I’ve written about my distrust of doctors. I’ve written about what I believe to be needless suffering at the hands of physicians. I’ve written about the trials of traveling a little more than three hours to a medical center to see a neurologist listed as an expert in movement disorders (said specialist has moved to another medical center where she can spend more time researching movement disorders) and to have no diagnosis or treatment, simply more tests. If my current neurologist suggested at my first appointment, I told Tammy, that he run a bunch of tests I had before, I would pick up my coat (it was January) and walk out of his office without looking back – I would have, too; Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results – Insane I am not.
Dr. Ferrara approached my situation differently, and his approach gained my trust and made me even angrier at my former neurologist. After examining me the first time, Dr. New Neurologist said I had a genetic disorder of the central nervous system – hyperactive reflexes and clonus established that fact beyond dispute. He even narrowed my disorder down to one of three diagnoses (if Dr. Ferrara could establish a working diagnosis so easily, surely an “expert” in the field should have been able to do so!), but he wanted to see my previous notes before moving forward with treatment. At my next appointment, I bring in all my records from my previous neurological appointments. Dr. Ferrara’s mouth drops open: In this “expert’s” notes are hyperactive reflexes and clonus, proof positive of a problem in the CNS, but she was looking in all sorts of other directions – even performing a painful muscle biopsy.
When my neurologist explored my old records with me, I became angry. When Tammy and I got to the car (I’m not sure I waited that long), I began to vent and it wasn’t pretty. I wanted to know why I had been treated as a guinea pig in some medical experiment. I wanted to know why my previous neurologist showed no more compassion than she did and why she didn’t try to alleviate my symptoms (that feeling intensified when Dr. Ferrara began trying different drugs to help – and those drugs began working [alas, those drugs stopped working and the side effects began outweighing the benefits]). I wanted answers. I wanted to sue. I wanted to make my former neurologist pay. I wanted to look up her number, call, and demand answers.
Acrid. Scornful. Toxic. Hateful. Unhealthy. Angry. Sinful. Needing correction. Bitter. Unacceptable. Spiteful. You could say all that and more about my attitude. Not an attitude for a Christian. Not an attitude for a disciple of Jesus. Not an attitude from a Christ-like heart. Not an attitude I could keep.
I knew I needed to put that attitude far away from me, but I “liked” it. I felt justified for my bitterness. My anger made me “powerful” – I felt “smarter” than the doctor (I have a terminal degree, too, remember?). My spite allowed me to wallow in self-pity and hope that others felt sorry for me.
Jesus taught His disciples to do better than that. In the Model Prayer, the Lord teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt 6:12). Furthermore, our Lord says, “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt 6:14-15). I love that Jesus never commanded obedience without living the principle Himself – No Do-As-I-Say-And-Not-What-I-Do attitude from our Lord. Jesus forgave: the crippled whose friends dug through a roof to get their friend to Jesus, the harlot who washed His feet in Simon’s house, and the woman caught in adultery. Even while suffering the torture of crucifixion, the Lord forgave a thief who had reviled Him and the throng who had crucified Him.
Four months or so ago, I decided to bite the bullet and forgive. The physician against whom I had a grudge likely didn’t remember me, and she certainly wasn’t lying awake at night replaying everything in her head. I found the neurologist through a simple Google search and sent her an email. I didn’t mention any perceived wrongs – I simply said that I finally had a diagnosis and was doing well. She sent back a nice email saying that she was glad to hear I was doing well.
I didn’t tell Tammy I had contacted the doctor until after I heard back from her – Tammy knew how upset I was and I really didn’t want to give my wife a coronary. I showed Tammy the emails, and she said, “You were nice, but I don’t really think she remembers you.” I looked at my wife and said, “I don’t care. I didn’t send the email for her – I sent it for me. And, it helped.”
I knew I had to get rid of my bitterness, and I took action to do that very thing. We cannot hold onto bitterness and rancor; holding resentment in our heart is akin to drinking poison and praying for the other person to die. Do what you must to get rid of your anger. Let go of past hurts. Extend forgiveness. Won’t you forgive this very day?