Calling someone “angel”

Very interesting stuff from Tammy Ruiz, who has worked in perinatal NICU and hospice centers for most of her career, and who recently and unexpectedly lost her husband.  She has witnessed many crises, much grief, and many people behaving with compassion and selflessness

She says it’s not only theoloically inaccurate to call someone an “angel” when they demonstrate what seems like heroic virtue, but it can provide us with an excuse to avoid even trying to do the right thing.  Calling someone an “angel” implies that they have superhuman abilities — that they are a different type of being altogether — and we can’t even hope to imitate them.

Instead, here is what she has seen:

When I worked for a hospice, one of the most amazing parts of the job was watching the evolution of the caregivers who often went from “I could never ever _____ even if my parent needed me to” to “this is really hard but I’m sort of doing it” finally to “it was really hard to care for my dying parent but I did it and I am proud of myself.” Properly caring for the dying takes everybody working together, not just waiting for the “angel” hospice nurse to arrive.

A great reminder, which draws out a useful distinction:  It’s very common, lately, for people to urge each other to just take small steps, and to be content with trying.  But this misses the mark.  We take small steps because we’re weak and limited — but the small steps will make us stronger, so that we eventually can achieve more.  We’re not creatures of superhuman virtue; but neither should we be content with our limitations.

Read the rest here.

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  • richard

    My youngest brother (certainly no angel) took it upon himself to care for our aging mother, in her own house, for 17 years. To this day I don’t know how he did it.

    • James

      Grace? :D

    • NurseTammy

      Richard …what a lovely illustration of what I was trying to express…that your non-angelic brother (with Gods grace) cultivated a capacity to do something so hard.

  • jenny

    My sister took care of me for 5 years, when I was very sick. Only now I realize that two of my nephews missed the enrollment in college because their family’s $$$ put aside for their education, were spent on my care/ medication.

    While being sick there in their house, I heard my nephews asking why they can not enroll in school, and where the $$$ disappeared? They have been told that that $$$ went toward my care.

    Now, in their middle twenties, my nephews are not interested anymore in finishing their education.

    I feel guilty because I was selfish to take their $$$ and use it to save my own life…

    I pray to God to give me the courage to tell them the truth about how I used their $$$.

  • Sara McD

    I think people also do this when they hear of someone doing something horrible. “He’s a monster (animal, etc.)” No, it’s human.

    • NurseTammy

      I hadnt thought of that but I completely agree…humans can be very good and very bad. People seem eager to distance themselves from both extremes and act as if either are impossible…in reality we each have the free will capacity to choose virtue or vice.


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