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In nature there is no stigma but, sadly, with human beings there is. I have written before in Stigma Stains the Soul that in every stigma there is a kernel of truth. When a person is socially unacceptable due to an illness, has a message that one does not want to hear r someone who you want to marginalize it easier to take a person’s weakness or illness and make it the whole of a person, not a small part. For example a person with a mental illness has one but does not mean the person is ‘mentally ill’ just as a person with cancer is not ‘cancerous’.
Persons usually do not voice the stigma in front of the person they are stigmatizing but sometimes it happens. The other day, in the middle of a meeting, a person who has cut himself off from me a few years ago started talking about me how I attack persons and such. I said I might have done something like that in the past but have really changed and asked if could name any examples in the last three years. He could not come up with any examples and started to name mutual friends saying they agreed with him. Stigmas like this have small kernel of truth but take one small part of a person and try to identify the person. People with mental illnesses, like my son Peter, suffer greatly from stigmas if they cannot take the kernel of truth and ignore the rest.
But sometimes a person is accused or stigmatized but there is no kernel of truth in the stigma. Although the district attorney has thrown out the accusations of sexual abuse against a priest friend of mine, the Catholic archdiocese opened up a new investigation and suspended the priest during his time. He was finally reinstated and although his parishioners understand there always will be people who associate him with these false accusations that have no kernel of truth.
Recently a respect person makes some accusations against me that have no bases in reality. I could not accept that something like this happened since he never did and could not challenge the person’s accusation; at least it would do no good. A good friend trying to comfort me said there is always a “kernel of truth” in such an accusation. But there was not small kernel of truth to these statements about me. In this case, when there is no kernel of truth, it is better not to respond at all but to keep pursuing the truth of conscience as you see it. Stigmas have a kernel of truth and lies have no kernel of truth.