I have had a number of times in my life where I have fainted. Nearly all of them were anxiety related, where the stress in question was just too much for my mind and body to handle, and so my body decided to “disappear” for a moment.
I am reminded of Queen Esther from the Bible and her own experience of fainting. In Esther chapter 4, when she first appears before the king with the intent to plead on behalf of the Jews, she is adorned in her finest raiment and appears exceedingly beautiful. However, she is terrified because she knows that appearing before the king uninvited could easily mean death for her. Upon approaching his throne, she sees his initial fury, and she staggers and faints.
“But God changed the king’s anger to gentleness. In great anxiety he sprang from his throne, held her in his arms until she recovered, and comforted her with reassuring words” (Esther 4:8). Without her act of fainting—a physical manifestation of the invisible reality of the terror in her soul—the king may not have been moved to kindness and compassion for her or for the subsequent Jews for whom she interceded.
Like the king responding to Esther’s fainting, I’ve noticed a similar, consistent pattern in the people around me when I’ve passed out: immediate compassion and concern regardless of the quality of our relationship.
What I find intriguing is how the body, in a moment of extreme fear and vulnerability, does something like fainting in order to move others to care and concern when they otherwise might not. More common examples of these kinds of reactions include crying, physically shaking, or even screaming out in fear. These are natural, physical reactions we have due to pressure in our lives. Although we may find these reactions embarrassing, we are nonetheless expressing the invisible realities of our hearts and souls through our bodies, making visible what we are thinking and feeling. St. John Paul tells us that “the body…and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine.” (TOB 19:4). More examples of this concept can be found in TOBET’s Level 5 of The Body Matters, in the book The Body as Sacrament.
Even though we are vulnerable in these states like fainting or crying, it opens the door to others to practice virtue, where they might extend gentleness, kindness, and compassion to us when they otherwise might not have had they not had the external sign of the invisible reality of the soul. That in mind, I wouldn’t be so ashamed of having a physical reaction to something troubling or frightening in life if it means that it could improve the human connection we all need.
Kathleen Ramirez is a University of Dallas alumna and works part-time for TOBET. She enjoys writing and illustrating children’s/young adult books in her free time.
Beautiful reflection Kathleen!