What ever happened to a hand-up? Somewhere along the line, it became a hand-out, as if we could make up any and every injustice by paying for it. And from there, it morphed into a “gimme”, whereby we owe for the sins of those who came before us, our own, and any future sins that might occur.
We’ve grown accustomed to providing people with things to make life easier, and in doing so, we’ve become a very lazy, very flabby nation.
Oh, this isn’t a discussion of politics. Frankly, I’m usually right smack dab in the middle, seeing both sides. I believe in public service and the greater good. But I’m very concerned about how things have evolved, not for the better.
So, what exactly is the point of a hand-up? It’s a chance to help someone stand on his or her own two feet. It’s not doing for the person. It’s helping the person do for himself. That’s where real self-esteem develops — inside the person who overcomes a challenge and succeeds. In a hand-up, the giver is the wind beneath the wings of the receiver.
A hand-out comes with no strings, but that can be a double-edged sword. There’s a big difference between paying a mortgage payment and paying for a boob job. When a hand-out comes without strings, there’s no responsibility on the part of the receiver to use it with care, to make it count, to make it last. The giver is owed nothing. The receiver has free reign. But the giver has the pleasure of feeling like this charitable act is a great thing. Humanity is made better by his or her giving. “See? I have the power of making people happy!” But how long does that happiness last — as long as the money, goods, or services last? And after that, what?
A “gimme” is a demand in the form of an expectation, that the receiver is owed and the giver is obligated. “It’s my due.” It’s the equivalent of casting pearls before swine. It’s the kid in the grocery store who has to have something every time Mom needs a gallon of milk or Dad needs a loaf of bread. It’s needless waste that is effectively blackmail. “If you don’t give me what I want, I will punish you. I will embarrass you, shame you, make you feel mean, and you will be very, very sorry!” A “gimme” subjects the giver to ongoing threats. Life will be disrupted if you don’t make the receiver happy — the dreaded tantrum. A “gimme” gone wrong means we are all subjected to histrionics of a catastrophic kind. Fail to give in and the wailing begins, and it’s often hard to shut it down without a lot of collateral damage.
Want to know where this all started? As an educator, I can tell you. It started when adults began to feel that we were restricting freedoms and choices every time we stepped in and corrected a child’s behavior. We stopped understanding that children aren’t born perfect. As cute and adorable as they are, they are still in their formative years. That means teaching has to be appropriate. The first place to start is by helping a child feel connected to his or her fellow human beings. The world is big and each of us is but one tiny piece of the puzzle. That’s reality.
We went wrong when we began to think real self-esteem came from praise. Little Johnny stinks at spelling, so we give him a “gimme” on that test. It’s easier than taking the time to actually help his brain learn. We dumb him down and then create the situation where we have to keep the practice going. Little Susie can’t do math, so we give her a “gimme” on that algebra test and pass her. It’s simpler than actually helping her to understand fractions. Less stress for us in the immediate present. More stress for Johnny and Susie in the distant future, when they have to be able to do the work on their own. But it looks good on the report cards, doesn’t it?
The truth is that whether you’re a liberal, a conservative, or an in-betweener, there are reasonable ways to shape good behavior that enables people to be responsible. It doesn’t require any stomping of personal freedom or forcing of beliefs. What it is all about is balance. Each of us affects the world in some way. If we think only of ourselves, we are out of sync with the rest of the world. But if we think only of others, we are out of sync with ourselves. We should nurture the world and be nurtured by it. If we work for the greater good, if we are aware of our own needs and those of others, we push for the hand-up because we want people to be strong and healthy. If we are weak and lacking in our own lives, if we need to feel that we are good without actually having to be good, we soothe ourselves by the hand-out, because we bear less responsibility to the world that way. And if we silence those whose expectations are out of control by paying the “gimme”, we are as much the victims of our own weaknesses as are those who are made dependent.
I say that because I have seen those moment when students have struggled to understand a concept. How sad that some people don’t understand the real glory of finding true success. Perseverance leads to unlocking that puzzle, and when that door pops open, it’s worth all the hard work and struggle. It’s magic.
Speaking of magic, grab a free copy of my latest ebook, Snow White and the Hunter: A Gabby Grimm Fairy Tale Mystery #1. Gabby Grimm is a heroine with gumption, guts, and a good heart. She’s not about to let a bunch of bad guys ruin the idyllic village of Latimer Falls, Vermont, any more than she’s going to let that stranger with the velvet lips escape: