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Author Topic: focus on negativity?  (Read 10824 times) Average Rating: 0
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calligraphqueen
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« on: July 29, 2010, 01:33:59 PM »

Lately I have seen a decided emphasis on death, dismemberment, gore, horrific death and suffering within Orthodoxy. All of which has merit in its own right, but lately its  used to justify people being deeply in need of some sort of deliverance or facing some struggle, and ignoring them.  After all, there is always some heinously murdered Saint to throw in their face to condone the suffering that this believer is undergoing. The suffering usually has absolutely nothing to do with persecution for the sake of their Faith, but if folks can just lob it into that category it gets them off the hook for caring. If one Orthodox Christian can point out that one saint suffered horribly for his/her Faith, then the need of their brother is negated in their mind. I find this just as incredibly hateful as the incessant religious cliche's used by protestant pastors when they don't have a clue what to tell a member of their flock, and just as limited.  Its just far more towards the negative end of the spectrum than most protestant pastors use. What is the glory or eternal good is just ignoring someone's legitimate need for prayer? Are we absolutely sure that God would have us be so detached and disengaged in the lives of our brethren that He would want us just pointing out some offhanded Saint's murder to justify their need not being met either?

Granted I note this behavior more within the convert circles rather than cradle borns. Its as if converts feel some sort of misguided need for penance for having been part of a faith that says God will provide for your needs, so they justify the fact that He won't with horrific stories of murder and torture and dwell on those instead.  Its bizarre to me, not sure if its the reflection of Orthodoxy one wants to portray to extended non Orthodox family members either.  ie, instead of praying for a nephew who has a spot on his brain to be healed, or fil who has cancer to be healed, we as the only Orthodox family members throw up hideous stories of dismembered saints and walk around morosely considering their deaths and suffering.  This has happened to be in front of me several times in the last two weeks and its just not sitting well with me at all.
While some Saints were called to endure their trials or suffering till death, there have been many many many more people healed or delivered. Are we not to pray for healing or restoration, deliverance when a fellow believer is in great need? Seems that the focus on negativity for the sake of piety is used as an excuse not to involve ourselves in people's lives.

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Ebor
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« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2010, 01:42:24 PM »

I'm sorry that you're having these bad things happening.   Sad  And I agree with you that such responses come across as cruel and lacking in compassion for the human beings who are suffering in the here and now.

I'll admit that I haven't had the experience of any pastors saying that they don't "have a clue" about what to say to a person who is having sorrow or pain or illness.  "I'm sorry" and "What can I do to help you?" would seem to be a start.

As the parent of another special needs child, I have kept you and yours in mind.

Ebor
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« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2010, 02:22:19 PM »

I'm sorry. I'm having trouble figuring out what you're trying to say. Is it something like this?

You or someone you love has a serious problem (for lack of a better word) involving intense suffering and other people point out that the martyrs suffered worse and that you should get over it with some sort of stoic effort, and they don't really offer anything more than that--like asking how you're doing, if they can help in some way, or just be there for you?

That scenario, if that is what these people are doing, I have trouble calling Christian.

But, aside from that, I do not think the sufferings of the martyrs preclude somehow our duty to help our brother in need.

I guess I'm just not sure what scenario you're trying to relate. You speak from your perceptions, but perceptions are difficult to communicate as generalities because each of us perceives things differently.
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« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2010, 02:44:59 PM »

I can, in my own distinct experience, relate to what you're saying.  And I am very sorry this is happening to you. 
I don't know how to answer the question, I have been needing it addressed myself.

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« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2010, 03:32:25 PM »

But, what is the question? (Forgive me, I see several questions, but I'm not sure which one question the OP has.)
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« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2010, 03:45:31 PM »

Basically I think that the op is about disappointment that when someone needs help, instead of getting help, there is simply an appeal to "well, Saint___" had it worse, and just endured it, instead of emphasizing the healing side of our Faith, and is an appeal to not downplay the latter.  If I am wrong, I am always opened to correction.   
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calligraphqueen
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« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2010, 10:00:04 PM »

I guess I am wondering how truly Orthodox this sort of behavior is-and you guys were pretty on the ball with your assessment. There just appears to be a knee jerk reaction to automatically state to a friend and fellow believer that their struggle/issue/need is irrelevant because someone in the past suffered worse. Well that's all fine and dandy that some saint suffered worse, I have no doubt that they did suffer. Yet what tortured a Saint endured for the sake of Christ isn't really directly correlated with your friend that needs prayer for a sick relative, or the ability to pay his school loans (ie, job) or whatever. When I am present for this sort of response to a believer in need of just some sort of support and encouragement, but I hear my Orthodox counterpart pontificate on how wonderful suffering is for the soul, for ''eternal good'', I want to scream. I assumed it was just me not understanding Orthodoxy well yet, but this has gone on for years. Is it truly the true nature of our Faith to just write people off by telling them their suffering or struggle has no merit?
Are we as Orthodox believers supposed to constantly be morose and dark focusin on such stories of the murders of grisly saints in the first place? And are we supposed to be using those stories to shrug off those who need compassion or aid? Everything in me says no, but I have been known to be wrong on various matters.
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PeterTheAleut
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« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2010, 10:24:03 PM »

