Disease, Illness and Other Character Defects


What?  You don’t agree that a disease is a character defect?  How about, say, an addictive gambler?  Or a sex addict?  Perhaps a compulsive overeater?  Now, I don’t mean those folks who can do those activities once or twice and leave them alone.  I mean those individuals who do them to the point of losing everything – family, jobs, health, etc.  We already know about the alcoholics and drug addicts.  We probably accept those as diseases.  Probably.  Maybe.  At least in public.  Lurking inside though, do we really believe it or do we secretly harbor the thought that they are truly just defective characters who could do better if they just wanted to?

If we think about it, we ALL have an addictive something or other in ourselves, however.  That one thing we MUST do/have in our lives.  Maybe we overeat, even hide food.  We have it in our car, desk, bedroom.  Perhaps it’s money.  We revel in the fact we have credit cards of all types.  Cash in our pockets at all times to buy what we want whenever we want.    Or clothes.  LOTS of clothes.  The latest and best.  Or cars – the newest every year.  Or a good-looking body that we are proud to show off, working out all the time, going to the gym or salon to make look better than our friends.  Or a social life to be proud of.  Or a life of philanthropy (look it up if you don’t know what that means) that we are proud to get awards for.  We work ourselves to exhaustion and to the point of nearly – often succeeding – losing family and finances – to keep these addictions of ours fed.  Are these any different than the ones listed in the first paragraph?  Do Ponzi schemes ring any bells?  People who defraud their own friends to keep their addiction to these lifestyles going?

No, I think it might be more than just a character defect, folks.  I believe addiction to something, whether a drug or a behavior, is a DISEASE, and needs to be treated as such.  If you have one to any of these – or one I missed listing – reach out.  To me, to a trusted friend who might understand, to a pastor, a physician.  But reach out.  There are 12-step programs for pretty much all of these.  The freedom and peace are awesome.  Trust me – I am one of them.

Now, illness as a character defect.  GRIN!  You know what’s coming!  We all know the ones – they whine about every little ache and pain.  The give you a litany of their latest doctor’s visit, treatment, medication changes.  On and on and on.  You cross the street to miss them.  When they call, you put the phone down and just occasionally say, “Oh really?” while they drone on.  And on.  And on.  Yeah, I have one of those too.

For people like this, the character defect isn’t the illness, it is that they let the illness become everything.  Without it, they have no identity, no purpose.  They use it to manipulate their world, their family, their friends, their doctors, their environment, even themselves.  If they were suddenly completely healthy, they would be completely at a loss for a very long time about their lives.  It is who they are, for now.

That is physical illness.  There are other illnesses that are more difficult for us human beings to accept.  Mental retardation for instance.  I know, I know.  We aren’t supposed to use that word anymore.  But it is a true description of people whose brain is less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one’s age.  Check your dictionary.  It took on negative connotations several years ago, but so did the word ‘gay.’  Is it a character defect?  Most will automatically say no.  You might definitely say it is a problem with the brain, brush your hands off, and are done with it.  I agree, so enough said.

Then there is a very sensitive area called mental illness.  Oh no, you say.  Oh yes say I.  This one is very, very controversial.  Schizophrenia, Depression.  Suicidal behaviors.  PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).  Anxiety Disorder.  Agoraphobia.  Mass Murderers.  Serial Killers.  Child Molesters.  Self-Mutilators.  Narcissism.  The list is long and varied.  Are these character defects?  Or true illnesses?  Political correctness demands that we say they are illnesses.  We would agree with that on some of those like schizophrenia.  But child molesters?  This would be a mental illness called pedophilia.  Mass murderers and serial killers are sometimes diagnosed as schizophrenic and addicts combined.  Abusers are often diagnosed Narcissistic.  Mentally ill.  Or character defects?  I personally believe it’s an illness.  MRIs of the brains of such people are very, very different that those who do not have these illnesses.  In addition, I cannot imagine ‘healthy’ human beings doing these things by choice.  SOMETHING isn’t working correctly in their brains, and studies have already shown that the use of the right medications make their illness manageable.  So, no, not a character defect.  An illness.  Once again, if you are one of these, reach out and get what you need to behave in a healthy way.  If you have someone in your life that needs this help, get it for them.  Contact me or someone you trust.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  I have turned in my own son when he became dangerous, because I didn’t want to be the mom of the man who became the headlines.

Sheesh – this blog became WAY too heavy!  But, it needed saying so, as a famous man once said from his cross, “It is done.”

Until next time.


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