Here is an excellent and insightful guest post by my friend and fellow Christian, physician and writer, Leanna Hollis, MD.  (She’s also a farmer, politician and probably does more in a day than most of us can imagine.)

Check out her blog!

After completing my Internal Medicine residency, I took a job in one of the busiest ER’s in our state.  It didn’t take long before the night shifts and the drunks took their toll, so, when a busy Internal Medicine group offered me a position, I eagerly accepted it.  Before long, my days were filled with diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia.  The patients were great, but there was a mindset that just drove me nuts.  Everyone, even medical professionals, wanted a “pill to fix it” rather than make the lifestyle modifications needed for lasting control of their medical problems.  Truthfully, I did, too.

That whole business of taking responsibility for making lifestyle changes has haunted me through every phase of my medical career. I make decisions as a wound doctor on a daily basis that affect patient care and the outcome of their wounds, and I also evaluate the results of those choices just as often.  Did my intervention help?  Did I make it worse?  I know I’m responsible for my choices in care, so I want to make the very best ones possible.  The problem is that I am not the only one responsible.  The patient is responsible, too.  I understand that, but I’m not sure my patients always do.  It still surprises me, after a lifetime in medicine, to hear, “Why won’t my wound heal, Doc?” from a patient who weighs 350 pounds, has a blood sugar of 285, smokes a pack and a half a day, and eats almost no protein.

Humans have been shifting the responsibility for their choices since Eve ate the fruit in the garden. It’s human nature, I guess, but something wonderful happens when we admit our fault. It frees us to overcome our mistakes and make the mess we’ve made better. It’s a lot like what we experience as Christians when we confess our wrongs and receive forgiveness. It doesn’t just bring freedom, it also brings peace.

Not long ago, I had an experience that absolutely stunned me.  I had just explained to a patient that his wound was not going to heal, we couldn’t save his toes, and his circulation was too poor for anything less than a below the knee amputation.  “Well, Doc, I just appreciate you trying,” he said.  “It’s mostly my fault anyway.” I was speechless. I don’t think I’d ever heard a patient say that before!  He continued, “Yep, everybody said those cigarettes were gonna kill me, but I kept right on smoking like a chimney, and it turns out they were right.  I shoulda listened, and I shoulda done what you told me to from the start.” I’ve never had a patient before who so fully accepted responsibility for his own lifestyle and the consequences of it.  It was freeing for both of us.

Hearing “it’s my fault” was an amazing thing, but what came next was even better. “You keep doing what you are doing,” he said, “and if you will show me how, I’ll do what I can do, too.  We’ll just get through this together.”  That attitude is really helpful in wound care, but even more important, it’s a perfect attitude for the Christian life. It’s letting go of the past and its mistakes and forging ahead.

In fact, it’s what repentance and forgiveness are all about. The act of admitting we were wrong, asking for forgiveness, and seeking to make restitution when possible is not only the way to have a right relationship with God. It’s a good rule of thumb for all our relationships.

Whether we like it or not, we are responsible for our actions and the consequences of those actions, both personally and corporately as a nation. It’s time to admit it and do what we can to clean up the messes we have made. We can do it! We can, but we have to make a start that begins with “That was my fault.” Give it a try. It’s easier than you think.

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