I’m writing this post in response to a comment by reader Cheryl. I started it as a comment but I want to put it up as a separate post.
When my friend died at the age of 53 from lung cancer, every single person I mentioned it to asked if she smoked. She didn’t but that didn’t make her any less dead. And if she had, so what? Does it make the death any less tragic? I understand that this is a self-soothing mentality of “if I do everything right, nothing bad will happen to me” but this mentality is dangerous. Because bad things will happen to everybody. That’s what being human is like. And then instead of trying to face the damage, people blame themselves and sit there wondering what they did wrong to deserve the calamity.
My friend lived for 4 years after her terminal diagnosis. She spent them asking what she had done to deserve the illness, parsing her every move to see how she had caused the illness. It was heartbreaking. I think she died earlier because of this by taking more morphine than she needed because she couldn’t take the shame and the guilt any more. It was terrible to watch. She had absolutely no symptoms or pain until the last couple of months (caused by a needless operation) but the pain in her soul destroyed her.
We need to abandon this mentality of making every misfortune into a moral issue. You can’t buy your way out of suffering by good behavior. You can’t buy it at all.