“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Don't buy the platitudes

A student of mine recently passed on a web link to an article she had read. On the one hand, I think she wanted me to see the article as she thought it was good, and on the other hand, she wanted my perspective on the article. Written by a profesor at Brigham Young University, it makes many good points about critical factors in the raising of a child with a disability. However, near the end, it states,

"When Nikki received her patriarchal blessing, she was told she had been given this special experience in mortality because of the greatness of her soul. She helps others learn compassion and understanding. I am grateful for all the good she has done for our family as well as for many others. Nikki teaches us that love, kindness, and charity are not just for the swift or strong, but they are for those who struggle. I have the firm hope of an eternal relationship with Nikki. I know that when she is finally healed of ther disability, I will learn yet more from the greatness of her soul."(Williams, 2004, Intellectual Reserve, Inc.)

People with disability being given a special experience in disabilty due to the greatness of their soul. I suspect that the person making this claim did so with the goal of lauding her friend Nikki through her description, however, it actually does just the opposite. Nikki is not seen as a person, she is seen as the posessor of some special greatness of her soul. Who she is, is interpreted through the lense of her disability. So she isn't my friend, or a person I know, I first see her as a disabled person, and I then make a construction of who she is to make her more acceptable to me and to those around me.

Have you ever been on a committee where each person has a particular purpose for being on the committee? This same committee looks at you and tries to figure out why you are there. It is definitely an uncomfortable feeling. You feel like you have something to prove in order to be accepted.

We do that with people with disability. We obviously see our own worth in our own eyes (we all struggle with vanity). We then look on a person with disability and wonder what their purpose might be. We exalt ourselves by seeing ourselves through our vanity, and demean others by also seeing them through our vanity. I Corinthians 1 says, "He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nulify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him." The reason we are accepted is not that we have a purpose, something that necessarily sets us apart. We are accepted because we are people, so that no one can boast. But because I obviously see that I am of great value to the Lord because I am athletic or witty or smart or attractive (I am boasting), I must also find a reason for the person with disability (In my prejudice I don't think they can boast because they aren't athletic, witty, smart or attractive, so I give them something so they can also be able to boast). I say that they have a particularly great soul. But deep down we don't believe it. Mostly we don't believe it because it isn't true from a scriptural basis, but also deep down we know that we are just trying to give the other value (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). The problem is that we demean others by not telling them the truth. As Wolfensberger has indicated, we develop role perceptions rather than treating people as normally as possible.

So don't buy the platitude given by anyone, if it doesn't reflect the truth of the scripture. Besides, how can I surpass the notion that God finds each of us infinitely valuable just because we are a creation of His, because we are.


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