By: Richard Paul Evans
Dear Friends, please help me get this letter to the person who needs it
by sharing it on your Facebook page, email and Twitter. Thank you.
I was very much disheartened by your anonymous letter. I was saddened that you hadn’t the courage to include your name so I could help you understand the truth. Since I must believe that you wouldn’t possibly “friend” a “man like me” on your Facebook page, I can only hope that someone you know shares this post on their site and that God guides you to this letter.
I came to your church to tell you about God’s love for His children and to talk about the beauty of His forgiveness. I don’t think you heard me. Or, at least, believed me. You wrote in your letter that I “had no place in a house of God, as I was clearly a sinful man” and that my sins were “manifested across my face, revealed by my many facial tics”.
Yes, no doubt I am, like most of God’s children, a sinner. But the tics you saw on my face were not from sin. They come from a neurological disorder called Tourette’s Syndrome. I was born this way. I cannot stop them.
Sadly, as a boy, I would have believed you that I was bad. My mother got mad at me that day my first tic manifested–a painful, constant shrugging. And, though I was only 8-years-old, I felt guilty for disobeying her when she told me to stop. As a 9-year-old I thought that maybe, if I was a good enough boy and I had enough faith, I could be cured of my tics. But they wouldn’t go away, so I thought that my abnormality must be my fault.
One time a church leader came to speak at my church. I was told that he was someone important. I remembered the Bible story of the woman touching Jesus’s garment and being healed. I thought that maybe if I shook this man’s hand I might be healed. So I waited in line. And I shook his hand. But my tics remained.
Earlier that summer, my family had moved to Utah and I had ridden a school bus to an overnight camp called Mill Hollow. Some of the children on the bus noticed my tics and one of them called me a “freak”. As I got off the bus, a scared child in a strange place, a group of children surrounded me to get a better look. And I was ticking like crazy, not because I was a sinner, but because I was afraid and humiliated.
Your letter reminded me a little of that day. Only I am no longer that naïve, helpless little boy. I now know that there are hundreds of thousands of us with behavioral disorders. And what you, or even a million deluded people like you, might say, doesn’t affect me anymore. I have moved on. I have a beautiful life, a beautiful family and home. I have seen the world. I have danced in the White House and spoken to audiences of thousands. Millions of people have read my books. I have built shelters that have housed thousands of abused children. And I still tic.
Sometimes when I tic, my wife will lovingly set her hand on my cheek and ask if I’m okay. It’s very sweet. And it means a lot to me. My children don’t even notice my tics. They only see the father who loves them. The truth of who I am has set me free. It can set you free too. Because with whatever measurement you use to judge, you must judge yourself. And you are using a very crooked and barbed ruler.
In all honesty, I must admit that I was angered by your letter. But not for me. I am far beyond your reach. I am angry for those children who are still trying to figure out who they are: children who are teased and ridiculed and bullied by cruel, self-righteous people like you. I am angered for those sweet, innocent children, who would rather die than show their tics, because you are so eager to let them know how unlovable and imperfect they are. And some of them do take their precious lives. Yes, this makes me very angry.
The other day, at a book signing, a young woman I had never met before, put her arms around me and told me that she loved me. I asked her why. She told me that she had Tourettes and the kids at school made fun of her. But now many of her schoolmates are reading my books and, knowing that I have Tourettes, are now treating her better. I told her that she is not her Tourettes. I told her that I loved her too.
Dear anonymous, I hope you read this letter. I hope it opens your eyes. Or, better yet, your heart. But whether you change or not, remember this: we, the “abnormal” are not the ones to be pitied. The greatest disability is the inability to love those who are different than you. May God bless you with His unfathomable and unconditional love.
Your flawed servant,
Richard Paul Evans, #1 New York Times bestselling author and a man with Tourettes Syndrome.