What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?
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« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2010, 10:32:58 PM »

^Good verse!
^^CQ, you are not off-base on this one.  Perhaps you are hanging around a bunch of people who need more sun  Smiley
Your post makes me think of an antidepressent commercial that I saw on TV recently.  It had this depressing music and the at the end all the side effects which include suicide.  Who on earth would want to take that?  Same thing here:  you need to let these people know that we pray for each other and aid each other and give hope to each other.   Although it is possible that you through suffering may become a witness to your faith in a way that you don't know yet, people should not be dismissing it and equating it with something that is not correlative.  The Lord came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly!  
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bogdan
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« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2010, 11:48:13 PM »

I think this emphasis is probably a reaction against the superficiality of modern life, wherein everyone is just out for happiness and ease of life. It's natural that with people who don't have a good footing, the pendulum will swing too far the other way.

Because there is indeed some sort of purification in suffering. So much is crystal clear if you read St John Chrysostom's homilies on the Rich Man and Lazarus: You can suffer in this life and have pleasure in the next, or you can have pleasure in this life and suffer in the next. I'm not versed in what the other Fathers taught, but St John presents it in a fairly binary manner.

But I think he would agree that is for oneself, not a way to treat others. It's surely more blessed to ease another's suffering than to coldly say, "Suck it up." To me, it's the same as the way we think about the sins of others: we are leniant with others, but strict with ourselves. We should bear our own suffering gracefully, while trying to ease the suffering of others.

As with everything, it's a balance. Both extremes are wrong.
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Nyssa The Hobbit
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« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2010, 01:12:58 AM »

It sounds like a pious version of, for example, "You think you have it bad because [hours got cut, lost your job, lost your girlfriend, etc. etc.]?  I've had it much worse!"

Yeah, well, it's still a problem, even if it's not as bad as somebody else's.  That sort of thing.

So no, it's not just an Orthodox thing.
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« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2010, 01:25:28 AM »

I guess I am wondering how truly Orthodox this sort of behavior is-and you guys were pretty on the ball with your assessment. There just appears to be a knee jerk reaction to automatically state to a friend and fellow believer that their struggle/issue/need is irrelevant because someone in the past suffered worse. Well that's all fine and dandy that some saint suffered worse, I have no doubt that they did suffer. .

I don't know how it is being presented to you but it is true that the Orthodox (and certainly the cradle Orthodox) are often quite immersed in the lives of the Saint and read them a lot and relate them to the situations of modern life.   What happens is that they will probably have a Saint pop into their mind when someone tells them of a really tough situation. 

Their intention is not to tell you to "suck it up."

Their intention is more likely to be to comfort you by saying "Even the Saints of God have had to go through what is hurting you.  You can take some courage and comfort from knowing this.  You can pray to them for help in your situation.  They have been through what you are going through.  They understand."

Perhaps the people who are giving you this advice are not sufficiently attuned to you and where you are at.  They just assume that you will know where they are coming from.

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Shanghaiski
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« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2010, 09:47:23 AM »

When I read about the sufferings of the saints, I am inspired--not because they suffered worse than I am (who knows, maybe my suffering is worse or I think it's worse--it's still difficult), but because of the faith with which they endured such things. Suffering does not in and of itself have a purifying effect on the soul, only when it is endured with faith and patience. It's still suffering, of course. How one talks about it with a sufferer depends on the person who's suffering.
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« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2010, 11:25:30 AM »

I don't see in the OP an aversion to the Lives of the Saints, or finding inspiration therein, it seems rather the issue is a lack of compassion in the delivery of this very blunt and simplistic advice given.  There is significant Orthodox Tradition focused on pastoral care and healing, unfortunately it seems that many did not receive this aspect of Tradition, or are unable/unwilling to pass it on.

What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?

