Tuesday, September 9, 2014

When Your Pain is Invisible: You Look So Good

A devotional, When Your Pain is Invisible, really resonated with me today. This morning, when I read this devotional and listened to the song below it, I felt moved to write.
"You look so good." 
Why did that comment bother me? 
I knew each person who said it meant to say they were glad I didn't look sickly. 
Still, it bothered me every time I heard it. Why? 
Was I afraid they thought I was exaggerating my discomfort or faking it? Was it pride? Did I desire attention? Did I want pity? Certainly not. 
So, what was it? 
     ~ Excerpt from When Your Pain is Invisible 
This piece of the devotional really jumped out at me, as I've struggled with the same grievance.

When someone says, "You look so good," I've found myself feeling enraged, distraught, and deceptive. Then, upon reflection of such encounters, I find myself feeling guilt and shame for having those emotions. My mind starts questioning what made them emerge: "Was I afraid they thought I was exaggerating my discomfort or faking it? Was it pride? Did I desire attention? Did I want pity?"

How could a comment as innocuous as "You look so good" evoke such strong emotions and striking questions?

This intrigues me because I don't want to act out of fear, pride, and/or desire for attention. Just as the song found at the end of the devotional, "Do Everything" by Steven Curtis Chapman (a link to my other blog, where you can access the song), I want "to do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you."

As for the swarming questions, I've come up with various answers / theories / explanations, but the answer found in the devotional is so simple and spot on:
"I wanted them to understand."
I think that everyone has a desire to feel understood, and to have their experience validated.

Suddenly, I realized that that's exactly where the conflict lies.

When we're hurting (especially when we're hurting in ways that others cannot see), I think we guard ourselves... perhaps because our pain has been misunderstood, ignored, and/or discounted in the past... or we fear that it will be. If we don't feel like our pain / experience is validated, believed, or understood by the other person, a comment as innocuous as "You look so good" can push us over the edge.

Ironically, when we live with one or more invisible illnesses, especially if chronic, we may have spent a lot of time and energy to "look so good." So, it seems odd that we would then feel somehow slighted, when someone comments on how we look.

I think it partially depends on who is commenting... For example, I find myself feeling more receptive to a comment about how I look from those that I know really understand how much pain I live with. Perhaps because I don't feel like their comments are discounting the pain I'm in - they know I'm in pain, but are simply giving me a compliment.

In light of all of this, I'm trying to remember what's most important: "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry" (Psalm 34:15). He understands my suffering. He hears my cries. Regardless of whether others do. And, for that, I'm so grateful.
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