what you say. Every time you bring up Paul’s admonition to be content, that’s what you say. I’m all for being unselfish and content, but if that means not seeking the best life I can have, to the best of my ability, then I don’t want it. If that means letting others control me, outside of God Himself, forget it. If that means pretending I don’t feel what I feel, screw it.
- Stop talking to me about Heaven. Yes, I am looking forward to Heaven. Yes, I believe it’s real. Yes, I believe anything there is better than what we have here and I am working on being heavenly-minded. But that is no excuse for expecting me to live a cruddy life and like it.
- Stop pointing me out as your “special friend” and saying how much like Jesus I am. Sure, I wanna be like Jesus but I am not Him, and I certainly am not by virtue of the fact I breathe. Just be real. Spend time with me because you want to, not because I make you feel good.
- Stop saying, “Things will happen when they’re supposed to.” Again, not disputing the truth of that statement. Too often though, when Christians say it to PWDs, what they really mean is, “That won’t happen for you. That’s okay, though. You were put on earth to inspire, not live life.”
- Stop saying you’ll pray for me… Unless you actually intend to do it, and actually intend to ask me if I still need prayer 1, 2, or 6 weeks later.
- Stop using God as your excuse. As in, “God has plans for you,” “God isn’t ready for you to do that yet,” or, heaven help you, “God has not led me to participate in the disability ministry.” Again, God’s not the one I’m beating up on. I’m kicking the snot out of people who could lend a hand but don’t, and hide behind the Almighty.
- Stop saying, Bless his/her/their heart. Hopefully, even in the Bible belt, we’re mostly over this one, but it happens. PWDs are people, not crippled lambs, despite Max Lucado’s picture book of that title. (Love Max, but if I could get my hands on him for writing a book about a crippled lamb and how inspirational creatures with disabilities are, I’d have his blessed theologian neck).
- Stop praying for me to be healed. I appreciate that, sorta, but…
- Stop telling me I don’t try hard enough. You don’t know “try” from a hole in the ground. Just because you know, or have read about, some chick with no arms who can do “more” than I can, it is not your right to tell me I don’t try. It is also not your right to tell me God will help me if I try or that He helps those who help themselves (which, by the way, is not even in the Bible–I’ve looked).
- Stop asking me if I want/need help. That’s great and all, but too often, you let the conversation end there. What is so intimidating about me? Why do you think you can’t know me? Why do you simultaneously put me on a par with a person whose disabilities are more severe, but then say, “You should be able to act more like me?”
What To Say Instead:
1. How’s life going? What’s the best thing that happened to you this week? The worst thing?
2. I know this is hard. Why don’t we figure out how to make it work?
3. Nothing. Just listen.
4. Wanna go to the mall/the movies/the coffee shop/on vacation with me and my friends? We’ll make sure you have what you need, but we can’t go without you. We’re having a trivia tournament (or whatever it is the PWD in your life loves to do).
5. Jesus sees you, loves you, and is proud of you.
6. I know the courage it took to do that, because you thought you couldn’t. Way to go!
7. I want you to have the best life possible; how can I help you do that?
8. May I pray for you today? (And then do it).
9. What do I need to know about you–besides your diagnosis?
10. You are strong, beautiful/handsome, kind, and loved. You are great the way you are.
11. I saw/heard/did X today, and I thought of you because…
12. You have the right to feel how you feel, pray what you need to, and worship as you like.
13. You were made/brought here for a purpose, and I will help you find it.
14. What ministries do you see we need/would you like us to have? Where would you like to volunteer? We will make it happen.
15. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord lift His face to shine upon you and give you peace.
Note there are five more shoulds than should nots.