Posted by Trina Bartlett
As we got older and our brains matured from concrete to abstract thinking, we realized that people and situations are complicated and that life comes at us in a broad spectrum of colors - not just black and white.
That was the paradigm in which I used to believe.
Maybe that’s because I’ve surrounded myself with individuals who have complicated views of the world and I have yet to meet anyone who is even close to perfect. Maybe that’s because my own life and belief systems are complicated. Or maybe it’s because I’m a social worker, which means I see the best and worst in people almost every single day.
For whatever reason, I sometimes forget there are too many people who have unrealistically simple views of the world.
And then life hands me a great big dose of a reality and I am left dumbstruck at how people can justify being judgmental by painting human behavior with broad brushes of right and wrong, good or bad and deserving and undeserving,
Even worse are the people who think they have THE answer for eliminating such complicated issues as poverty and violence.
Just this past week, a colleague asked an individual who works at an organization that serves low-income families what these families need to help them improve their situation. Instead of thoughtful dialogue, the individual began to rant about all the families that “abuse the system.”
Then he suggested that we stop rewarding women for getting pregnant so they can access to benefits.
Call me naïve, but I am highly doubtful that most baby-making situations are the direct result of a female thinking she will be financially secure if she has a baby.
With that said, I’m equally sure that there are women who aren’t concerned about getting pregnant because someone, be it the system or a grandparent or perhaps the father, will step up to help with the situation.
There are women who get pregnant because they don’t think about consequences and there are those who are desperate for love and attention. And there are low-income women who get pregnant because, shocking as it may be, they want to have a family.
And not every mother was single or lacked income when she got pregnant. People lose their jobs, and finding child care is difficult for those who do shift work. People face financial problems because of mental or physical illness every day. Relationships fall apart. Some women are brave enough to leave an abusive relationship only to face financial hardships.
Do you see what I mean about being complicated?
But people who prefer simplistic answers don’t want to consider complicated. They want to devalue the worth of single mothers or low-income families who experience generational poverty.
But my complicated (or mature?) mind can’t understand that way of thinking. Instead, I believe that we are all imperfect humans who have a relatively short time on earth. Some of us are born into better circumstances than others. Some of us had parents who nurtured us and helped our brains develop appropriately. Some of us had role models and grew up in homes where chaos was unusual and unacceptable.
In other words, some of us were just plain lucky, and last I checked, lucky and worthy are two entirely different concepts.
Life is not fair, and instead of wasting precious time and energy trying to balance the scales of fairness (something even my children know will never happen), we should spend our time and energy cheering on and supporting our fellow humans.
That doesn’t mean we should accept that people live poverty or that they have no responsibility for trying to improve their situation – they do. But that does mean that we should provide opportunities to help them improve, and, more importantly, we shouldn’t judge.
Often, that doesn’t involve changing circumstances or rules for other people. That involves changing ourselves.
That’s not easy. In fact, it’s rather… complicated.