“The compassion was always there. It was suppressed. Now it’s being released, and allowed to act naturally.”
(from a Facebook group for former Christian Scientists–quote shared with permission from the author)
So many of us who have left Christian Science are amazed by the simple acts of human compassion that we encounter day-to-day. We see it in so many places: co-workers, new religious/spiritual communities we join, friends, family, or among other former Christian Scientists. Sometimes, it’s something as simple as an acknowledgement of the grief or anger a person is feeling, and the offer to help in whatever way a person can; other times, it’s a knowing nod, or an “I totally ‘get’ how you feel…”; or it’s something as simple as acknowledging when someone isn’t feeling well, and offering comfort. Compassion comes in many different ways. I am among those who still marvels in this, even though it’s six years since I began to leave Christian Science myself.
I’ve written a few times about the coldness, lack of empathy, and downright odd reactions of many Christian Scientists in the face of tragedy or upheavals in life, so I won’t cover that ground again. What I want to talk about is this crazy sense of marvel I and others who’ve escaped from Christian Science feel when our experiences and feelings are simply validated by others, rather than ignored and dismissed as they often are by Christian Scientists.
Most of us who’ve grown up in Christian Science know very little about what it’s like to have bad things that happen to you validated by those you’re close to. I’m not talking about coddling, I’m talking about simple acknowledgement when something is wrong. It’s as simple as your mother or father saying, “I’m so sorry you’re feeling sick; let me help you.” When something bad happens, we need validation of what’s happened. It gives us the comfort we need to get through it. It helps us to feel supported. This is something that was often lacking in our Christian Science childhoods.
It still makes me pause sometimes when I come in to work on a morning when I’m not feeling particularly well, and a co-worker even jokingly says, “rough night eh?” Recently, I had a headache come on suddenly at work, and my team leader gave me a couple of aspirin, without even a second thought on her part, but the gesture meant a lot to me. It’s that simple acknowledgement of “yes, I see you’re not feeling well–do you need something to help you feel better?” I’m slowly coming around to becoming that person who’ll offer up a pain pill or a comforting thought if someone needs it. However, my Christian Science conditioning still sometimes makes me look completely through another person’s pain as if it isn’t there.
This is just one of so many little things that I marvel at sometimes, as I go through life now as a ‘normal’ person, and gradually leave behind the baggage of Christian Science.
So much this. Thank you for writing this. I want to share it immediately with my new Quaker family. They love me and support me and validate me. And they cannot fathom that I didn’t even have the word “validation” until last year when I left CS. And why their little gestures can bring me to tears. It seems so normal and “duh” to them but I grew up being so repressed or suppressed or something like that. Zero validation. It HURTS to be treated like you don’t matter because you’re not made out of matter! Matter doesn’t matter!
Anyway – thank you so much for writing this.
I lost my niece by marriage a few weeks ago. She signed herself into the BA in Chestnut Hill. . Her siblings diagnosed her with congestive heart failure. No doctors or visitors allowed, though her sister managed one brief visit. My niece and I kept in touch and I now believe she also had mental problems. She graduated with honors in French, worked part time jobs, had some delightful essays published in The CS Monitor, but she was living on a small inheritance until Divine Science revealed her true career. There was no need for this and I’ll miss her calls.
It was during Class instruction that I took my first baby steps to freedom.
Since acknowledging and speaking kindly to someone who is unwell is seen as “sympathizing with Error”, CSists can be unkind and downright cruel when you need sympathy from them the most. They exemplify the expression “kicking someone when they’re down”. I avoid CSists as much as possible.