This response spoke directly to my experience of the same.  It is difficult, however.
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« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2010, 11:40:41 AM »

Yes, one has to know how to react, what to say, and a lot of this depends on knowledge of the individual person.
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« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2010, 11:46:38 AM »

Calligraphqueen, I think we need to start praying harder for our spiritual fathers.
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« Reply #16 on: July 30, 2010, 12:06:01 PM »

We should help where we can help.  If a person is in need of food and we can give them food, we should.  We should not point out the long fasts of the Fathers.  If a person needs clothes and we can give them clothing, we should.  We should not just point out that the desert Fathers went naked.  To do so is not Orthodox, it is stupid.  However, there is some suffering that we can do nothing about, nor can we help in any way but to pray.  In these cases, pointing out examples of those who have endured this before is not always a bad idea.  I have yet to see many people who have endured a tragedy not ask "Why me?".  Well, why not me?  When we see what has befallen those who have gone before us, and who are far more Holy than we, why should they suffer and we be spared?  There are several Saints who have said that Salvation comes through suffering, and that none who are saved will escape this.  However, this being said, there is positively no excuse for us not to do what we can to ease the suffering of those around us.  It is our Christian duty.
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« Reply #17 on: July 30, 2010, 12:19:33 PM »

I guess I am wondering how truly Orthodox this sort of behavior is-and you guys were pretty on the ball with your assessment. There just appears to be a knee jerk reaction to automatically state to a friend and fellow believer that their struggle/issue/need is irrelevant because someone in the past suffered worse. Well that's all fine and dandy that some saint suffered worse, I have no doubt that they did suffer. Yet what tortured a Saint endured for the sake of Christ isn't really directly correlated with your friend that needs prayer for a sick relative, or the ability to pay his school loans (ie, job) or whatever. When I am present for this sort of response to a believer in need of just some sort of support and encouragement, but I hear my Orthodox counterpart pontificate on how wonderful suffering is for the soul, for ''eternal good'', I want to scream. I assumed it was just me not understanding Orthodoxy well yet, but this has gone on for years. Is it truly the true nature of our Faith to just write people off by telling them their suffering or struggle has no merit?
Are we as Orthodox believers supposed to constantly be morose and dark focusin on such stories of the murders of grisly saints in the first place? And are we supposed to be using those stories to shrug off those who need compassion or aid? Everything in me says no, but I have been known to be wrong on various matters. 

I am horrified to hear that you've gone through this.

For those who suffer, the Church's response should be consistent:

- Let us pray for an end to your suffering.
- Let us pray that no further suffering come upon you.
- Let us pray that the suffering that has occurred has strengthened you and your faith.
- Let us minister to you in whatever way we can so that we can minimize your suffering.
- Let us pray to those who have suffered that they give you strength to endure.

It is unacceptable to take the 3rd point above and use it to obliterate the other points.  Christ healed the paralytic, blind man, demoniacs, woman with the issue of blood, etc. - He didn't preach to them about how their suffering both physically and socially (as outcasts) gained them place in Heaven, and then walk by them.  Yes, He said the Beatitudes - but He also lived them, and healed those who lived them.

What do we do with exhortations like, "Is any among you sick?  Let him call for the Elders of the Church..."

What do we do with the Great and Unmercenary Healers Cosmas and Damian, Panteleimon and Hermolaos, Samson and Diomides, Mokios and Aneketos, Thallelaios and Tryphon, and Nektarios of Pentapolis?

What do we do with the Gospel reading of Judgment Sunday?

What do we do with the great services of Paraklesis, which ask the Theotokos to fervently intercede for the living for healing and deliverance from all affliction and need?

The stories of the Martyrs demonstrate that sure faith and connection to God will allow someone to endure horrible punishments and tortures.  But they are to be used by those who are willing to do as He commanded His Apostles: Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers!  They are to be used to reassure people that what they have suffered, and what they may suffer, was/is not in vain; however, we must do what we can to comfort, console, heal, and deliver our brethren.  Anyone who uses them, or anything else in the Church, to pontificate without helping should be ashamed.
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« Reply #18 on: July 30, 2010, 04:16:24 PM »

We should help where we can help.  If a person is in need of food and we can give them food, we should.  We should not point out the long fasts of the Fathers.  If a person needs clothes and we can give them clothing, we should.  We should not just point out that the desert Fathers went naked.  To do so is not Orthodox, it is stupid.  However, there is some suffering that we can do nothing about, nor can we help in any way but to pray.  In these cases, pointing out examples of those who have endured this before is not always a bad idea.  I have yet to see many people who have endured a tragedy not ask "Why me?".  Well, why not me?  When we see what has befallen those who have gone before us, and who are far more Holy than we, why should they suffer and we be spared?  There are several Saints who have said that Salvation comes through suffering, and that none who are saved will escape this.  However, this being said, there is positively no excuse for us not to do what we can to ease the suffering of those around us.  It is our Christian duty.

I agree with this. Well put.
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