How to Get it Right When Talking to One Who Is Ill

get-it-rightIt can be challenging to get it right when talking to one who is ill, without causing hurt. Vicki shares a few insights.

“Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy” (Micah 7:18).

“Are you enjoying retirement?” That question, casually posed to my fifty-five-year-old sister, aroused her frustration and anger. Surely, she wasn’t enjoying her constant migraines, diabetes, eye stroke, and sleep apnea.

“No. I’m not enjoying ‘retirement!’ It wasn’t my decision to give up the job I loved. My disabilities made it impossible for me to remain in the workforce.”

Well-meaning people can offend. It sometimes feels like no one gets it; no one understands what it’s like to have a disability. The truth is they don’t. They can’t. We shouldn’t expect it.

My mother-in-law once asked me, “Does Howie help you with the vacuuming?”

That question left me bewildered.

She assumes I vacuum? She knows I’m unable to work outside the home. Doesn’t she know my illness prevents me from doing daily chores? How can she not get it? She must know that I endure pain and fatigue each day.

Here’s one I hear often: “Are you feeling better?” It’s particularly frustrating when I’ve already told the person that multiple sclerosis (MS) is an incurable, progressive illness. Sometimes I’m more sick and tired of the questions than my illness.

Once we had a family get-together. The hot room weakened me and made my aches more painful. So I asked if the hostess could turn down the heat.

“Why don’t you just stand outside?” answered one relative.

I know it’s important for me to restrain my reactions. When others don’t get it right, I still need to get it right. And respond correctly.

Micah tells us the Lord requires that we “love mercy” (Micah 6:8). Even if judged harshly.

Love mercy? How can I extend mercy when I’m not feeling well? I’ll trust in the One Who delights in mercy. My Father, who is slow to anger, will help me get it right.

Prayer: Dear Father, Oh how I want to stop expecting others to understand completely what it’s like for me to have MS. When others ask questions, based on their compassion, open my heart to their sensitivity (no matter how they word it). Thank You for filling my life with friends and family members who do seem to get it. They express sympathy in ways that bless my heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

About the Author:
Vicki understands special needs as a patient, parent, and professor. She has had multiple sclerosis since 1993. Her 33 year old son was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She’s taught special education as a teacher, administrator, and adjunct professor. Through her blog, she reaches out to other mothers of children with mental illness.
Vicki wrote a picture book about bullying: Heart Eyes: Beth and the Bullies. You can find out more about that book by visiting her Heart Eyes website:

What was one of the most shocking comments someone made to you? How were you able to respond in love?

Oh, the power of words! This song, “Words” with Hawk Nelson, has some great lyrics (especially when it gets to the chorus of the song). God’s words can speak over our fear, he sings. It is an uplifting song with a great beat too. I hope you enjoy it. I think this one is going on my playlist for those heartbreaking days when the words of others have too much power in my life. -Lisa

If you want to hear from the group Hawk Nelson about why they wrote this song, this 2-minute video is interesting!