Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Job's Comforters

A Google image ! She looks nice really

This is such an old saying that one can assume that there have been such people since at least Biblical times. The dictionary definition is: "a person who, while purporting to give sympathy, succeeds only in adding to distress".  What I would like to know is how genuine was the desire to offer sympathy in the first place?  Was there not some tiny element of underlying malice or are people just plain thoughtless? I recall crying myself to sleep on the night before my wedding because a (well-meaning?) sister-in-law felt it necessary to tell me of the extreme beauty and numerous virtues of my fiance's previous girlfriend.  On another occasion, I was about a week from giving birth when someone confided to me all the details of the death of her own baby at just two days old. My daughter's gynaecologist thought fit to inform her that she had Hepatitis B and her newborn would have the same condition (all kinds of horrendous implications).  My daughter and her husband were distraught - only to later be told that she simply had a high degree of anti-bodies in her blood from a vaccination during her schooldays. A friend once told my husband not to worry - my relationship with a school colleague during the production of a school play was merely professional.... so that my previously trusting husband became suddenly full of suspicions.  The latest 'comfort' has been proffered to a friend's husband: she has just been diagnosed with MS and her husband is in shock.  This 'kind' person was quick to inform him of all the worst-case scenarios that could befall his wife.  People should learn to think before they speak.


  1. Often what I have experienced and maybe even guilty of is telling the person, in a refined sort of way. "Hey you're lucky, you only have _______, it could have been ________. Sort of the don't sweat the skin cancer, poor Steve Jobs had pancreatic cancer.

    Sometimes the shock of bad news causes one to say extremely stupid things for which they will regret for a long time. Lady Bird Johnson while trying to comfort Jackie Kennedy immediately after the assassination lamented on how bad she felt that this happened in Texas, (as though it would somehow be less tragic if it happened in say New York). She realized her faux pas and was haunted by it for quite some time. Lady Bird certainly meant no harm, but she failed at the moment to discriminate the fact the Jackie didn't give a royal hell about Texas, she just lost her husband.

    But you are right, there are some people that just delight in sympathizing with you while pouring salt in the wound. Real nice on the part of your sister in law. Just what you needed to hear.

    Not all cases of MS are worst case. I have not had a recurrence since 1985. I still have a lot of damage from my two original attacks, but that falls under the category of nuisance not disability. I have been very fortunate, and I try not to forget that, not everyone shares my good luck.

    1. SExtant, you amaze me. I am so cheered up by your story re MS. Now I am weighing up and thinking.... should I tell this to my friend or wait until I know more about her prognosis??

    2. I don't follow MS literature too much, because it scares the crap out of me. But when I was diagnosed there were 4 recognized paths. The non-recurring kind was only 15% of those diagnosed. But that seems to have changed:


      The type I have is benign. But the info about doesn't sound real positive, which is why I tend to not read things about MS. There seems to be a lack of agreement on this. Again I really don't want to read to much on this. I seem fine, why get myself worked up into a tizzy?

      Here is more info on benign:


      I definitely have cognitive impairment and memory problems. I don't believe that it has got any worse over the almost 3 decades since I was diagnosed. I had two very severe attacks in early 1985, lots of residual damage still today, but no reoccurring attacks. Finger crossed.

      There is an interesting video on diet and MS. I posted it in my blog:


      There is a link at the bottom of the post for the first of 7 more videos on this diet.

      I haven't really tried the diet because I appear to be in long term remission. But the first video sounds very convincing.

      With as shaky as all these definitions seem to be, I would be reluctant to encourage in your friend what could be false hope.

  2. Most people are just clueless as to how their words will affect others. It's not just think before you speak, but, think of the harm your words will have if you say what you intend to say.

    1. Perhaps some people just have no imagination. My mother used to say just what she liked and hurt lots of people: she was amazed when I tackled her about this on one particularly harmful occasion. "But it's how I feel!" said she.

    2. Do you think perhaps our mother's were identical twins separated at birth? That is exactly what my mother said, except instead of English accent, she had Western Pennsylvania hick accent.

      "But it's how I feel!" was not only the explanation for everything, but she had a frigging divine mandate to feel that way.

      Higgs boson? Childs play. When someone figures out how to express "but it's how I feel" in a mathematical formula they will have solved the long sought Grand Unified Theory of Everything. Hopefully they will never build an accelerator powerful enough to generate the "but it's how I feel" particle. It will be a black hole that sucks the love, joy of life, and desire to exist out of everyone.