Sometimes we mistakenly think that feeling guilty for what we have is some sort of worthy penance for what we do not share. We end up not enjoying what we have. But does that really do any good? Does that help either us be more compassionate or the poor be more empowered? Not really. It simply confuses the real mission.
This is where it gets very tricky. Born American middle class we really do have SO much, but that is always relative to what's around us. And what's around us is more wealth. We see both sides: extreme wealth and extreme poverty. We feel the burden to somehow lessen the gap. How do we start, knowing we were born with blood on our hands?
The American middle class is perfectly situated to be a case study either in greed or compassion. Literally being between the extremes we are almost given to think those the only options. They, of course, are not.
Compassion can certainly be used as an excuse for laziness. In the name of associating with the poor we can forgo pesky work loads to take life at a simpler, lighter pace. Is that really doing the poor themselves any good?
Greed of course is over-stated. From certain perspectives any sort of initiative is ultimately wrought with greed. Anywhere down the line where someone stands to sustain their vision there is some sort of greed attached. There has to be some positive form of greed. Call it ambition, initiative, leadership, hutzpah, etc, not all is bad. Even those who start non-profits in our sarcasm-rich culture can ultimately get the epithet: greedy one. The unintended consequence is that we create two fictitious options for most young adults: be greedy and win, or be compassionate and lose with the rest of us. Part of loving the poor, ironically, requires we adjust our thinking on this.
We have inherited a sense of guilt with winning, with profit, with success. There is no doubt. It is almost easier in today’s world to fail. We are so suspicious of those who succeed, especially those who succeed continuously. How are they doing it? Are they paying people off? Have they made a deal with the devil? Are they simply ruthless? Do they stay up all night every night scheming ways to make more money? That is certainly how it seems today.
Certainly we have seen corrupted men succeed. Whether bank CEO’s, organized crime leaders, or franchise owners, men who do little to none of the work stand to make the most money on other people’s backs. That is the perception.
*And today it feels like the well has dried up. Those who will succeed have. There is no room for newbies. All these suspicions create a scarcity mentality: “there is not enough, only certain people will get it, wealth is a privilege I am not afforded.”