To everyone who has read the past few issues of The Bagpipe, thanks for reading my articles. I appreciate knowing they were at least a little thought provoking, and I always find it very interesting to see what other students think when they read my thoughts.
In regards to last week’s response, while I agree with Allen on many points, I would like to clarify and contest a few.
I agree with Allen that, “Everybody is a struggling neighbor.” Because we are in a fallen world, we are all under differing levels of stress and temptation.
It is important to make the differentiation between struggles and temptations. I am referring to struggles as any sort of suffering brought on by the effects of our fallen world. I am referring to temptation as the fight against a specific sin, or sin pattern.
As Allen implied, everyone can relate to becoming more susceptible to sin patterns while under higher levels of stress. I agree that everyone can relate to temptation on some level or another, but it can be harmful to level all sins and struggles to the same magnitude.
I agree with Allen that everyone has coping mechanisms for handling stress and temptation in their lives, and that these coping mechanisms can become harmful to the individual’s long-term health. But it is not fair to call all “scars” of coping mechanisms equal.
Yes, most coping mechanisms leave different scars—shame, physical scars, heart disease, etc. Yes, some are dangerous. Yes, some are sinful. No, not all coping mechanisms are equally dangerous. Some need more attention and must be treated more seriously. We must recognize when someone is fighting a harder fight and be willing to offer assistance where we are able.
Another important distinction is between inherently sinful coping mechanisms and coping mechanisms which are healthy in moderation. Surfing, to use Allen’s example, is a great hobby. It can be dangerous, yes, but all of life holds danger in some way or another. We were never promised a life without risk. While some coping mechanisms (self-injury, eating disorders, etc.) are always sinful regardless of context and always very dangerous physically, emotionally, and spiritually, something like surfing is not on the same playing field.
While God does see any sin as breaking the entire law, the Bible also names many different consequences for different sins. There are differing effects for different sins and some are much more dangerous and harmful that others.
Allen said, “Everybody is addicted to something.” and implied that all sin patterns and all coping mechanisms for dealing with stress are equally harmful. This mindset is hurtful to those who may be fighting more serious sins or who have heavy suffering in their lives. To say dropping your favorite coffee mug is equal in suffering to losing your parents to cancer minimizes the pain of the loss of the loved ones when it ought to be honored as the suffering it is.
At the same time, we need to keep in mind that different people are affected by stress in differing ways. As an example on a small scale, one of my hall-mates lost her ScotsCard and was quite upset. She spiraled into a temporary depression. When I lost my ScotsCard, I shook it off and figured I could sneak into the Great Hall until someone returned it. No big deal. But for me to tell my hall mate it isn’t a big deal and that she should get over it would be to ignore the pain she felt. We need to listen to our neighbor and acknowledge his or her suffering so it can be addressed fully.
Similarly, temptation comes in differing levels for different individuals. The idea of self-harm may seem ridiculous to one person when it is a constant battle for another person. It minimizes the fight of others when we say everyone has the same difficulty to fight.
I agree that most everyone has a coping mechanism for stress and that many times they can be dangerous or lead to long term damage, but I believe it matters to recognize that some truly are more harmful and require more attention than most.
That said, I also believe it can be easy for those struggling with larger burdens to become prideful over their struggles and show off their own strength in the mists of the the fight. We all must humble ourselves and rely on the strength from Christ regardless of our circumstances.