Self-Perception and the Responsibility of Others

Self-Perception and the Responsibility of Others

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Proverbs 18:14The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?
Proverbs 18:14

The will to live is a powerful thing! Passion for a cause is just as powerful! People have done amazing things in the name of relationship, whether saving a friend’s life or recapturing a loved one, or taking a hit for a coworker.

When I was in high school, Rick Hanson, a paraplegic wheelchair athlete, came to town, and my school was privileged to walk alongside him on his way to speak at a rally about enabling disabled people to lead more normal lives. Attending our school at the time, was a kid in elementary classes, who had wheatbone disease, a condition where the slightest bump could literally break a bone! He would be brought into school everyday with his parents carrying him on a pillow, a sibling setting up his wheelchair, and then being placed into it for the remainder of the school day. This kid however, thought he was immortal I’m sure! He’d race around that school and engage in regular shenanigans as if he was a normal boy of his age. Both my schoolmate, and Rick Hanson had what some call, “indomitable spirits”. Nothing stopped them from doing what they wanted to do, not even a disability.

Many people in life have less visible infirmities, but infirmities they have regardless. But rather than figure out ways to work around them to lead a productive life, they use their infirmities as banners and expect others around them to cater to their every desire and whim, acting as if they can’t lift a single finger to their own benefit.

Then there are those however, who have had their spirits broken! Whether it was through social/relational/verbal abuse, or through unrealistic, persistent expectations of others they could not meet due to some limitation that others would not acknowledge, they now live under a cloud of depressed perceived incapacitation because they can’t live up to expectations no matter how hard they try. The general response to this, is to stop trying, to give up, and then to just exist. Unfortunately, some people respond to this by killing themselves!

I’ve seen people treat animals in such a way that they develop similar attitudes about life and themselves as well. My daughter’s horse was discovered at a rescue, depressed and unwilling to socialize with other horses. When this horse eventually joined our household as a gift, we discovered that her worth had been attached to the dollar value of purses at the races that she rarely ever won. She must have been berated for both costing her owner money and not earning it back, that she figured if she wasn’t able to win something, she was worthless. We accidentally discovered this mindset by talking about winning ribbons. Mere pieces of plastic or paper, and found her depressed for a week after that discussion that wasn’t even at her, or to her, it was around her to others! It took awhile, but we eventually got her to realize she was worth far more than any ribbon would say. We also learned not to talk about our finances around her. If she heard us discussing concerns over paying bills or covering groceries, she’d cut back how much hay she ate! We had to begin telling her to eat what she needed! Her sensitivity to things of monetary value continues to baffle us, but it is a reality we can’t ignore.

People or animals with “wounded spirits” can be hard to handle and difficult to be around for those who live by a “pick yourself up by your bootstraps and get going!” mantra. “Can do” people find wounded spirits to be a drag-down, when instead they need encouragement, and sometimes baby steps to rebuild their self-confidence and discover what they are capable of doing all over again. The truly difficult people to deal with are those whose spirits were wounded, and who refuse to ever entertain the idea that they can move forward. Indeed, as Solomon asks, “a wounded spirit, who can bear”?!

Let us resolve that when we come into contact with wounded spirits, that we pray for them, asking God for the wisdom to reach out to them in ways that reveal the worth God sees in them, to help them step forward once more. A wounded spirit can become a strong spirit with the help of community God built us for.


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