About six years ago, I had an interesting idea for my first book. It was a title that would grab attention because of its shock value and point a finger towards the devasting effects of a horrendous self-image. I’m talking about “A Lesser Human: An Anthology of Overcoming”. Sadly, I let myself be persuaded to change it to “You Are Not a Lesser Human”.
Why did I give my book such a shocking title and how can it be of help in today’s insane culture? I am talking about the culture of victimhood and its effect on the target of the blame game. As a man born in 1964 with serious physical disabilities, I can readily understand both sides of ensuing battles. I would like to share some words of healing for both sides.
At the age of 57, I do know all about serious discrimination in the work place and other areas of life. I’ve also plenty of experiences with cultural biases against the disabled community. I am thankful for the opportunity to attend Stockton State College, now Stockton State University. At that time, I did not connect with too many people with such disabilities.
According to some initial research for this article, I received a “scoop” from a site called “Disability Scoop”. They have an article called “Inclusion Increasingly the Norm“. Things have changed dramatically for the good since I was in high school and college and it’s for the better. A little further research yield another interesting data,
People with disabilities make up about 12% of the US population. Of this population, 25% are in poverty or near poverty. You can read the stats here. I got the stats from a site called the Annual Disability Statistics Compendium. I do appreciate the information these two sites provides and they are helping to strengthen a point that I’m going to make.
When I was growing up, the world was quite different and these good folks would have shocked the heck out of me, in the 70s. I think my father would have had trouble believing things could be so different in the decades to come. The idea of being accepted and treated with dignity would have been foreign concept.
In truth, the Silent generation would have been justified in not holding much hope for their children born with disabilities. My generation, the Baby Boomer, are the ones who got to see the changes in society. I can well recall nuggets of hope coming my way though I knew it, not. I can readily thank members of the Silent generation for ushering some very needed changes.
If you don’t know, the Silent generation are children born between 1928 to 1945. Yes, these folks are the one who created rock n’ roll and the hippie movement. They are also the ones who participated in the Civil Rights marches and helped bring about other social changes. It seems someone forgot to tell them to be silent.
No, things are not perfect and we still have ways to go. However, the future is far from dismal. In the 70s, I would have readily argued against such an optimistic viewpoint. “What future?”, I thought. At the time, I was in survival mode and on my way to having a victim mentality.
A victim’s mentality is not just someone who feels sorry for themselves. It is also one that says “I can’t trust you or society to treat me, fairly. As such, I have to fight in order to survive.” It’s this view that would poison my perception of history, Scriptures and what’s already happening.
I totally missed the significance of things like certain characters from Marvel Comics and DC Comics. How about the Education Reform Act passed in 1975? It’s the starting point for children with disabilities to be mainstreamed in to the regular school system. How about the computer revolution? Things were changing and I was totally missing it. It’s all because of a very negative view of self.
Of course, it did not help to experience horrific abuse at a summer job. Apparently, it was acceptable to treat a fellow human being like he less than human. Is it so shocking that I’d see myself as less than what God has created me, to be? That summer job isn’t the only place that I’d experience such a crappy attitude.
By now, you should be asking “How the heck did this guy develop a healthy positive attitude towards life?” For one, I am a hope-filled realist and I don’t go around blaming everyone for the stupidity of small group of individuals. Such tactics do not help anyone and the perpetrators don’t give a crap. All I can do is forgive them for they know not what they are doing.
It’s one of the lessons that I learned from my dealing with a disability advocacy group called Arizona Bridge to Independent Living. I just checked and it seems Susan Webb is still leading the charge. Here’s a second lesson that I learned from this group. I needed to take responsibility for myself and learn to take positive steps towards a life of independence.
Yes, it is true that God is for me and will help me in many ways. Yet, I still need to put in the work. Yes, Jesus blessed me with the finances to buy a budgeting software called Quicken. However, I still needed to buy the software and put in the work to learn how to budget my finances. Yes, I have a vision of writing but I still needed to put in the work of blogging.
Here’s another lesson that I learned from this group. This lesson is directly related to the needed healing on both side of what’s happening in this country. Years ago, Susan gave a powerful lesson for potential job seekers. It’s actually one that can be applied anywhere.
I am not a fan of hiding my head in the sand and pretend there isn’t a real problem in our country. It’s real and its origin lies with sin. In my case, it’s willful ignorance and shortsightedness. From Susan, I learned that there are three ways to approach the issues.
I could play the victim and feel sorry for myself. I could waste precious opportunity by projecting destructive views on the people around me. Such an attitude will only perpetuate stereotypes and drive potential help away from me. It is also a great way to stir up resentment and anger rather than help.
Such a tactic will only backfire and potentially worsen the problem. Of course, there is the path of the militant advocate. I think Susan was the director, at the time. She could very easily play the role of militant advocate and she warned against such method. Why did she do that?
What outcome would you prefer? Do you prefer to send people running for the hill or seeking the nearest exit at the sight of you? How about “Let’s get rid of this person and not deal with him or her!”? I hope you are the getting the idea.
Why is the militant tactic such a bad idea? In psychology, there is something called a defense mechanism. It’s the human mind’s ability to protect itself when under attack. Let’s face it! No one likes getting blame for they didn’t do or have control over. I should know since I had people in a church blame me because of my disability
Somehow, I did the impossible and sinned while my mother is pregnant with me. It was not just a onetime thing. I had other issues with them. Of course, it wasn’t just in one church. In another place, I am being asked to take responsibility for something my ancestor may have done or not done.
On the one hand, I did not want to go anywhere near these people because of the hurts I experienced. Yet, I could have leveled right into these folks and played the same game. After all, people with disabilities were not always treated kindly by the religious crowd. I’ll give you a hint. It’s not a pretty picture.
Why did I go on the attack? I chose to not repay evil with evil. With the Holy Spirit’s help, I chose to walk in forgiveness towards these people and let go. I chose to let my Father in Heaven deal with the mess. Yes, I’m still hurting from such attacks and I still choose to honor God and keep forgiving.
How does this help me? I am not suffering from disabilities and don’t have history to draw from? I suggest that you read this article, again. My target audience is not people with disabilities. Though they can benefit, the real target is the white community that feels like they’re under attack. It’s also the Black community that is in need of healing.
These communities are not the only ones to be hurt by senseless attacks and it’s precisely what the Enemy wants. Do you really think the disabled community are the only ones to see slow progress? Think again! Unfortunately, we have a cloud filled with hateful rhetoric designed to confuse and inflame pain that hasn’t fully healed.
I asked Jesus to heal my heart, years ago. It’s why I can see clearly the progress that has been made. It’s also why I can forgive the trespasses of others. Yet, I am aware of the need for more positive changes. I know that it will take time and people will make mistakes. For this reason, it is important to forgive and extend grace.
It’s only by my Father’s strength that I can do this. Jesus can do for you what has been done, for me. It’s not easy but it can be done and it does take time.