Do you have to lower others to elevate your self? If you do then you really aren’t lifting yourself up. Those who have to put others down to feel good about themselves are aware, on some level, that it’s not going to work. When we violate our values, even in acting in our own best interests, we lower ourselves and damage our own sense of self. All of us have honor and don’t like it when we violate our own honor. If we steal we may enjoy what we stole briefly but we also lose a part of ourselves–and we know it.
In dealing with other people, it’s best to remember people do have an honor code and ultimately want to live up to it. This is why some of our “help” to others is not helpful–it’s insulting. The way we go about helping people tells them whether we respect them or not. We can communicate a lack of trust, faith, belief, and confidence in another person by constantly rescuing them, solving their problems for them, and taking care of them without giving them a chance to learn, grow, develop, or try. People generally want to feel empowered, competent, useful, and valued. People likely feel better about themselves when they solve their own problems, take care of themselves, and accomplish something on their own (even if they had some help in getting started). Giving someone help during a temporary set back is one thing (charitable). Perpetuating dependency, humiliation, low self-worth, and neediness is degrading (subjugation).
I believe in giving a hand-up rather than a hand-out. I believe in teaching people how to help themselves (and helping them gain the tools, resources, and skills to do so). Helping people help themselves is more respectful and empowering than providing a constant stream of hand-outs with no way up or out. Any system that does not lead to the helped individual feeling stronger, more capable, and more valued as a person is not social welfare–it’s social oppression. It’s a way to keep strong lines between classes and ensuring there is always a lower class.
Helping someone out of pity demonstrates arrogance and superiority. Helping someone out of compassion shows human kindness, equality, and a deep understanding that it could be any one of in a needy position given the right circumstances. We are not better than those who need help. None of us are immune from being in a situation of needing help. We are all one accident, disaster, poor decision, illness, or tragedy away from being on the receiving end of social services. Let’s not forget that. Let’s offer more compassionate and respectful assistance to our fellow human beings in need. Let’s give a hand-up not a hand-out.