But You Don’t Look Sick!

Abstain from every form of evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:22 NKJV

You know those little motorized sit-down cart thingies they have at Wal-Mart? I have needed to use them a time or two. I hated it. I was certain everyone was staring at me thinking, “Shame on her. She looks just fine. Why isn’t she letting some little old lady use that thing? Or someone with a broken leg?” I wanted to tell everybody I passed, “I know you can’t see it, but I really am sick.”

Why do I feel the need to explain myself to random strangers who might or might not be judging me based on my outward appearance and their misconceptions of it? We care about what people think of us. We don’t want people whispering and gossiping behind our backs.

No one likes being judged or misunderstood, which is why we want to defend ourselves when people say the very common phrase, “But you don’t look sick!” Sometimes they say it out of bewilderment, sometimes out of a judgmental attitude, and sometimes they actually think they are being encouraging by letting us know we don’t look like half-dead drowned rats, considering we are so sick. I used to think it was my spiritual responsibility to make sure I never gave anyone reason to misunderstand or think incorrectly about me, my motives, or my actions.

I was taking the above verse and translating it to mean, “Worry yourself sick over what everyone thinks about you because you’re responsible to make sure no one ever thinks wrongly of you.” That’s not what it means.

The more I studied the life of Jesus Christ, who was often misunderstood even though He was perfect, the more I noticed He did not chase people down trying to make sure they didn’t get the wrong impression from His words or actions.

There are always going to be people who don’t understand. We can make ourselves sick trying to prove our conditions to them or follow them around whimpering for their approval. We can even become angry and bitter about their lack of it. Or we can leave them be, understanding this very important truth: We are not responsible to keep everyone from thinking the wrong thing.

I really think most of the time, when people do things that are insensitive or feel unkind, it’s not that they don’t care and are being malicious toward us. It’s probably because they are uncomfortable and don’t know what to do; therefore, they often do or say things unhelpful or even hurtful. They can’t change until they know what you want or need.

We’ve all judged others based on our wrong impressions. We shouldn’t worry too much about others judging us. And truthfully, it’s likely very few people are spending their time analyzing and assessing us and our motives. Most people are thinking of themselves, just like we are, worrying about what everybody is thinking about them.

Please don’t apologize for what your body needs. Most people like to help; they just don’t know what you need. And God blesses people when they help others, so you’re actually providing opportunities for a blessing for them. So, for the nice people, tell them what you need already. The rest, don’t bother taking on their issues. You have enough to deal with.

And if I see you in one of those Wal-Mart cart thingies, I’ll try to smile at you, just to make you feel better. You do the same for me, okay?

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Your Turn

Join the conversation by adding your comments below!

How do you respond when someone says, “But you don’t look sick?”



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With five different health conditions, including Addison’s disease, asthma, and a cyst nestled under her brain, Kimberly Rae knows what it’s like to live tired of dependence on medication, guilty over needing help, and frustrated over fielding the frequent comment, “But you don t look sick!” Published over 250 times, Rae has work in five different languages. She writes from her home in North Carolina, where she lives with her very patient husband and two young children who regularly pray, “Please help Mommy get better,” and who both love cars and trains despite one of them being a girl.

About Be the Light Editor

Martin Wiles is a minister, author, freelance editor, and English teacher who lives in Greenwood, SC. He is the founder of Love Lines from God and is the author of Grits & Grace and God and Grits, Gumbo and Going to Church. He serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions (www.christiandevotions.us) and Assistant Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He and his wife are parents of two and grandparents of three.