We Are All Disabled

We Are All Disabled

If you have a visible disability in the southern U.S., you are likely to be approached by a well-meaning Christian about how 1) Jesus can heal you, 2) they themselves can heal you by laying on hands in the Lord’s name, or 3) if you pray more, Jesus would heal you.

Whenever I see this happen, I am always really tempted to turn it on the person.  Of course, no one is saying it to me, so it’s really none of my business (and when has that ever stopped me?!) But if I were the person being told this, I’d say, “And if you prayed to Jesus more, he would cure you of….” There’s always something. Obesity. Near-sightedness. Bad teeth. Baldness. Acne.

What, I wonder, makes the person think that they are in a position to say they are closer to God?  Does he really look at a wheelchair and see someone who is less close to the Lord than he is?  It’s so very different from whatever issues he has with his own body?

We all get dealt a hand of cards in this life.  And I’m going to be really shocking and say that it does not matter at all what the challenges you were given are.  Everyone has challenges, and it’s how you deal with them and the choices you make from that starting point that determines your entire life.

You might think you’re working harder than everyone else, or harder than most, but you often have no idea what challenges the others are overcoming.  It’s not your place to judge.  No matter what side of a fence you’re on. If your body is nearly perfect or it never does what you want: you can only make the choices for yourself in your own position.

Not only do we all have challenges, we are all physically challenged.

Who here has the perfect, ideal body? Anyone? Does your body always do exactly what you want? Your eyesight is perfect, your back never aches, you never feel weak in the knees, you don’t have five or ten pounds to lose, you don’t get dizzy when the sun beats down on you.

We’re not superheroes.  Human bodies have weaknesses. All living bodies have weaknesses.

I think we should stop thinking, “That person has a disability, but I do not.” It leads to the thought “I am better off than him,” which leads to “I am better than him.” Do you think of yourself as “disabled”? Is that a label you apply to yourself in your own mind? No matter who you are, I think that label does fit you in one way or another.

There is a hierarchy within the world of disability.  Because once you start comparing yourself and your struggles to someone else, it’s easy to think that either you are suffering more or you’re not “really” disabled because you’re better off than someone else on the chain.  At what point do you consider someone really disabled?  Does it count if they can still walk a little?  Does it count if their pain is invisible?  What is the cut off for truly disabled?  Who gets to make that call?


  1. Christy
    Oct 31, 2011

    I was in the hospital when I was 15 and the priest was making his rounds, came in my room without knowing anything about why I was there, grabbed me and started praying for me to be healed…when he was done he told me I would “walk out of here”

    Needless to say he was wrong…

    I love religion and religious conviction so this (and other situations like it) haven’t turned me bitter but why don’t people consider disabilities a blessing? Why do they never think to themselves “God has seen fit to challenge them in a way he finds me unable to handle?”

    I say we go out and start telling strangers they could prove themselves worthy enough to be disabled if they prayed more…or jumped in front of more cars.

    • RuthMadison
      Oct 31, 2011

      Hahaha! I love the idea of telling people that if they prayed more they would be blessed with a disability.

  2. Tirzah
    Nov 1, 2011

    Well you do know that “Bless Your Heart” is nice way of say “F This’ right?

    So you can say “You’re a dick, bless your heart.”

    And they won’t know what to do.

    But my brother always said to them, “I don’t want to cut in line, let him cure you you first of your behavior problem first and then he can come see me.”


    • RuthMadison
      Nov 1, 2011

      lol, yes. While I don’t live in the south, several of my relatives do and I’ve definitely heard the “bless your heart”!

  3. Elizabeth McClung
    Nov 2, 2011

    Goldfish at her site covers the disability hierarchy better than I could, so I recommend that.

    Regarding Christians, mostly I get, “In heaven you will have a new body”, or a variation of that – I think if it was plain SCI they might stick with the ‘you’ll walk again’ – but then, lots of people with SCI’s DO WALK. Oops, I guess they should actually do the homework before opening the mouth to bless. To me it feels like how they used to tell blacks how in heaven they would be white. Maybe they still do. If a person can’t interact with the person before them now, due to a wheelchair, then there is a serious problem, one which needs more than prayer.

    My father was a big one on how if I had a heart which had true love, I wouldn’t be disabled. Or, the person with pain and suffering only has those because they are not focused on God. That was a big one too. Apparently the logic of ‘if you had proper pain control you could focus on anything you wanted’ was lost. Amen.

    • RuthMadison
      Nov 16, 2011

      Oh yes, Goldfish does an amazing job discussing hierarchy! I’m very impressed with her writing and the series that she recently did on hierarchy was particularly good.

      Did they really tell black people that? I did not know! Wow. So pretentious.

  4. Paragirl1971
    Nov 16, 2011

    Ruth, I think that there should be one simple test. Can you drive? If not, then a person is disbled. In my case, even though I use a chair full-time, I consider myself, within the community, as a gal with limited mobility.


    • RuthMadison
      Nov 16, 2011

      Hmmm, why would you pick driving? Just curious. Seems arbitrary to me. Cars being not a natural part of being human. I also know people who don’t drive because they never learned.

  5. GirlWithTheCane
    Jul 1, 2012

    Stuff like this was actually part of why I left Christianity. I remember a sermon where it was suggested that people who were depressed just needed to pray harder and trust in God more. Coming off of a major depressive episode, this struck me as very dismissive of my experience and quite insulting. Who was he to just say “Pray harder”, not knowing everything that I’d been through?

    And for things like praying for people to be cured of physical disabilities…there’s an assumption there that people *want* to be cured. Many people with physical disabilities are fine with who they are and don’t see their disabilities as an issue. It’s society’s assumption that “Oh, you have a disability, you must want to be rid of it you can be “normal”…”

    Bless their hearts… 😉

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