Tonight, my roommate and I were watching a program titled North Woods Law in which Fish and Game wardens also rescue injured people who went hiking in the mountains among their many responsibilities. In one episode, they and volunteers had to carry a girl down the mountain who had broken her ankle while hiking. It was raining as they carried her down and the rocks were slippery, so my roommate commented on the danger of hiking in the rain, and at the time I said that maybe the hikers had expected to get back down before the rain began to fall.
The truth is that many people are unaware of danger and assume that bad things only happen to other people because they’re foolish, and that since they’re smart no harm will come to them. That’s assuming a lot. Because there are a lot of things people don’t control in life. You may drive carefully and responsibly, but not everybody else does. There are still people who drink AND drive out there. Or do drugs and drive. How do you know one of them won’t ram your car sideways and kill you or one of your loved ones instantly or maim them for life?
This assumption that others had bad things happen to them because they were foolish or deserved to in some other way is a variant on the approach of the Job’s comforters or Jesus’ disciples, who asked Him when He decided to heal the man born blind whether he or his parents had sinned that he was born that way.
Basically, it’s the same assumption: People deserve the bad things that happen to them. I find this attitude offensive. I think that what bothers me the most is that those who hold that attitude are more concerned with protecting themselves from someone’s perceived bad luck than in showing compassion to hurting people. It’s callous and judgmental. As long as you can blame others for what happens to them, you don’t need to do anything to help them get back on their feet.
I also find this attitude delusional. It’s not based on facts. Just an attempt to distance oneself from the needs of others. The reality is that we are extremely vulnerable in life, and our luck can turn in a matter of minutes. Since I developed schizophrenia, which was the psychological equivalent of an earthquake of Magnitude 9, I have never felt immune to anything anymore. I never assume that bad things only happen to other people.
For example, shortly after I moved into my condo twenty years ago, when I went out, I would fear when I heard a siren wailing that firetrucks were racing to extinguish a fire, and that my home would be wiped out when I got back. It took me years to realize this fate didn’t seem to be on God’s agenda for me. Nor would other catastrophes. When other people’s homes were flooded mine was always dry, or if it got water damage, it was relatively minor compared to others.
My biggest hardship has been my illness, and it has helped me have compassion for other people who experience other kinds of hardships. Jesus said that goodness and trouble come to everyone (Matt. 5:45). Instead of judging others when hardship comes, it’s much better to have compassion for them, because all of us will experience hardship sometimes.