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


Monday, October 27, 2014

Projections

Imagine a boy is born into a family. But the family didn't want a boy, they wanted a girl. So they give the boy a name that disrespects the fact that he is a boy.  Maybe they call him Sally. Sally goes through his life, living with the message that he is unwanted, that he is a disappointment. He may be gifted, but the the family will never know of his gifts because they see him through eyes that communicate their understanding of who he is; a disappointment. When he becomes what is projected upon him by his family, no one is surprised. In fact it is exactly as everyone thought, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Within the family this perhaps does not seem unkind because they are so convinced of their perceptions about Sally that they cannot imagine him any differently.

When I go to the movies, I enter the theater to a blank, large, white screen. As I sit there, I am hoping something memorable will be projected upon the screen. I may see love on that screen or I may see violence. I may see beauty or I may see horror and want to turn away from the screen. In the case of the screen, it has no qualities in and of itself, other than its ability to show what is projected upon it.

People can be treated like screens. They become to us and others what we project upon them. If we project sorrow, they are sad. If we project uselessness, they are ungifted. If we project beauty, they get a second look. But people are not like screens, we are told they have basic value, in themselves, independent of what we project upon them.

I project you have no value, the reality is still, that you are indispensable.
I project you are ugly, the reality is still, that you are created in the Image of God.
I project you are dishonorable, the reality is still, that you are worthy of special honor.
I project you are sinful or evil, the reality is still, that the purpose of your life is that the works of God might be seen in and through you.
I project you are a mistake, the reality is still, that you were knit together in your mother's womb.
I project you are other, the reality is still, that you are the same as me.
I project you are a bother, the reality is still, that your mere presence reveals who I am and corrects me.

If your understanding of individuals with disabilities is that they are in reality the ways people have projected on them who they are, then the problem is YOU it is not THEM. And the problem most often is YOU and it is ME.

Would we blame the child who is raised in an abusive family for their abuse? Should we blame our misunderstandings of who persons with disabilities are on them?

McNair

24 comments:

nadeen said...

Great point! whether it is someone with a disability or without, people are always judged based off of what their worth is perceived by; when in reality, our worth solely comes from God. Sadly, the worst part is that the most innocent are seen less worthy, when they are actually the most.I amactually starting to write a book about worth and if it is okay with you, may I use one of your points?

Anonymous said...

This post is so true. People dont always see a person the way that they truly are but the way they want to see them. I work as an aide substitute and have worked in many different classes. I have witnessed what the students are like when they have a loving home and what they are like when the home doesnt really care and are only taking care of them for the money. It is so sad to see these children come to school dirty because the home doesnt want to struggle to give them a bath or make them change their clothes. When a child is in a loving home it makes all the difference.

Andrea Villarinho said...

This passage is very moving. The fact is that people are so quick to judge others instead of giving them a chance to prove themselves. We would never blame a child for the abuse from their family and we should never blame a disabled person for the beautiful way that God has created them. It is the sin in us that keeps us from being open to all different kinds of people. In fact, God created us specifically to be different from one another. He has crafted each gene that makes up our entire being and rather than celebrating that the way that we should be, we question God's creation because it is different. Diversity is meant to be appreciated! So rather than hiding from everything that God wants to introduce us to, we should be enjoying what this world has to offer. While this world is not our home, it is the place we currently inhabit. While we wait for the perfection that is in Heaven, we should make the most of what is in front of us. That means enjoying a conversation with a person that has a different viewpoint from our own. If one of those people just happens to have any type of disability, take the opportunity to learn from them and enjoy their presence! It is up to us to make the best out of our days and a way to do so is to open our minds and enjoy people for who they are rather than who we expect them to be.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a great way to show peoples' worth is not based just off of how people perceive them. Although this seems to happen so much in society, it is very negative to people and makes them feel less when they should not. Ultimately it does not matter how other people see you, and your worth is not based on the way others perceive you. Worth comes from God instead, and this is what people should realize. Just because someone is disabled, does not mean they are worth less than someone who does not have a disability. Instead their worth is just seen in a different way, which most people do not tend to look at. I liked reading this post and thought the relationship to viewing people as a screen is a good comparison.

