Two kids, both with intense challenges, but people react to each of them in completely different ways. The prevailing emotion directed at one is a flood of compassion for all of the physical trials he has faced. The other spends years ostracized, friendless, and treated like she's a "bad kid."
This is the story of 2 of my 3 children. While I have walked with each of them through every bump and trial of their lives, it never ceases to amaze me how differently they have been treated. Each of them has faced heartbreaking difficulties. Compassion and assistance are due each of them to empower them to reach their full potential.
When adults look at my son they see a clean cut, courteous, smart young man. The scars on his arms from thousands of intravenous infusions over the years may catch their attention. On rare occasion, they might see him in a wheelchair to stay off his feet to heal or wearing a sling to immobilize an arm. Depending upon his condition at the time, they likely either enjoy his company or feel sorry for what he is going through.
On the other hand, people have treated my daughter like she is her behavior. Causality never crosses their minds. They don't see that noise may have driven her sensory processing disorder to its outer limits and is causing her physical pain. An inability to correctly read social situations might have her response unwittingly come across as sassy. It may not be obvious that she is not paying attention or acting a little wild because she wasn't given the opportunity to move enough that day.
Despite the fact that so little is truly known about EITHER of my children's challenges, my son gets the advantage because he has health issues you can sometimes see. My daughter never gets that kind of understanding. There is a bias against the unseen. Because the atypical parts of her physiology cannot be seen with the naked eye, people make assumptions. It is heartbreaking to see the disdain with which she has been treated by some adults, neighbors, family members, and friends over the years. The message that is continually conveyed to her by peers and adults is, "Your behavior is bad and YOU are bad. Nobody likes you or wants to be around you."
I have suffered in partnership with my daughter as people accuse me of being a "bad parent" and allowing her poor behavior.
So how do we respond to this bias, this injustice amid family members who each endure pain in their own right? We heed Paul's words spurring us on to greatness in his second letter to the early Church in Corinth. Focusing on our final destination and being confident in who we are in Christ has helped us endure this added sorrow. I continually remind my kids that we are just passing through here, ambassadors for Christ in a foreign land. El Roi (the God Who Sees), knows all of the unseen things that others do not. So we put our ultimate hope in the invisible, knowing that is where God dwells.
PRAY: Father, thank You for restoring us with the confidence that You see what others do not. Even when others may have a bias against us, we are so grateful that we can rest in the assurance that You know what is really going on.
~ Barb Dittrich