FAIR WARNING: If you are not ready to have your biases, prejudices and assumptions challenged, get out now and go find something less provoking to read. While it is not my intention to offend, I find that speaking the Truth with confidence tends to ruffle feathers, even when seasoned with grace. Some people tend to confuse confidence and competence with pride, arrogance, an unteachable heart and a complete lack of common sense when I will not just lay down and buy into their ideas of “the perfect solution if only you would do it my way.” So if you are easily offended and tightly attached to your preconceived notions, this is probably not the best place for you.
On the other hand, if you are open to considering that you may be mistaken or misguided, even if you have always meant well and have the right attitude and heart before God in what it means to step outside your comfort zone and practically “love your neighbor” in ways that meet their ACTUAL NEEDS, instead of offering a skin deep panacea that does nothing for long term solutions….if you are willing to concede that cultural stereotypes and assumptions have crept even into the church at large and twisted the personal touch that Jesus offered to hurting people into something almost as impersonal and dehumanizing as a government office — which is a misapplication of the lifestyle of LOVE to which Jesus called His followers….Well, come on in and be part of the solution!
Everybody (or most people anyway) mean well. They want to do good, make a difference, fix the problems they see in the world. Problem is defining what constitutes a “problem” anyway? One person’s everyday comfort zone, can represent what another person would see as a “problem” leading people to try to “fix problems” that the other person is blissfully unaware of having. Thing is, some problems are obvious and universal — someone has a problem with stealing other people’s things–OK, most people would agree that is a problem that needs to be solved. Someone has problem with anger and hate to the point of violence and destruction. Definitely any reasonable person will agree that person needs help.
But other issues are more morally neutral and a matter of personal preference or conscience before God based on how God is calling an individual to live out their faith on a daily basis. I like certain genres of books and movies. I like some foods but not others. I live in such and such a neighborhood. I wear a certain style of clothing but not another. I have a certain color skin. My family ethnicity is such and such. I live in a certain size and style of house. I drive a certain car. I have such and such degrees, education, diplomas. I make a certain amount of money or maybe I am a stay-at-home mom. My style of housecleaning is different than someone else’s although both houses are reasonably clean. Or perhaps my house is clean but in a perpetual state of organized chaos while another is neat as a pin with an alphabetized spice rack and color coded closets. None of this has a single thing to do with my spiritual health, my standing before God, my spiritual maturity or immaturity. Yet some people look at those surface issues and assign moral weight to a person’s choice to agree or disagree with their own opinion on such matters.
Person A takes a neutral choice and start trying to “rescue” Person B who Person A seems to think is depraved, deprived or ignorant because Person B has chosen a path that Person A strongly feels is wrong, but which in reality is not a moral or ethical issue. Neither one is necessarily wrong and the right thing to do would be to give both grace to live their faith before God as Paul exhorts believers in Romans 14.
However, there is a certain kind of person that cannot just let these matters go, so convinced they are that their way is the moral high ground and it is their solemnly sworn duty to “rescue” Person B from his/her own so-called foolishness and ignorance. They take on the responsibility to “fix the problem” assuming that Person B will see it their way and acknowledge that they have a problem when in reality they just have different, equally valid ways of doing things. Person A may be well meaning. Person A may really believe they are helping and trying to do something good. But Person B is happy with his/her own life choices and feels no reason or need to be “fixed” or at least does not need a fix for or help with the things that Person A has independently determined are the problem without consultation with the person he/she wants to help. While Person A accuses Person B of lack of humility, pride and arrogance for not accepting such “help” on their terms, Person A completely misses the point that in assuming help is needed or wanted where none has been asked, they are guilty of the very pride and arrogance of which they accuse Person B.