Spencer said...

I just want to say thank you so much for this post. Your blog was the first result when I typed in "Disabled Christians".

I'm not *really* disabled. I have Asperger's Syndrome, so sometimes I feel like it. The way things are going right now, I don't have a lot of opportunities to sort of practice social skills like reading facial expressions and eye contact, and it's frustrating because I have these obsessive thoughts where I linger over and over in my mind about how "defective" my brain is. Like I just have AS and that's it, and I'm nothing else.

I have to constantly remind myself that God is there, He loves me, and that to Him I am very important. It's hard sometimes, because all I can think about is how "flawed" I am instead of trying to improve myself--and unlike people with most legitimate disabilities, I can actually do something to work on that.

Your words nearly made me cry (tears of gratitude) because they were such a great reminder of how God sees me, and it's not as an "Aspie"; it's just as a PERSON, a HUMAN BEING who just so happens to have Asperger's Syndrome.

You might look at me and think that there isn't anything wrong with me, but let me tell you, higher-functioning autistic people feel like freaks and aliens very often. No one really knows what's wrong with us so they think we're "normal", but in social situations I sometimes feel like I stand out too much when I don't get someone's sarcastic joke or I interrupt them (and then what's annoying is that they allow me to interrupt them when they could be helping me train myself not to interrupt people!).

But lately, I've begun to see that it's not always about myself. Autistic people sometimes have this issue with inward-thinking; we think inwardly too much and don't realize that in reality, we're not that different after all, and that there are other people, people with REAL disabilities, that we could be helping.

So yeah, thank you so much for reminding me that I'm not "defective" in God's eyes :)

Rachel Conway said...

Rachel Conway said..
Wow this is very sad! But, true. I was looking back at when I was doing some observations and working the Special Education classroom. I noticed that when some paraprofessionals were helping some students that could not read were basically reading for them. Can these students read or are the adults looking at them like all they can see is a blank screen? I really hope that these people can teach these children how to read, because that is one of their goals as students and adults in the field of education. Hopefully I did not go off on a huge tangent!

Rachel Conway said...

Wow! That is incredible how they do not even identify him as a male very sad. I am not sure if this has anything to do with the topic but I was observing and working inside a special education classroom. There was a student who could not read very well, and an adult was sitting right next to him practically reading the paragraph for him. It made me wonder does the adult or the student look at the page and see it blank? Or does the student even try? It did not seem like the adult let the student try to read it by himself. It made me sad a little because our students need to learn how to read without prompting.

debbie said...

No, we should never blame someone else for our own ideas and misconceptions. Blaming is always wrong. Thoughts come from within.

Lack of experience is where I believe where some of these misconceptions stem from. For people who have little contact with persons with disabilities there is only a notion of who or what a person with disabilities is like. Having contact, experience, and conversations with people with disabilities is a place to start.

This is where schools and churches can make a difference. Having students and people of all abilities working together will help bring about a change in attitudes, understandings, and behaviors. Classrooms are a good place to start. Even though inclusion is possible, there are relatively fewer students with disabilities represented in regular education classrooms. Regular ed and special ed teachers planning together to combine their students in collaborative activities will expose children to new situations and people. Children will gain opportunities and experience to get to know with children with disabilities. They will learn how to work with, respond to, and hopefully appreciate all people.

How can a person get to know anyone unless they have experience or history with a person? Teachers, pastors, and youth ministers can be bridges to help build relationships between people to alleviate blaming and misconceptions. Maybe we should look in the mirror rather than a screen. It’s a start.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Incredible words that makes me wonder everyday how people really feel about people with disabilities. It also reminds me of a student that I had been observing in a SDC for mod/sev disabilities. He was reading a paragraph and the paraprofessional was pretty much reading it for him. It made me wonder if he can read at all because the adult was not letting him try. Does the adult have a blank screen or does the student? How would we find out?

Anonymous said...

