Why it is so easy to depersonalize someone for a cause, a topic or an object?
I have been struggling lately! Struggling to see the good in the world, struggling to find the answers, struggling to find the right direction in life, struggling with my emotions, struggling with my purpose, struggling mentally, struggling as a parent, struggling as a husband …
Does anyone care? Is anyone concerned with my personal struggles?
While everyone is talking, debating, and fighting over issues (social justice causes, masks, COVID-19, the economy, public institutions) I personally have no control over, many of us on a personal level are struggling deeply with life. While everyone seems to care about the world, its causes and institutions, no one seems to care for me as a person and my real personal struggles.
To top it off while I struggle, somehow I am supposed to keep it all together. Not showing my vulnerability and my weaknesses. I must fake it to make it, because the world we are all debating about doesn’t reward those who struggle.
Can you identify with the statements above?
These are not only my feelings. Many of the individuals I come across often have the same feelings. I’m not only a pastor but also an Uber driver. I started driving Uber to get to know and feel the pulse of the community I am called to serve. A great majority of those I serve either at church or driving are right now struggling in life, and they are wondering “while everyone is trying to fix the world does anyone care about my personal agony, worry, distress, affliction and struggles?”
Why it is so easy to care for a cause, topic, or an object and overlook our neighbor?
Isn’t that what we call depersonalization of the individual?
Why is it so easy to give food, give clothing, fight for justice and a mandate, but never build a relationship with my neighbor?
I remember growing up in the ’80s in Brazil with my dad (who is also a pastor) who brought home the strangest people. As I am sitting here writing, I remember a few of those individuals that my dad brought home:
• Javae, a murderer who, after being in jail for many years, was released just to live in the streets of Goiania, the city where I was born.
• Cezar, the crazy guy in the neighborhood.
• Niltinho, a crack addict who was HIV positive. A guy who mistreated his mom and stole from her to get more drugs to feed his addiction.
• Andresa, a prostitute and who didn’t have a place to go.
As a Christian pastor I believe I am called to build and cultivate relationships.
To invest in people.
I am called to know, value, and care for individuals.
Behind each of the individuals above is a cause to defend which depersonalizes them and leaves them living on the fringes of society. But my dad looked past those causes to know, value, and care for his neighbor in order to see them overcome the personal struggles to live better lives.
One less murder.
One less person being bullied.
One less robbery.
One less act of prostitution.
All possible because someone was willing to look at the individual in order to know, value, and care for them.
When you see the individual as human, your neighbor, your fellow brother and sister, transformation happens.
After my dad invested in and taught them the significance of a biblical lifestyle, the individual’s lives were transformed, and they became assets to their family and the community where we lived.
Javae became the only grandpa I, Sam Rosa, would know. Cezar became a great father and husband. Niltinho became a construction worker who gave restitution for all that he stole. Andrea became a mother of girls and broke away from prostitution.
Could it be that our world needs more people who are willing to know, value, and care for the individual instead of knowing, valuing, and caring for a cause, topic or an object?
I’m not sure, but what I am sure of is that we should live out these statements: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” and “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
This leads me to know, value, and care for individuals, and I have seen great results.
Sam Rosa is the senior minister at Delaware Christian Church.