Spread the Tread: Humility

Sometimes we need to take some time to deconstruct our preconceived notions and perceptions, lest our motives, behaviors, actions, and beliefs succumb to the tyranny of pretense.

Pretense /ˈprēˌtens,prēˈtens/: an attempt to make something that is not the case appear true.

In the last two blog posts, we discussed dignity and honor. For this blog post, we’re exploring humility from a rather abrupt angle. (What can we say… we’re after all a little *ahem* proud of our approach). Sometimes in life, the most important ingredient in our perspective and posture is humility. And upon reflection, far to often we find that humility is, in fact, a missing ingredient.

Here are five questions to ask yourself and/or topics to ponder if, for instance, you’ve spent years believing that a “One for One” approach dignifies and honors the recipient and actually fights poverty:

1. Are you someone who likes to jump on bandwagons, or are you someone who isn’t afraid to stand out and stand up for what is right?

2. Do you feel you have a firm grasp of paternalism, it’s implications when it comes to relationships, and it’s historical cultural/political impact over time?

3. Do you value recycling? Re-purposing man-made and non-biodegrade materials? Conserving the environment?

4. Have you ever traveled to Africa? Or any country for that matter. Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone long enough to experience someone else’s – their “lack of comfort”? Their income level? Their experience of raw capitalism and the base economies of our world?

5. Empower vs. Denigrate: Have you ever been offended by a gift? Think back to a time when you were struggling or in need, and someone well-intentioned wanted to help you out. Maybe you politely accepted the gift, but felt bad about yourself. Deep down you knew you could overcome your struggle or need by yourself. And you needed someone to recognize that, respectfully support you in the struggle, and not take all the glory in “overcoming” that struggle. Because their solution was superficial and without empathy you felt beneath them. This is the difference between an empowering approach toward helping another person versus a denigrating one.

Bonus question. Have you studied the rigorous, evidenced-backed research done by this this globally recognized non-profit? (See GiveDirectly). They promote a revolutionary model… simply giving donor’s cash directly to those who need it. They have found that not only is this extremely effective and much more efficient than elaborately designed aid programs, but it is also far more dignifying (and humble). Through these cash transfers, individuals discover their ability and bolster their agency by solving their own problems with solutions that are unique to their culture and context.

To be clear, for those who question why we promote a “walk a mile in their shoes” ideology, it is for the sake of truth, empathy, and effective, dignified development (aid). This is why we are in business; leveraging social enterprise to change lives and transform perceptions with an approach that unfortunately doesn’t seem all that common.

Pretense /ˈprēˌtens,prēˈtens/: an attempt to make something that is not the case appear true. Too often we fall victim to popular approaches or schemes that on the surface really look and feel great. But when dissected, the true motives are usually disguised with a veil of pretense. Handouts and those who promote them are experts in making us proud to give away our materialistic glut… be we really should consider those on the receiving end. This takes that elusive posture of heart, mind, and soul: humility.

This posture is brilliantly conveyed in Poverty Inc. In it, Michael Fairbanks is quoted explaining, “Having a heart for the poor isn’t hard… but having a mind for the poor? Now that’s the challenge.” Our hearts are easily swayed and influenced emotionally. But it is our minds that can help us see through superficial approaches to alleviate poverty. When we think about it, the simple humble decision of patiently listening can reveal a lot to us in this life.

So, before jumping on the next bandwagon trend that aims to solve everything for the poor while making you feel exceptionally great about yourself, take a moment. Slow down. Think about someone on the receiving end of this trend or scheme. Better yet, find them. Go to them. Listen to them. No one has all the answers; but together, we can get much closer.

Join us. Walk a mile in their shoes. And let’s all work at being more humble, together.

~Authored by Jackson, of the Atinga Collective

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