I really like this post Professor McNair. We are what we project. We should not blame innocent people for what they are. God made us in his image and that is something that we should be eternally thankful for. Some of us were specially made and came out with certain conditions that only the Lord knows why we have these “disabilities”. We are not to blame for these conditions. No one is to blame for these conditions. We need to love one another and ourselves for every flaw in our bodies. There are a lot of people who resent those in their lives with disabilities and it is truly sad. We need to accept whatever disability we have. We are all born with some type of flaw or disability and some of us just do not notice it.
I also like that you said we are like screens, because whatever we are projecting we project onto others. I am a strong believer in constantly being positive because others will be positive around me. The second I am around people who are constantly negative that reflects onto me and I do not like it. I believe that is also true when people are negative with those who have disabilities. People with disabilities can feel that negativity and they will understand they are not liked. We need to be the true children of God and love each other the way we are supposed to.

Amy said...

This concept of projection is really powerful. I liked the anecdote that you gave about parents giving their son a girl’s name because they were disappointed in who he was. This is something that a lot of people (especially the Church) would say is wrong, stupid and not right. But when you relate that to how society treats people with disabilities, it becomes uncomfortable, because Christians do not want to realize that they place their own projections upon disabled people because they believe that they are “different” or a “burden”. I thought it was really powerful how you countered all of the common projections given to disabled people with scriptural truths. It is a harsh reality, but it is the truth that the problem is not them, it is us, the Church. They do not have a problem; the Church has a problem because it has deliberately deviated from loving those with disabilities as Christ desires for us to love them.

Anonymous said...

This post reminds me of Christy Brown and his story in My Left Foot. Christy was born with cerebral palsy and for most of his life it was believed that he was incapable of control over his body and unable to communicate. His family did not project the negative imagery of Christy’s disability onto him in the way that society did. Christy was seen as a useless life who would never be able to contribute to society. It was discovered that Christy could actually control his left foot and was finally able to communicate with the world. Christy became a respected author and painter.
Christy is a perfect example of “the problem is YOU it is not THEM.” (With Christy being the “THEM”) Christy didn’t have an inability to communicate to the world before it was known he could use his foot. Instead the world was unable to understand Christy’s unique way of expression. If Christy had been born into a family who projected onto him the images that are projected onto so many people with special needs then the world would not have been introduced to the amazing mind that gave the world numerous pieces of art and nine literary works. Just imagine how many wonderful minds have been cast aside, as if to be thrown out like the trash. Yet no one thinks twice because *these are the people who are lucky to be in the presence of us, not the other way around.

*Insert sarcasm here…

Anonymous said...

It is unbelievable how people can go and blame those disabled for their disabilities. McNair, you have mentioned before that those with disabilities are angels in disguise. They do not know they are even disabled, they kind, loving, caring, and beautiful just like everyone else around them. On the contrary, we are the ones disabled in comparison to them. We sin, and know we are sinning yet we continue to do so. They are full of life and joy, and should not be dealing with the ugly comments people may say of them. They are skillful and have a lot to offer to this world as we do. What makes us “normal” folks any better than they are? The answer is nothing, because our God made us in his image so therefore we are all perfect in His eyes. And His judgment is the only one that truly matters. One cannot pick and choose how they want a child, I guess now you may be able to because of science, but that is not right. One should just be happy for what God has given them, and appreciate the disabilities we all may have. In a part of your life where you may be weak, you have many other parts of it that you are strong in!

Anonymous said...

This is true! It is rather sad because many people with disabilities are seen as unwanted by their families, teachers and also the community. If you tell a child with a disability that they are useless and stupid they are going to believe it. What you say makes a huge impact and can affect the individual, also the way that child acts. If you tell the child they have no value they will believe that and have no sense of purpose or love. Children especially with disabilities need to know they are important and need to know they are valued. And most importantly, that Jesus loves them so much no words can express His love for them. They need to know that God loves them so much that they were created in His image. It is rather sad that our society looks down upon people with disabilities just because they act or appear different. This is rather sad because people do not know the damage that they are causing in the process. Therefore, we as advocates need to strive the importance of people with disabilities that they are loved and have a purpose. It is important to help them understand that people are not all nice either, but it is also important to bring awareness to those who do not know or understand about people with disabilities. It is our duty as advocates of people with disabilities and followers of Christ to bring awareness to people.

