Change the Language Challenge

Dear Lung Cancer Community,

Religion can be a very sensitive subject to discuss and the last thing I want to do is offend anyone. Before I go on, I would like to briefly touch on my own beliefs. I am multi-faith and believe in God and believe that we have angels working with us and for us. I also believe there is a divine plan and we are on this earth to fulfill that plan (with many twists and turns, choices and forks in the road along the way). I speak to God daily with prayer and affirmations. I also listen to God daily with meditation, my time to feel the Universe and energy at work. I am a believer.

Words can hurt unintentionally

I have heard many of my lung cancer peers discuss things like whether we should be called “survivors” or “patients” or whatever. I, along with others, have voiced our dismay at questions and comments we get when we tell them of our lung cancer diagnosis. Without minimizing the effect, these are issues I can shrug off. What hurts and is not easy for me to dismiss is the pressure we put on ourselves and others with statements like “all you need is a positive attitude” or “praying hard enough is the answer” or “all you need to do is have faith and pray hard and you will be healed.

I believe these words and sentiments are meant with the best of intentions, but I also believe we need to be more sensitive towards others who might not be doing well. Such comments can indirectly imply that one did not pray hard enough or have enough faith to be healed. Without meaning to, words of faith are not always words of encouragement. Oftentimes they can add an extra burden of guilt and a feeling of failure.

All you need is a positive attitude?

If that’s all it took my mother, grandfather, and numerous survivor brothers and sisters would not have died of lung cancer. They reeked of positivity.

While we are at it – how about “You are Blessed,” “Congratulations” and “Way to Go!” I cherish and respect my lung cancer community, but as a long-term survivor I get those words a lot and although I am very touched, I wonder how that makes another feel who is not thriving at the time? Did I do something special to be congratulated? Am I more blessed than someone else? Absolutely not. Blessings come in many forms, not always how we envision them. I am truly humbled and I consider myself lucky that right now this is the plan for me, that’s all.

Change the language challenge

My challenge for us is to find another way to encourage each other with blessings, prayers, and positivity without unintentionally putting the burden on others. Instead of saying “all you need to do is pray and you will be healed,” what can we say to let others know we are praying for them and believe in the power of prayer without putting the burden on the patient? Instead of saying “all you need is a positive attitude,” what can we say to encourage one to stay positive and not give up hope but again, without putting the burden on the patient?

I feel it can be productive if we respectfully add our suggestions in the comment section (and please be kind). This is not for religious or spiritual debate, this is for a healthy discussion on changing the language. What do you think?

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