By assuming that their way is better or the “best way” for everyone across the board and demanding compliance, they set up a superior/inferior dynamic that interferes with true relationship and authentic compassion, no matter how well-meaning they think they are. They see themselves as the “benevolent savior” and put on big shows to highlight their so-called “generosity,” drawing attention to their good deeds and expecting gratitude to come with bowing and scraping and militaristic conformance to their “rules.” Along with expectations of effusive acknowledgment of just how “right” they are, how did I ever get along without you, you seventh wonder of the known world-style gratitude, they take for granted that any reasonable person will see how much better life would be when done their way. They cannot see or accept that another person can make another choice and be just as right before God as they are because these are not black and white issues directly addressed in scripture. As Paul says, I can do one thing by faith and be right with God and someone else may make another choice by faith and be right before God. It is not always that one of us is wrong and one is right — we can both be right in what God is calling us to do and how He directs each individual to live his or her life. The problem is when one person starts using their own conscience and sensitivities as a battering ram to beat up on those who have a different calling in life.
People living through the challenges of poverty face the reality of this everyday. People consciously or unconsciously act out of assumptions that because they are more affluent, they know better than we do what we need and are determined to make us jump through their hoops to get their help. Help that is, however, based on their own ideas of what constitutes “help” without stopping to consider the individual’s character, the specifics of their situation, the help they already have, and where they are in their recovery plan. People try to whitewash over all that with one-size-fits-all do good outreach. The result is that the poor are well-meaned to death without ever actually getting the specific help they need on an individual basis. Too many assumptions by people who have never lived it or have forgotten what it was like if they have.
One assumption is that without rigid, military-style rules with ruthless enforcement we would spin out of control, running amok and abusing the system since the media is so fond of pointing out and drawing attention to the worst case scenarios. As a result, many people have already pre-decided who I am before they even meet me, get to know me. Precious few ask what I have already done to turn our situation around or how they can help me move the plan forward from where I am. I get the distinct impression that some people have already tagged, labeled and stuck me in a box, expecting me to just blindly go along with whatever “help” they offer, even though most people suggest things I have already put in motion or completed. The whole system is set up to take people from scratch who don’t have the knowledge or skills to help themselves. They have no clue what to do with people who are already several steps down the road. They expect you to start over and do it from scratch with them. Yeah — no, not helpful.
I don’t know the people for whom the rules were written, but it is counterproductive to my moving forward efforts to be limited by someone else’s lack of vision and trust because for all their appearances of caring, they don’t really care enough to see me as a person, not a stereotype. They don’t trust my character, my intelligence, my savvy and motivation because all they see is POVERTY, stamped across my forehead like Hester Prynne’s scarlet letter. I am a “do gooder PROJECT,” not a friend. I am not interested in being anyone’s PROJECT. I do not want to hear the word “policy” one more time — hiding a convenient excuse for not getting involved because they think they need to protect themselves from being taken advantage of or enabling a dysfunctional lifestyle for someone who doesn’t really want to change. Never mind that nothing in my actions over the last 16 months has given any credence to the idea that I am one of those people — but they would never know that because they have let their hearts and minds grow callous to the humanity behind the need so they know nothing of the real me.
This whole situation has really brought out in relief who my real friends are. I can tell the difference between those who actually care about me as a person and a friend and support me in moving forward with the plan I’ve made, even when it takes longer than expected; and those who merely want to stroke their consciences and egos with “good deeds”; and those who just want to play hear no evil, see no evil and pretend like the problem doesn’t exist. The real life ordinary, average everyday superheroes don’t try to control the recovery plan. They help carry out the plan that God has laid on MY heart. My superhero friends don’t treat me any different than they did before our lives imploded last year. They don’t placate me with syrupy sounding pep talk and religious platitudes all the while looking for an opportunity to escape, lest they be infected with the poverty disease, as if it is catching. They are superheroes because even if they can’t provide me the magic, instant solution to everything, they listen to me, they trust me when I say certain seemingly obvious solutions (or parts of a solution) are simply not feasible or that God has told me “NO, don’t go that route,” even when it might seem the logical thing to do by human standards. They don’t insult my intelligence by repeatedly telling me things I already know and have proven my grit and determination and follow through to carry out multiple times already. They are satisfied with a simple thank you and do not set conditions on their favors — be it prayers, hugs, conversation, money, food or other needs. When I am with these people — and I hope you know who you are — I feel human again in a very dehumanizing situation. To someone caught in the grips of the reality of poverty, THAT is a superpower worth the weight of Fort Knox in gold!!
Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12