Anonymous said...

This article was so sad. I would hate for someone to judge me for the way I look. However, you are correct that is the problem you and I have. We are the ones that cannot put a stop to this. We want to treat people who have a disability a better way, however in most cases when we see someone with a disability we cannot even bother to share a smile. This is incredibly devastating, because if the child or adult who has the disability happened to be a family member of ours, we would want them to be treated just the same way we treat them: with care and love.
We all know that people with disabilities have a great potential. We are the ones who need a serious attitude change and a genuine approach to help them. We are the ugly ones who don’t let them flourish as God has wanted them to do so. I believe that if we really want there to be a difference in the world, in the church, in our community for people who are disabled, the first change needs to be within our hearts. Once this change occurs, we can then make a difference by spending quality time with them as well as learning from them.

Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly with this blog entry and see how projections harm both the projector and projectee. Typically those projecting have a void in their own life they need to fill and their coping mechanism is to project onto another person. And unfortunately, projecting our own expectations on others is a sad, yet true reality of those with and without disabilities. Especially in American culture, the media projects onto everyone’s “white screen” that which we are “supposed” to be. The media says we are to be flawless, and everyone falls short. The media projects that we are to have our lives all together and if we don’t fake it – no one’s life is all-together. The important thing to remember is that we find our worth and value in Christ Jesus alone. This applies to those with or without disabilities. The Bible says each and every person was knit together in their mother’s womb, and God does not make mistakes. Therefore, even those we view as having the “mistake” of a disability are in fact perfect in God’s eyes. If everyone would view people in this way, much of the violence, hatred, and unrest around us would be put to rest.

Anonymous said...

It is not on us as individuals to judge what others do. Society has made it difficult for us to look at individuals with disabilities as we would any other person. It is not on our part to blame someone of their notions, but rather we must set an example. If as individuals we want something to change we need to show others that we believe in what we are saying by leading in our example. We should not judge individuals based on their disability because they are ultimately human beings that have their own personalities to offer. It is difficult to break away from the associations that have been placed on us our entire lived, but as individuals it is our responsibility to change our own attitudes and hope that others follow. That is the manner in which humans should all act. We are missing compassion, this country has focused on the self far too long and as such we have lost our humanity.

Anonymous said...

It is not on us as individuals to judge what others do. Society has made it difficult for us to look at individuals with disabilities as we would any other person. It is not on our part to blame someone of their notions, but rather we must set an example. If as individuals we want something to change we need to show others that we believe in what we are saying by leading in our example. We should not judge individuals based on their disability because they are ultimately human beings that have their own personalities to offer. It is difficult to break away from the associations that have been placed on us our entire lived, but as individuals it is our responsibility to change our own attitudes and hope that others follow. That is the manner in which humans should all act. We are missing compassion, this country has focused on the self far too long and as such we have lost our humanity.

Anonymous said...

This post was very touching, yet sad. I feel that judgment occurs everywhere, with and without awareness. When those judgments are projected aloud, the lasting affect can be detrimental. It is up to us to speak up for ourselves, and others who cannot, and voice our worth to those who doubt our abilities. When I think of this post, I am reminded of Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” This notion of ourselves should also be applied to those around us. We should never blame, hate, or discriminate against another — for any reason. The idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy is extremely accurate. I think it’s important that everyone have a strong support team surrounding them and without one we as human beings can fall victim to believing the worst in ourselves.
The notion that we place blame on others, is horrendous. We must take responsibilities for our actions and behaviors.

Anonymous said...

