The tyranny of hurt feelings

October 24th, 2010

This post is about the hesitancy, or outright self-censorship, felt by many of us in telling our family and friends why we now follow Jesus instead of Mrs. Eddy. Sometimes that reticence even extends to going on record publicly about our reasons for leaving Christian Science, out of concern for how someone might be personally wounded by our words.

Two strong supporters of — we’ll call them Carol in the West and Diane in the East — recently declined my invitation to be identified by name in connection with brief, bland blog entries or the main welcome letter (left column).

“I would love to shout it from the rooftops,” wrote Carol, but she added that were she to publish “any criticism of CS, my loved ones will feel attacked, and absolutely refuse to hear anything I say. They tend to be very sensitive to any differing opinions.”

Diane, quite separately but in similar terms, deferred to the sensitivity of her elderly parents, along with her two sisters and their children. “If they were to read the material in the Ananias site and see my name on it,” she said, “it could have caused them some pain, and I didn’t want to take the chance of that happening.” Her mother and father are both approaching 90 but doing very well, partly because of “their positive outlook on life, via the CS mindset,” Diane told me, adding: “Who am I to judge them and tell them otherwise?”

What is it about the followers of Christian Science, so certain they are in touch with the final revelation of Truth, that makes them at the same time so susceptible to feeling attacked or experiencing pain if a fellow Scientist — especially a relative — walks away from the faith and politely states her reasons?

Why this strange mix of security and insecurity? Why the tendency to take a difference of opinion personally, when Mrs. Eddy calls on students to exclude “personality” and “personal sense” from their thinking?

We can analyze the reasons some other time. What strikes me at present is how one person’s thin skin and easily-hurt feelings can tyrannically dominate not only another person’s harmless self-honesty, but also the over-sensitive individual’s own ability to face reality and reason clearly.

My wife and I, after we learned the ropes in marriage, used to laugh about the way novices in relationships (including our former selves) will manipulate or be manipulated by the self-pitying line, “If you really loved me…” Translation: Be my puppet or you’re sentenced to my doghouse of guilt. So runs the tyranny of hurt feelings in terms of A pushing around B.

But the worst of such tyranny is the way it imprisons A himself. Like the young man who went away from Jesus sad because he had great possessions, A stops his ears to the claims of Christ and runs a passive-aggressive game on family member B for daring to offer them, all to protect the “great possessions” of his triumphal but oh-so-fragile Science and Health worldview.

It’s a trivial cliche, but regrettably apropos: My mind is made up (about all things religious). Don’t upset me with the facts (of how your mind was remade about those very same things).

We should pray that our loved ones who still follow Christian Science be set free from the tyranny of hurt feelings over their own mental autonomy and the choices that will determine their eternal destiny.

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