Assigning Worth

It seems to me that people who need help to escape poverty generally do not need, nor want, handouts. They need a break. They need a chance to demonstrate their worth in a world in which value is too often measured in assets rather than performance. Poverty stalks all of us, seeking that single crack in our armor that will allow it the opportunity to tear us apart, destroying our security and sense of self. Would that more of the rich and privileged among us understand that reality. Believers might serve themselves and the world well by paying attention to the phrase, “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” There ought to be a secular equivalent for it to help model and mold the behavior of the rest of us.

I wish I knew how to start a constructive conversation with people who demean others who need help; I wish I knew how to engage them in dialogue about the reality of hardship, guiding the conversation toward insight and away from the assignment of blame. Does my frustration with people who readily blame victims impede my capacity to teach them what the world looks like from my perspective? Does my loathing of their unwillingness to let empathy steer them toward humanity become an obstacle to understanding, an insurmountable wall that disables my persuasive talents? In other words, am I the problem? Might I have more success in educating and informing such people if I were to let go of my disdain for their attitudes and beliefs, seeking to understand them, instead? That sounds so much the rational approach I’ve always thought right. But following it seems too forgiving of indecency, too accepting of immorality, too willing to tolerate inhumanity. I wonder where the line is crossed between tolerance and complicity. This morning, those thoughts weigh on my mind. If I had answers, I wouldn’t need to pose the questions.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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