This is a very powerful example! The idea of the child who was born a male, but his parents named him Sally is a remarkable example of how a friend of mine's family treats his brother who has autism. His brother in his mother’s eyes is her pride and job. She doesn't see his disability as a disadvantage but instead an advantage. He is able to create art that is expressive to him with paint. His mom sees this as a gift! His father, however, is disappointed by what he would label as a "short coming." Football is very important to the father, and the fact that his son is not coordinated enough to play eats at him. He is not able to teach him how to catch a ball, or work on the cars and this just eats at him. He believes his “gift” of art is not a gift at all because “in the world’s eyes he is no good.” He explains that his mother thinks his art is good because she is his mom- and she has to think that. It is very sad to see the father not see his son for who he is and accept him for his strengths instead of harping on the abilities he cannot do. His son is a special boy; just like every other son or daughter with or without any disabilities. Shawn has gifts and the fact that his father looks passed them is detrimental to their relationship.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this really puts things into perspective. Despite the sad projections of life some people are forced to face, truth is that the reality can be a beautiful thing. This really couldn’t have been said any better and how we misunderstand things and have such a narrow perspective can really be harsh. The reality is that we are indispensible, created in the image of God, that we are worthy of special honor, that we were all created by God with a purpose in mind, and in the end, we are all the same. How despite how God views us and created us for, our society has created a cruel and twisted perspective where there are certain standards of life that needs to be met. God created this world and yet the world is ruled by human beings in their own ideal way. Despite how some people fall under circumstances, it really cannot be seen as their fault. The misunderstanding people posses and perceptions people so tightly hold onto has been imbedded within our society so deeply it almost seems too cruel and unfair to these other people. Despite what the reality is though, it really isn’t something we can change all at once.

M JB said...

Projections seem to be a metaphor for prejudice or anything that leaves an impression of a person solely based on preconceived notions. Now projecting the life of an individual as if it were a pre-written screenplay put on a screen as a fabricated tale is to foolishly create a movie about someone solely based on a certain trait, in this case a disability. People with disabilities have a whole movie written about them since the day their were born. The movie is all too familiar to people and tends to be in the genre of tragedy. This is not the case. Individuals with disabilities are not, nor will they ever be some pre-written fabricated movie that the world is familiar with. As Christians we see the worth of individuals. Individuals with disabilities are still bearers of the image of God. God has a plan to redeem people from every tribe, tongue, and nation disabled or not, he does not have projections for individuals based on prejudices. God doesn't see race, color, ethnicity, disability nor any other trait but Christ when he looks at us. If God saw us as a pre-fabricated movies prior to salvation in Christ, the end scene of everyone's movie would be eternal separation from God. Now people with disabilities fit into God's plan not man's movie.

Jonathan Craig said...

People who may have a disability should not be viewed any differently than anyone else. Other people who they know or don't know, even family may like Professor McNair said may label them as being different and having no value, whereas the Lord looks at each individual regardless of what disability a person may have, and he loves that person just the same. People with disabilities should not be judged by anyone based on their appearance or how intelligent they are; they should be viewed by their heart, because that is what God looks at when he sees them as people like you and me. People with disabilities need chances to prove how effective they are as Christians in the Church, citizens etc. and usually the regular people in society don't give them a chance to do so. I think if these people with learning disabilities did have a substantial amount of opportunities to further themselves within the church and society, I think the regular people would be greatly impacted by them. Hellen Keller was a very influential woman with a disability who became the first deaf mute (and woman) to earn a college degree. She was a very influential author and politician. Joni Eareckson who has always been a very great inspiration of mine is a symbol of Christian love and acceptance despite disability. I think she is one of the nicest people I have ever heard. She has a heart of gold and she is a really accomplished painter (she paints with her mouth) I think that is so cool. God Bless and help a person in need.

Anonymous said...


I found this piece to be very moving and beautiful. It’s true that we shouldn't have to change who we are just because of what other perceive us to be or even what they want us to be. we should all attempt to be true to ourselves and the Lord. All the time people are making mistakes and misjudging those around them because they don't take the time to find out who said person truly is. I believe that is important for individuals to realize that we cannot stop what others will think of us but what we can do is find peace within ourselves and our Lord. The rest lies with the individuals who want to make quick judgments and project their want and needs onto others, but we must not feel hatred for these individuals, instead feel sadness that they feel the need to act this way. We must remember that God has a plan for all of us and that if we are to endure such events as what you described then it is because God believes we can persevere. While reading this post it just solidifies my decision even more so to continue on this path to try to better the world and spread awareness of special needs. More people should read your blog!