“Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed?

As I have observed, those who plough evil and those who sow trouble reap it.

At the breath of God they are destroyed; at the blast of his anger they perish.”

Job 4:7-9

Three of Job’s comforters look for unrighteousness in Job. To them there has to be something in Job’s life to bring such calamity upon him. The self-righteous Job disagrees. This is a picture of those who hold the view that God prospers the righteous and that sin is the cause of all misfortune. A view rooted in Calvinism foretold in the book of Job.

Below is an example that shows that such views are also a product of human nature (perhaps influenced and rooted in historical Christianity).

Extract from a book published by Macmillan Cancer Relief.

It’s human nature to seek a cause for the things that happen to us, and this is especially so when cancer strikes because of all the powerful and widespread myths that attach to it. Namely, that stress or the ‘toxic’ emotions that we have repressed, such as grief or anger, can somehow cause cells to mature. As Woody Allen said, “I don’t get angry. I grow tumours instead.”

Many of the authors of the cancer memoirs I read or the people I spoke to when putting this book together said they were assaulted by well-meaning people who were determined to help them to see what they had done to give themselves cancer. “Those who couldn’t bear to contemplate the idea that it was simply bad luck that I had cancer tried to find a very specific reason why I had it and, therefore, why they wouldn’t get it,” wrote Kate Carr in It’s Not Like That, Actually. “It was often implied that it was my fault.”

Whether this amateur psychologising springs from fear or misinformation, or the belief that those of us who suffer in some Job-like way deserve it or that we have, bad karma, (to use a New Ageism), it takes a strong degree of self-confidence to reject suggestions that we find harmful or disempowering, that make us feel afraid and guilty, especially if we already feel that in some way we may indeed be to blame for our predicament.

It may be only natural to search for meaning and if we who have the cancer are keen to explore such ideas, then please feel free to come along for the ride. But even then, be wary of coming up with half-baked theories of your own. If you are spinning theories, you are not saying “I love you, I care about you, what can I do to help?” but “Now let’s see what you did to bring this cancer on yourself. What did you do wrong?”

When I myself was told by some self-appointed amateur psychologist that “You do know, don’t you, that the lungs are the centre of grief?” I was gobsmacked by her presumption. I let my interlocutor know in no uncertain terms that, actually. I attributed my illness to the deadly combination of a rubbish gene (two first-degree relatives died of lung cancer), an early smoking habit, and exposure to tobacco smoke in infancy.

A good friend of mine, the writer Guillermo Gil, points out:

“If the theory about the link between cancer and emotional repression had any merit,  by now, when people tell each other everything, go to the gym, have sex without logistical or ethical problems and therapists are as available as hairdressers and, if all else fails, they can call a radio phone-in or take part in reality-TV shows, cancer rates should have plummeted — which is not the case.”

From ‘What Can I Do To Help’ pg 92,93; by Deborah Hutton





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